From rushing out of the house in the morning, to the last bell, it’s easy to get caught up in the ever-changing flow of victories and defeats that comprise a school day. For teachers and students alike, it can feel as if life is lived from one bell/assignment/quiz/social interaction to the next. We’re usually not in the habit of just appreciating things, moment to moment. It can be hard to remember to stop and note whatever we feel positively about, so, with this tool, we deliberately build in some time in the school day to focus on gratitude.
When we find something to be grateful for, everything shifts. It can turn our attitude around from feeling overwhelmed or isolated, to feeling connected and supported.
We have a section on gratitude in the free Stop, Breathe & Think: Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom PDF that includes a gratitude meditation, group discussion questions, and journal prompts. Below we’ll walk through how we teach the gratitude lesson in our Tools for Peace classrooms.
After checking in with the Check-In Worksheet, we jump into a group discussion or Circle Chart to create a working definition of gratitude. Then we practice the gratitude meditation, either by reading the script, or playing the recording from the Stop, Breathe & Think app. The meditation is great because it helps everyone to slow down, and connect, in whatever way they can, to their own genuine feelings of appreciation and thankfulness.
After the meditation, we set aside a few minutes for a short check-in and share. If the group is open and sharing a lot, we’ll give a little more time for discussion before moving into the gratitude journal. The students love the journal because the prompts are very specific, starting with something simple like listing the everyday material things we are grateful for, why they are important, and how they make us feel, and then going deeper into thinking about our own unique qualities, talents, and skills.
The Gratitude Journal continues with writing about the people in our lives. We describe why we are grateful for them, how we feel when we think of them, and even find something we are grateful for in a person that we find difficult to be around. Then we share at least one thing from our journals.
Through sharing what we’re grateful for in the classroom setting, students, as well as teachers, find commonalities with one another, which can promote compassion, calmness, and camaraderie, a great environment for learning.
The benefits of gratitude are well documented. According to this Washington Post article on teaching kids gratitude, “‘We know that grateful kids are happier [and] more satisfied with their lives,” says Jeffrey Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University. “They report better relationships with friends and family, higher GPAs, less materialism, less envy and less depression, along with a desire to connect to their community and to want to give back…”
Froh’s studies found that kids who kept a Gratitude Journal every day for two weeks were more appreciative than those who didn’t, as well as more optimistic and more satisfied with their lives.
If you are using the Check-In Worksheet in your class, you can add any number of the Gratitude Journal prompts to your mindfulness routine. In most classes we focus on a single prompt each week, giving students time to dig deep into each subject.
If you are interested in adding the Gratitude Journal, we have created a guide for you and we’d love to hear how it goes in your classroom. Download the free “Stop, Breathe & Think: Mindfulness Activities for the Classroom” PDF HERE.