7 Ways to Encourage Gratitude in the Classroom

Updated: Oct 28

Ways to teach gratitude to primary students

Without a doubt, teaching our young students about the importance of gratitude in our lives is more relevant than ever. Here at Rainbow Sky Creations, we have been excited about creating resources to make this easier for teachers to fulfil.

According to Forbes, showing gratitude has the following scientific benefits:

1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships

2. Gratitude improves physical health.

3. Gratitude improves psychological health.

4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.

5. Grateful people sleep better.

6. Gratitude increases mental strength.

7. Gratitude improves self-esteem.

Read more about it here.

So, with that in mind, here are some teaching inspiration, ideas, and suggestions for encouraging an ‘attitude of gratitude’ in the classroom.

1. Begin the day with Gratitude

We like to start our school day with a very quick gratitude journaling activity (if you teach at a religious school, this could be a part of your morning prayer too). Students jot down 1-3 things that they are grateful for. This activity can be completed in the back of a workbook, in a special gratitude book or on a piece of paper dedicated to gratitude.

Weekly gratitude journal for kids

As teachers, it is a wonderful habit to get into as well. When our students sit down to journal for the first 5 minutes of the day, aim to carve out that time for your wellbeing too. Additionally, it is always lovely to be open and share what you are grateful for with your class, especially as you are beginning the process.

Simply journaling for five minutes a day about what we are grateful for can enhance our long-term happiness by over 10% (Emmons & McCullough, 2003; Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005)

2. Create a display

You can create a display with your class any time of the year to reinforce the importance and benefits of being grateful. We love a gratitude tree because you can continually add leaves to it throughout the year. You might even want to swap the leaves according to what season you are in and make it a permanent fixture in your classroom.

During home learning, we know some teachers sent leaves home to their students and they returned them to be added to the class tree. Mix it up and ask families to contribute to your gratitude tree as a part of weekly homework by sending home a few leaves.

Gratitude tree class display

3. Integrate it with a wellbeing check in

Wellbeing check-ins are becoming more and more popular in classrooms, particularly with what everyone in the world has experienced in the last 2 years. Wellbeing tasks could be activities focusing on self-reflection, mindfulness, meditation and gratitude.

Allowing children to express what might not be going right is important, but it is just as relevant to give them the opportunity to see that everything isn’t doom and gloom.

Find our student Wellbeing journal for Grades K-2 here and Grades 3-6 here.

4. Create a school focus

Creating a central focus on gratitude will allow you to collaborate with your colleagues and share creative ideas around the theme. You might pin up banners in common areas spreading the message of gratitude, create a school gratitude tree in a central location or have classes record on the playground in chalk what they are grateful for.

This is also an opportunity to start a gratitude movement in the staffroom too.

6. Participate in Grateful in April

Grateful in April is a global event where mini-challenges are set each day around the idea of people making a more positive impact in their community. We have participated ourselves as adults and love the daily emails and prompts they send. This initiative could easily be adapted for primary aged children.

5. The Gratitude Project

This project is great for achieving a deeper focus on gratitude in your classroom. We have seen entire schools adopt the project, and all do it collectively, which has been beautiful.

The Gratitude Project provides students with learning and investigating opportunities to develop an understanding of what it means to be thankful, discover what others are thankful for, and reflect upon what they are grateful for in their own lives. Some tasks require research or talking to each other. At the same time, others include reflecting, writing or designing. The project is about changing attitudes and seeing the world through the lens of a grateful heart.

Read more about the Gratitude project here.

The gratitude project classroom display

6. Expressing compliments

We have found over the years that teaching students how to compliment each other is giving them a lifelong gift. Even though showing appreciation or complimenting someone isn’t the same as showing gratitude, it is an excellent way for the recipient of the compliment to be grateful for hearing or seeing the wonderful things others feel about them.

We created these compliment jars for this exact purpose. However, you could put your own spin on them and ask students to record things they are grateful for on the coloured slips.

Rainbow compliment jars

Want a Christmas version? Find it here.

7. Read about it

There are so many books suitable for all ages that discuss gratitude for kids. Some of our favourites include:

  • Human Kind: Gratitude By Zanni Louise