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Sunday, December 11, 2016

9 Simple but Powerful Gratitude Practices to Share with Your Students

photo from

guest post by Erin Sharaf of Mindfulness + Magic.

Emerging research on gratitude shows many benefits for teachers and students. Positive outcomes include:
  • Fewer emotional and physical symptoms
  • Stronger relationships and communities
  • Happier (by up to 25%)
  • More alert, enthusiastic, attentive
  • Promotes altruistic behavior and self-esteem
  • Less importance on material goods
  • More positive attitudes towards school & life

Here are a few ways you can start sharing gratitude practices with your class.

1. Gratitude Circle

Each participant is invited to say something they are grateful for. Gratitude shared is gratitude magnified so this is really something that can help shift the collective mood in a positive direction.

2. Gratitude Jar

This can work well if you have participants who might be shy about sharing personal information in front of the group. Invite everyone to write down something they are grateful for on a small piece of paper. Place the piece of paper in a jar without signing a name to it. Pass the jar around and have each student pick out a piece of paper and read it aloud.

3. Gratitude Letter

Invite each student to write a letter to someone describing all the ways they are thankful for that person and why. This is a powerful exercise in and of itself, but if they’d like to, they can go and read the letter to the person they wrote about. This experience will be unforgettable for all involved and the positive benefits can be long lasting. 

4. Gratitude Journal

Each student can have his/her own small book or pieces of paper or it can even be done electronically. Invite them to write down 3-5 new things each day that they’re thankful for. To make the exercise more potent, students can write down why they’re grateful for each thing. Keep it up for at least 2 weeks.

5. Gratitude Group

This can be done in different ways: 

  • In a circle, each person can be invited to say something they’re grateful for about the person to their right. 
  • Or you can put each person’s name into the gratitude jar, pass it around and invite each person to pick a name and say something they’re thankful for about that person. 

6. Gratitude Art

The sky's the limit on this one.  Have fun!
  • You could have the kids make cut-outs of their traced hands on construction paper. 
  • They could write something they’re grateful for on the hand, or on each of the fingers, and make all the hands into a big gratitude tree. 
  • You could invite them to draw or color a visual representation of what they’re grateful for. 
  • You could have this be a recurring activity and give them themes like “family” or “nature.” 

7. Model Gratitude 

Modeling can perhaps be the most important teaching tool. If it’s a beautiful day give voice to that! If a student helps out another, publicly say Thank You. Kids are more likely to value gratitude and explore it if they see that it’s a meaningful personal practice for you.

8. Explain Your Gratitude

Make “Thank You” into a full sentence including how you benefitted from the gesture, and encourage your students to do the same. For example: “Thank you for sharing your lunch with me as I might have been hungry otherwise.” This has more power than a simple “thank you.”

9. Self-Gratitude

We are often our own worst critics, and this unfortunate habit can start at a young age. Students might not be comfortable sharing publicly, but you can invite them to close their eyes (if comfortable doing so) and take a few moments to appreciate some of their own qualities and capabilities. If they have trouble, you can invite them to imagine what a loved one or dear friend might appreciate about them.

Gratitude Prompts:

  • My day is better because… 
  • The best part of my day was/is
  • Can you think of a time when a friend (or parent, teacher, or coach) noticed something you needed (e.g., lunch), or remembered something you care about (e.g., collecting coins) and then provided you with those things?  How did you know they helped you on purpose? How did you feel after they helped you?

Erin Sharaf spent many years as a primary care provider and university professor, has a master’s degree in Integrative Medicine and is passionate about helping others find true wellness. She leads mindfulness groups, virtually and in person, joyfully coaches those interested in shedding limiting beliefs, and believes that inner transformation is the key to global transformation.


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