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December 16, 2021

How to Start Practicing Gratitude in the Classroom

November kicks off the holiday season with high expectations for a cozy and festive time of year. It is a time to share traditions, connect with loved ones, and give thanks. Now is the perfect time to celebrate gratitude with your students and start some classroom traditions to last the whole year! 

Why Gratitude? 

Gratitude is the thankful appreciation for what we have in our lives, both the tangible and intangible. With gratitude, we acknowledge the goodness all around us. In our classrooms, even simple acts of gratitude and appreciation can transform classroom relationships and boost student self-worth. There are even greater benefits when we take the time each week to acknowledge and share our gratitude with others. Jeanie Iberlin, author of Cultivating Mindfulness in the Classroom, encourages teachers to make gratitude activities a part of their weekly routines: “regularly practicing gratitude increases one’s happiness and general satisfaction with life. It also tends to make people more optimistic about the future and even helps them sleep better.” 

When we practice gratitude with our students, we help them grow socially and emotionally. They are more likely to see the good in themselves and in others. Encouraging students to express their appreciation for others can truly shift the climate of an entire school and strengthen the bonds between teachers, students, and the community. During the holiday season, classroom activities that focus on gratitude and appreciation can have additional benefits for our most vulnerable students. For many students facing struggles at home, the long breaks from the safety and routine of the classroom and the potential for family turmoil can increase stress and sadness. Strengthening and celebrating connections at school can help. 

Getting Started 

So how can you practice gratitude with your students? Check out some of these easy-to-implement ideas from the “Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life” website to get started!  

  • Gratitude Surprise Sticky Notes. Give each student one or more sticky notes to write something they’re grateful for about another person in the school community. Then have the students “deliver” the sticky notes by placing them where the person will see it, e.g., a locker, a phone, a cleaning cart.
  • Gratitude Quilt. Give each child a 5”x5” blank piece of paper on which to draw something he or she is thankful for. Mount each square on a 6”x6” colored piece of paper and then piece the squares together to create a classroom gratitude quilt.
  • Gratitude Photos. Have each student write what he or she is thankful for on a large piece of paper and then take a picture of the child holding up his or her paper. Frame the photo and send it home as a holiday gift.
  • Gratitude Paper Chain/ Gratitude Jar. Create a visual reminder of your students’ gratitude! Have students write what they’re thankful for on strips of paper and use the strips to make a gratitude chain to hang up in the classroom or fill a jar with “gratitude notes” that can be shared throughout the year.


  • Iberlin, J. (2017). Cultivating Mindfulness in the Classroom. Bloomington, IN: Marzano Research. 
  • Zakrzewski, V. (2015, October 15). Gratitude activities for the classroom [web log post]. Retrieved from 

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