Gratitude in the classroom. How to get your students in a healthy mindest!


Teaching The Gratitude Mindset

An attitude of gratitude is one we want our kids to have. It is a skill (yes, a skill) we want all children to have. Grateful people are not only happier, but they are much more pleasant to be around. No one enjoys the company of an ungrateful, spoiled brat. Gratitude isn’t a personality trait. It doesn’t magically show up in some kids and not in others. Rather, it is a skill; one that can be practiced and refined. It works like a muscle. If you exercise it every day, it stays strong and is easy to use. If you don’t, it will atrophy. How can we teach our students gratitude?

  • Model Gratitude: The most powerful tool parents and teachers have to help them instill gratitude is modeling. Parents and teachers must express gratitude to and in front of children. When kids see adults thanking others and commenting on all the gifts in their lives, children are much more likely to follow suit.

What does this look like??

Children benefit not only when the adults in their life’s express gratitude, but also when their peers do. Pay attention to when other students show gratitude, even something as simple as a quick ‘thanks,’ and praise it. Read books about gratitude. Another great model for gratitude is stories with themes of thankfulness. Read stories in which children learn to be grateful and discuss the importance of gratitude or the consequences of ingratitude. Model what it looks like when someone isn’t’ grateful. While modeling desired behavior is vital, perhaps just as important is modeling behavior that is not desired. Model for students what it looks like when someone isn’t grateful. A student role play with exaggerated selfishness and lack of gratitude is a fun way to illustrate how miserable it is to be around someone who never says thank you and has a poor attitude.

  • Shift your mindset: Think about someone you know who displays gratitude daily. What are they like? They are probably relaxed and happy. Now think of the opposite end of the spectrum. What is that person like? Very likely they are negative, unhappy and they complain a lot. Of course, venting has a time and a place; we all need to complain now and then but complaining in front of students just isn’t productive. They are always listening and watching. Instead of complaining, focus on the good and on solutions for problems.
  • Serve Others: Another way encourage gratitude in children is through service. When we serve others, we feel good about ourselves. Service often provides an opportunity for children to see others less fortunate than themselves. Service doesn’t have to be a grand project, it can be something simple. Simple projects often call children’s attention to the needs of those around them and to the ways that others serve them daily.
  • Seek Gratitude: In order to be grateful, you must be intentional. There are many ways to call your students’ attention to all they have, try these variations to having them name things they are grateful for:
    • Gratitude Journal: Give students a journal to write what they are grateful for. They can write daily, weekly, or whenever they have time.
    • I’m Thankful Discussion: During a class meeting, perhaps monthly or weekly, sit in a circle and have each student name something they are grateful for. Vary this activity by making it more specific (something you are grateful for at home, at school, in summer, etc.) or by asking them to share their reasons.
    • Gratitude Jar: Have students write something they are grateful for, place it in a jar, and read one or two slips daily.


Thank Helpers: Thank helpers with notes and verbal confirmations: Encourage students to thank those that help in the school. Observe days such as Administrator’s or Secretary’s days, thank classroom helpers, and write thank you notes to presenters and special visitors. Making this a routine part of your classroom will make thanking others common for your students.

Celebrate Others: Teach students to celebrate others, a form of expressing gratitude to their peers. This can also look like compliments! One of my children’s teachers combined complimenting with writing. Each time a child in her class had a birthday, the class would write a compliment page about the birthday girl or boy and the teacher bound it into a book. Something that can last forever!

Encourage Independence: When students have to work hard, they appreciate the efforts of others. When we encourage our students to get the job independently we are also building courage and confidence in their work.

Focus on the Feeling: Focus on how it feels to be grateful and receive that. Have students notice how good they feel when thanking others rather than how they feel when complaining and being negative. This encourages them to continue to foster the skill of gratitude.

“It is not happiness that brings us gratitude, it is gratitude that brings us happiness.” – Annoymous

Gratitude is a skill that can and should be learned by children. Realize that children may not express gratitude as quickly as we would like. Kids are naturally self-centered, and it is difficult for them to see others’ perspectives at times. Keep modeling, encouraging, and providing opportunities for children to practice their skill of gratitude and they will grow into grateful, happy adults.

By: Amy Curletto

Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.

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