7 Gratitude Activities for your Classroom

November is the perfect month to focus on teaching the social-emotional learning element of gratitude! I have seven activities on gratitude that you can use with your students or even your own children to promote thankfulness this month and all year long! These gratitude activities for kids help us be mindful of what we have! Get ready to dive into seven fun, engaging gratitude activities for elementary students!

Gratitude Activity 1: Gratitude Read Alouds

I love introducing all of my social-emotional topics and, really, any topic with picture books! Picture books are so helpful when teaching because they give our students tangible examples and experience with what they’re learning.

I’ve collected a list of my FAVORITE gratitude books to read with my students. Clicking on the links will take you to Amazon, so you can add them to your collection!

Gracias/Thanks is about a young biracial boy who is recounting what he is thankful for in a poetic way! I love that I have students that can see themselves in this book- I always aim to increase the diversity in my read alouds!

Thanksgiving in the Woods is a sweet story with beautiful illustrations and words about a family in New York who spends Thanksgiving in the woods on their farm for over 20 years! It’s based on a true story.

Thankful is the perfect way to start out the month of November. It shares in a poetic way who is thankful for what, and it’s just perfect for teaching gratitude and thankfulness! It’s one that I’m adding to my collection this year!

The Secret of Saying Thanks reminds us of the wonders of the world that we can tend to forget to be thankful for! It has beautiful illustrations and provides a great story to read and discuss gratitude.

Today I Am Grateful is another great jumping off book to start or continue the gratitude discussion. It gives active ways to be grateful at the end of the book and teaches students to be grateful!

If you want some more Thanksgiving book recommendations for kids, read my friend Sarah's blog post on Little Learning Corner!

Gratitude Activity 2: Gratitude Walk

Getting outside in nature calms us down and helps us be mindful of what’s around us. For one of our gratitude activities, I like to take my students on a walk outside around the school. Before we go for our gratitude walk, I talk about grounding ourselves and using our senses to be mindful of what we experience.

During the walk, we may pause and close our eyes, take some deep breaths, and listen. If it’s safe, I have my students take their shoes off during a part of the walk and feel the ground through their feet. We might share things that we’re grateful for during the walk or afterward. Maybe you want your students to pick up something to remind them of the walk, or maybe not.

Once our Gratitude Walk is complete, I usually give my students five minutes to sketch or write in a journal whatever is in their brain. They can write how they felt, what they sensed, what they felt grateful for, what they thought of during the walk, etc. Then, we will discuss it all together or in small groups,

This gratitude activity expands our minds of what we have to be grateful for and helps us reflect on life around us.

Gratitude Activity 3: Write Thank You Cards

From a young age, my mom had me writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts. And even though I [still] sometimes roll my eyes at the task, I do know that it is such an important act of gratitude. Not only does it acknowledge what others do for us, but it also makes us appreciate their special gifts or acts. Plus, it makes the recipient feel so special!

This is one of my favorite, easy expressing gratitude activities. Having our students write thank you cards help them think about all of the things that others do for us that we can be grateful for. I have my students write thank you notes to other teachers, support staff, admin, parent volunteers, each other, etc. Everyone chooses someone to thank, and we spend time writing thoughtful, specific, kind thank you notes to them.

You can make the cards out of construction paper, or pick up a couple of packs of cards for students to choose from. Here are some of my favorites from Amazon:

Gratitude Activity 4: Serving Others

Some of my favorite gratitude activities for elementary students are service projects. Pushing our students outside of themselves and their bubbles helps them better understand the world around them and how they can serve others. These gratitude activities for the classroom to serve are a great place to start:

Conduct a Drive

Have your class decide on something to collect for a specific group of people in your area. It could be a food drive for a local food bank, clothes drive for a women’s shelter, a book drive for another school in need, etc.

One drive that would really be meaningful for our students is a toy drive. Have each student bring in a toy that they are willing to give to another child, take a picture of each student with their specific toys, and have them write about a memory they have with that toy. Then, find a donating service to give the toys to, along with the pictures and stories. What a special way to pass on a special toy to another child!

Better your School

There are several gratitude projects you can do to make your school a better place. You could plant a tree, build a garden and plant some vegetables or flowers, help organize the library, read to a younger class, pick up trash, start a recycling program, etc. The opportunities are endless! It would be best to get your admin involved right away to make sure that your project is approved before you plan and take action!

Coffee Cart

This is not a new thing in the teacher world, but I think it’s a great service project for our students! Organizing and serving teachers through a coffee cart or coffee station helps our students learn so many things, and helps them show gratitude for staff in a tangible way.

You could make this a weekly project for the month, or the whole year! To make things easier and not recreate the wheel, I’m going to direct you over to Mrs. D’s Corner - she has everything laid out for you step-by-step to get started! The Resource Teacher also has great ideas to make this work!

Gratitude Activity 5: STEM Gratitude Tower

Add a STEM element to practicing gratitude by making a Gratitude Tower!! This idea comes from Carly and Adam, and I love it! It gets all students engaged in thankfulness- as students write what they are thankful for on index cards.

Then, they work to build the tallest tower using the index cards they wrote on! It shows that as we work together and be mindful of what we are grateful for, we can make something special!

Gratitude Activity 6: Student Spotlight

This gratitude activity gets our students thinking about why they are thankful for each other! Each day I choose one student randomly to be our spotlighted student of the day. That student sits in front of the whiteboard, and then I ask the students what do you love about (student)? Why are you thankful for them?

The students answer, and then write their answers with expo markers on the board behind the student. You can also keep these a surprise for the student until the end. We fill up the board with compliments and reasons we’re thankful for them, and then I take the student’s picture with all of the words of encouragement. I send the picture to the child’s parents that day, and print and frame the picture for a gift sometime during the year!

We do this for every student - one each day until everyone has had a turn. This really makes the students feel special and seen, and it gives them opportunities to be encouraging and appreciative of their peers!

Gratitude Activity 7: Thankful Tree

This might be my FAVORITE of the gratitude activities for the classroom. I do this with my students every November, and I see the difference it makes in their mindfulness and gratitude. We make a class thankful tree! This is how it works:

Before November 1st, I make a tree trunk and branches on a bulletin board or wall in my classroom. I make it out of brown butcher paper. I also print out a bunch of leaves on red, orange, and yellow paper. You’ll need enough leaves for each student (and you) to write on one each school day in November. I cut leaves for each of us for November 1st.

Then, on the morning of November 1st, I introduce our Thankful Tree in Morning Meeting. I first read one of the books I shared above. We discuss gratitude, and why it’s important to be thankful for all the good things in our lives. I introduce the Thankful Tree and share that we will be working on our mindfulness and gratitude this month with this class gratitude project.

I explain that every day we will each start the day by writing one thing that we’re thankful for on a leaf, and bring it to Morning Meeting. At Morning Meeting, we will share what we’re thankful for, and I will attach the leaves to our tree. As we go through November, our gratitude tree will continue to flourish with leaves! The trick is that you can’t write the same thing twice. Every day you must think of something different that you’re thankful for. Practicing gratitude every day will help us be more mindful of our decisions and our mindset.

Next, I will show my leaf for the first day, and talk about how our leaves can be specific or broad, but it’s good to be creative and mindful about every part of our days. Every day may not be good, but we can find something good in each day. I will put my leaf on the tree, and give each student a leaf to go write something that they are thankful for on. And I will put them all up on the tree afterward.

TIP: I put all the other leaves I printed out in a center on November 1st for the students to help me cut all of the leaves out. It works on their fine motor skills, and we can get them all done in 1-2 days. I keep all of the blank leaves in a basket, and students know to grab one when they come in each morning, write what they’re thankful for, and join me in our meeting area for Morning Meeting. Routines will help this activity work even better!

It’s so exciting to see our tree expand as we continue to be thankful throughout the month! If you want to save time and make your life easier, you can check out this resource here!

I love incorporating these gratitude activities for kids into my November lesson plans and beyond! The gratitude activities help our students become mindful of what they have to be thankful for and learn how to express gratitude in many ways!

I hope you found some helpful ideas in this post, and I would love for you to pin it for years to come! How are you going to incorporate gratitude into your lesson plans this month?

There are affiliate links in this blog post. Affiliate links give me a small percentage of money made without upcharging you. 

5 Fun Morning Meeting Greetings for Fall

Morning Meeting is one of the most important parts of my school day, and I believe that it should be a pillar in every classroom. For those of you who do Morning Meeting, or if you’re interested in starting Morning Meeting, you probably know that the first component of the Responsive Classroom Morning Meeting is the Greeting. Students work on their manners and respect as they greet their classmates. Greetings are an integral part of building classroom community too, as we acknowledge each other and build relationships in our safe space.

If you're looking for more support with Morning Meeting, sign up for my FREE video training series! I would love to share my best tips and ideas with you!!

Sometimes it can be challenging coming up with fresh ideas for Morning Meeting greetings that are different than the norm. I love adding seasonal or holiday morning meeting greetings to my arsenal to peak student interest and enjoy each season and holiday. 

Here are five Morning Meeting Greetings for Fall- my favorite season! You can use these morning meeting greetings for kindergarten all the way up to upper elementary and even middle school! I have included a couple for the whole season, as well as a Halloween-themed greeting and a Thanksgiving-themed greeting. Make sure you read to the bottom of this post for a freebie and to pin this post to refer back to during the autumn months! 

Morning Meeting Greeting 1: Falling Leaves

This Morning Meeting greeting is done with all students standing in a circle. The first student waves to his/her neighbor and says, “Good Morning, (Student’s Name)”. Student 2 shakes Student 1’s hand and says “Good Morning, (Student’s Name).” Then, Student 1 acts like a falling leaf (as if Student 2 shook his branch to make him fall off the “tree”) and falls to sit on the ground. 

This continues around the circle, and the last student standing shakes hands with the first fallen leaf so that everyone is seated at the end of the greeting!

Morning Meeting Greeting 2: Pumpkin Seeds

Before Morning Meeting begins, get a hollow pumpkin (or orange bucket if a pumpkin isn’t available). Cut seed shapes out of colored paper and write each student’s name on a seed, and put them into the bucket. During your Greeting time, call one student to pick a seed out of the pumpkin (without looking) and greet that student with a fist bump or high five. Then, Student 1 sits down and Student 2 picks a seed out of the pumpkin. This continues until all seeds are out of the pumpkin and everyone has been greeted! Keep the seeds to reuse several times!

Morning Meeting Greeting 3: Smores

Students can mingle around and find different partners to do this with, or they can sit in a circle and take turns greeting each other. Basically, they will make a hand stack with their partners. They will take turns using a hand - Student 1’s first hand will act like a graham cracker, and be flat on the bottom. Student 2’s first hand will act like the chocolate, and be in a fist with his/her fingers on top of the first hand. Student 1’s second hand will act like the marshmallow, and be in a fist with his/her fingers sideways, and Student 2’s second hand will be the second graham cracker, laying flat on the top. 

Once all four hands have been stacked, they’ll greet each other, and then act like they’re eating a s’more and say “YUM!” at the end!

Morning Meeting Greeting 4: Trick or Treat

This is a class greeting. Everyone is seated in a circle, and this is the dialogue that happens:

Class: “Ding Dong” (acts like they’re pushing a doorbell)
Student: “Who’s there?” (acts like he/she is opening a door)
Class: “Trick or Treat, (Student’s Name)!”
Student: “No tricks here...our class is a TREAT!” OR “Happy Halloween, Class!”

You can choose (or make your own) for what the student will say at the end. Then, this will continue around the circle so that everyone has a chance to be greeted.

Morning Meeting Greeting 5: #Thankful

This is a great greeting to do in November, when we near Thanksgiving, or any time! It’s very similar to a Compliment Circle. Everyone will sit in a circle with their legs out in front of them. You, as the teacher, start by saying, “I’m thankful for (Student’s Name) because…” and finish the phrase. You’ll have to model some ideas that are deeper and more meaningful than “He’s a great friend” or “ She’s really nice”. Encourage students to think outside of the box. Whichever student you choose says, “Thank you (your name)” and pulls in his/her legs. Then, the student to your left (or right) is next to repeat the greeting to someone whose legs are out in front of them. By the end, everyone has greeted someone else, and everyone has received a greeting!

If you’re a visual learner like me, I’ve recorded myself doing and teaching these greetings. Feel free to watch this video to get a better idea of how each morning meeting greeting works!

I have made a Fall Morning Meeting Greetings PDF for you to download and print out as a reference, as you do these greetings with your class. Click here to get that freebie!

If you love Morning Meeting as much as I do, I want to make your life easier by planning all of the greetings, sharing questions, activities, and messages for you! I have a growing bundle for 3rd-5th grade of Morning Meeting slides, and they include social-emotional concepts too! If you need to save some time and energy this year, click here to get more info!

I hope you and your students enjoy using these greetings to strengthen your classroom community this fall! I’d love to see them in action - feel free to snap a photo or video and post it on Instagram or Facebook, and tag me! Don’t forget to pin this post to your Fall Pinterest Boards too!!


Building a Classroom Community from Day 1

I am very passionate about building a classroom community, or classroom family, that is tight-knit, supportive, respectful, honest, collaborative, and loving. Not only does it help when it comes to classroom management, but it also makes our classroom feel safe. Building a community of learners in the classroom gives students a home away from home where they can be their true selves, learn from others, and take ownership of their learning

It can prove difficult to get to that point of a strong classroom community though. Our students come to us as strangers...some may be friends, others may not. We get a smorgasbord of cultures and personalities, and it is our task to bring our learners together. The important thing, even though it may be difficult, is to start building a community in the classroom from day 1. And, I have several ways you can do that.

Building a Classroom Community with Morning Meeting

I LOVE Morning Meeting!! It makes me so happy to start each day together in a circle getting to know each other better and growing together. We collaborate, laugh, learn manners, and have discussions about important topics. I love including social-emotional learning into my Morning Meeting too- talking about character traits and strategies to help us through tough situations. This is one of my favorite ways for building classroom community in elementary school and middle school.

The Impact of Morning Meeting

You may be thinking, “Why do I need to take time out of our already limited schedule for a classroom meeting?” Not only does a classroom meeting (it doesn’t have to be in the morning!) build a sense of community in the classroom, but it also:
  • Teaches students to use manners when speaking and listening to one another.
  • Gives a safe space for students to share what’s on their hearts, no matter if it is big or small.
  • Encourages collaboration, teamwork, and more as they learn to work together and communicate.
  • Leaves room for social-emotional learning

Morning Meeting Key Components

The Responsive Classroom model of Morning Meeting has four components: Greeting, Share, Activity, and Message. I believe that they are all very important, and I try to include all four in my classroom meetings every day. They don’t have to be very long- my Morning Meeting structure usually looks like this:

  • Greeting: 5 minutes (teaches manners, respect, and speaking & listening skills)
  • Share: 5 minutes (works on speaking/listening skills, storytelling, and empathy towards others)
  • Activity: 10 minutes (encourages collaboration, team work, problem-solving, and having fun!)
  • Message: 10 minutes (can incorporate character education, academic concepts, and a preview of the day)

If you struggle coming up with fresh Morning Meeting ideas, or just need help jump-starting your Morning Meetings, check out my Pinterest board that I’ve curated just for you!! It’s broken up into grade levels, so you can find what works for you! Click on the picture or HERE to browse the board!

Building a Classroom Community with Mentor Texts

Mentor texts can be so helpful when teaching students how to respect, accept, appreciate, care for, and love one another. No matter the age of your students, you can find mentor texts for what you need. I use them throughout the year to help me mentor my students and help the all-important Social-Emotional Learning “click”.

Mentor texts are usually picture books that carry a certain theme and provide a jumping off point for fantastic discussions. They can be used to teach an academic standard, but I personally use them most for social-emotional learning and character education. There are character traits mentor texts on everything from friendship and kindness to self-control and responsibility. Here are a few of my favorites! (You can click the titles or pictures to get them on Amazon. I use affiliate links but it doesn’t cost you any extra and it helps me out a bit!)

What if Everybody Did That? is a great book to discuss the importance of rules in life, and in the classroom. During and after reading, you can discuss what would happen if everybody did different actions or didn’t follow the rules. It’s important to discuss that we have consequences for our actions, no matter what they are, and how we should think before we do something. I definitely recommend reading this one during the first weeks of school!

The Invisible Boy is one of my favorite picture books of all time. It makes me tear up each time I read it. It’s a story of friendship and accepting each other no matter how we look or act, and how important that is. I love the message through the illustrations too. It’s a must-read!

A Flicker of Hope is a hopeful story that gives several ways to ask for help when someone needs it. It’s an important story to share for the times when students may feel down, depressed, or need help in any way. It also builds our hope and shares how you can be a hope builder too!

Jabari Jumps is an awesome book about perseverance, determination, and courage. It would be great for testing season or any time students need a boost of confidence!! I love the beautiful story of Jabari!

Building a Classroom Community with Student Ownership

At the beginning of the school year, it is so important to guide your students in setting goals. There are many ways to do this- with journals, setting one single goal at a time, etc. But the important thing is to teach them how to set a goal that is (1) achievable and (2) measurable. That way they can reach their goals and set bigger ones!!

Goal-setting with your students helps them take ownership of their learning. If they know the goal they have, and are reminded of it, they are motivated to reach it themselves, and you can be there to encourage them as well. Checking in with students throughout the year, individually or in small groups, is a key factor for success too!

I love using Levels of Understanding to also help students take ownership of their learning. They can be used as a self check-in, after a small or whole group lesson, or they could even write their level on the top of their work after they finish! The Levels help you as a teacher see where your students are at, and who may need some reteaching. But they also help your students think about their learning and how well they understand concepts. This teaches them how to self-regulate and when to ask for help.

My friend Danielle shares all about how she gives her students ownership by creating a student-centered classroom. I love this idea, and I agree that it's so important that your students feel a part of your classroom community!

Classroom Jobs also help build a positive classroom community and ownership, as we all have a job to do to help our classroom. I prefer to use Team Jobs, as they tend to make things simpler for all of us. Students in teams can help each other remember to do their jobs, and after a couple of months, you just have to switch six teams versus 20+ jobs!

Building a Classroom Community with Consistency

Something that I have learned in my five years of teaching is how important consistency is to our students and classroom atmosphere. My first year teaching I was NOT consistent, and I could tell, because my classroom community was a MESS all year! My students did not respect me or each other very well. I struggled managing my classroom. We had fun, but it definitely could have been so much better!

Megan has so many awesome Classroom Management techniques that would have saved me much heartache and stress my first year of teaching. She simplifies it for you and helps you start your school year on the right foot!

I love this Classroom Management idea from Jessica! I used it when I taught Kindergarten and Fourth Grade, and it works so well!!

Leslie has all kinds of tips and helpful information for you in this Behavior Management post! She has great ideas on how to start the school year off right and become a behavior management PRO!

Building a caring classroom community from Day 1 is crucial for a close-knit classroom that respects, loves, and encourages one another! I hope these ideas and tips help you make this year the best yet!! Please pin this image to save it for later and share it with your friends!

Interested in a FREE Morning Meeting training with all of the tips, ideas, and motivation to implement it in your classroom or make it even better? Sign up here! You don't want to miss it!