About Claire Adams: Claire is a personal and professional development expert, and a proud aunt of 5 precious, little gems. Being an aunt of 5 with a strong desire to have her own little darlings one day, she has been quite immersed in the whole child care story and is quite familiar with the most common challenges parents are facing daily.
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A classroom is a busy place, full of little humans with curious minds and big hearts just waiting to be touched by knowledge. It’s the teachers’ job to guide them, teach them about math, literature and science, show them how to read and write and why the sky is blue. However, teachers also enrich their students’ emotional intelligence, develop their empathy, honesty and respect for others. And what better way to do this than through teaching them gratitude. Here are some ideas how.
1. Being there for others
One way children can be taught gratitude is by doing things for others. That way they get to experience the gratitude that others feel for them and understand what it means to invest your time and effort in others. For example, the children could make it a habit to visit a nursing home and spend some time playing social games or simply talking to the elderly. Another idea is to collect toys and books for the local children’s hospital, or even write messages of support and encouragement to the children in those places. Maybe they can do a community project, like planting flowers or spending time with dogs from the local shelter. There are many things children can do as a group to show gratitude to those around them.
This can be a daily activity in your classroom, one that takes only a couple minutes, but can set positive mood at the beginning of each day. The journal should consist of ‘my daily gratitude’ cards, which children can make themselves. It’s simple. All you’ll need is some white A4 paper and crayons, and let the children’s creativity design the most beautiful cards. The students should write one thing they’re grateful for every morning for a few weeks or a month. After that period, you can have them read what they’ve written and see that there are so many good things in their life to be thankful for.
3. Acknowledging other people’s efforts
There are many people at school or in the community who do valuable things for children, no matter how small those things may seem. Talking to children and getting them to acknowledge those people and the things they do is a lovely way to teach them about gratitude. Sometimes children don’t even notice members of staff that aren’t their teachers, but if you point those people out and have children think of nice things to say to them can go a long way in developing gratitude. The children can make cards to show their thankfulness, or they can simply give a compliment to somebody and then talk about that person’s response. Children can gain a lot from realizing that they’ve done something that made somebody else happy.
Teaching students that the gifts they receive aren’t as important as the thought and the intention behind that gift is a good way to develop appreciation for the people around them. Go around the classroom and ask students to think of times that other people, such as family or friends, noticed their need for something or remembered that they really like something and got them exactly what they wanted and needed. Then ask them how they felt about it and have a discussion. Also, teach them that not all presents are material. For example, talk to the children about when their friends gave up on their favorite activity to spend time and play with them, or when their friends postponed doing their homework to help them instead.
5. Stories about gratitude
Turning your literature class into a lesson about gratitude by reading books about it, or even watching a film with the motif of gratitude can be very beneficial in developing gratitude in your students. Make an effort to find age-appropriate books they will find interesting or an animated film the might like and then have a discussion about the characters and what they were grateful for.
This is a project that will not only develop gratitude, but also other useful skills, especially for younger students. Bring craft supplies to the class and help the children design postcards. Then have them choose one person they’re grateful for and write them a postcard, explaining what exactly they’re thankful for regarding that person. This activity can encourage fine motor development in young children, as well as teach them how to write and mail a postcard.
As important as it is that children get the general knowledge of the world around them, it’s just as important to make decent people of them. And although it starts at home, it can and it should be something to work on in the classroom as well.