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?

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