I woke up in a funk the other morning so I pulled the covers over my head trying to go back to sleep. As I began to doze, my dog stuck her head under the sheet and I felt her cold nose on my leg. I knew that trying to stay in bed was futile, so I threw on some clothes and took her outside feeling frustrated and annoyed. As we began walking, the pain in my knee and heel started to subside and the phrase, attitude of gratitude came into my head as I realized how lucky I am to be able to walk, others aren’t so fortunate. I looked lovingly at my husky and thought to myself, if I didn’t have an active dog, I probably wouldn’t be getting the good exercise that I need. The sun was warming me up and I was beginning to feel better.
I had gone to bed the night before, upset about what’s been happening in our beautiful country. The sensless killing of innocent people, worshipping in a synagogue. This could have happened to any of us, being a Jew myself, I’ve experienced anti-semitism, I know how much it hurts. Two people who passed had the same last name as my maiden name, Rosenthal, and I wondered if they were somehow related to me. Later that afternoon, I went on Facebook only to discover that a close friend’s uncle was part of the congregation, thank heavens, he was one of the lucky ones. I can only imagine the terror he must have felt.
The other day, I went grocery shopping and there was a man in the checkout line who was completely bent over, he had to look sideways at the cashier because he couldn’t lift his head. She said, “hello, how are you?” and he said, “I’m fine, thanks.” I thought to myself, how could someone be fine with such a deformity. You know, he DID feel fine, he was used to living with his handicap and his attitude was upbeat and positive. That poor soul became my hero for the day. Once again I realized just how lucky I am, because I don’t think I’d be able to live like that. We certainly take things for granted.
Thanksgiving is the ideal time to help your students develop an attitude of gratitude. Research has shown that it’s good for both us and them. Not only does it help kids feel better about themselves, but it helps us educators feel less exhausted emotionally. So, without further adieu, here are some activities that you can use, right away, in your classroom.
- Classroom Gratitude Book: Design a gratitude book to send home with a different child every week. Request each student’s family to add a page of pictures as well as a description describing what they’re grateful for. At the end of the year, make sure to celebrate your completed classroom attitude of gratitude book!
- Attitude of Gratitude Collage or Bulletin Board: Instruct your class to cut out pictures of things they’re grateful for and then use the pictures to construct their own collage. You could also use their images to decorate a classroom attitude of gratitude bulletin board.
- Gratitude Pairs: Have a “Special Friends Day” a day or two before Thanksgiving. Ask each child to invite a special person to class for a 45-minute period,it could be a grandparent, family friend, aunt, uncle, parent, etc. Instruct each pair to write and/or draw something they’re thankful for and post it on a bulletin board. Note: If you set this activity up close to an approaching holiday, there is a greater likelihood that of out-of-towners will be able to come.
- Gratitude Spies: Play a game called “I spy gratitude”. At the start of the day, have every student pick the name of a classmate from a hat without stating their name. Each student spends the day “spying” on his/her person and during a class meeting, shares one thing that he or she is grateful for about that person. Be sure to include yourself in this.
- Gratitude Circle. Start or finish the day by sitting in a circle and having each child share one thing that he/she is grateful for and why.
Books are an excellent way to help your class develop an attitude of gratitude. I’d like to share a few with you that you can read aloud with your students, or they can read them individually. Make sure you save time to have discussions about these novels.
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai with Patricia McCormick… This is a true story about Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani girl, who became a symbol of peace and innovation in a country that supresses education and women’s rights. While riding on a bus to school, she contemplates how much her beloved home town has changed since the Taliban took over. All of a sudden, the bus stops, and a man gets on. He wants to know who Malala is. She doesn’t respond, but her identity is indisputable, as she isn’t wearing her burqa(female veil). The man lifts his gun and shoots Malala in the head. After reading this book, students will feel grateful for their own rights, hopes, dreams, life and freedoms that they take for granted.
Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan… Losing one’s parents is never easy, and for 12-year-old Willow Chance losing her adoptive parents in a car wreck is devastating. This novel tracks Willow’s journey, through her pain, to the understanding that her life will continue. Although she had no relatives or close family friends, an unconventional assortment of people step forward to become a surrogate family to this unusual tween with a genius IQ. As they form a close attachment, those helping Willow realize their lives are enriched by her as much as her life is enhanced by them.This book will leave your students grateful for their parents, their house and normal, everyday, little things that we often take for granted.
Don’t forget to take a look at our WE TEACH SO HARD buddies’ posts below! They’re offering some awesome ideas, suggestions and free resources, too!
Wishing you the magic of the holiday season through a child’s eyes, a tiny simmering pot of gratitude inside your heart, and the wonders of noticing the beauty in simple things inside your mind for the days ahead. Even that chatty class that you may have – it’s a beautiful thing! Right?