Thanksgiving: A great opportunity to introduce the practice of gratitude in your classroom!

In the dictionary, Thanksgiving can be described as ‘The act of giving thanks’ or ‘an expression of thanks’. The Thanksgiving celebration is predominantly an American holiday that is observed on the last Thursday of November every year. It originated as a harvest festival and to this day the Thanksgiving dinner remains the centrepiece of the celebration. The dinner consists of foods that would be indigenous to the Americas including turkey, stuffing, cranberries and pumpkin pie. The gathering gives people a chance to put time aside to be grateful for what they have.

Why should we celebrate Thanksgiving?

Gratitude focuses on the good. It is about being thankful for all of the people and things that we have in our lives. According to scientific research it has been proven that practising gratitude can have a number of different benefits to humans including:

  • Higher levels of happiness and well-being
  • Improving self-esteem and resilience
  • Increasing levels of belonging
  • Improving relationships
  • Helping build a positive outlook and encouraging a growth mindset

Based on the positive results that practising gratitude has on us, it is a really good idea to introduce this practice within your classroom. With Thanksgiving falling this week (Thursday, 26th of November) it is a great opportunity to talk about Thanksgiving celebrations and what they mean. You can start by showing the children a short video in class or reading a book about thanksgiving to them. Here is a great video about Thanksgiving:

Expanding on from Thanksgiving you can talk to children about what they are thankful and grateful for. This is something that you can build into your daily routine. Every day you can ask the children for one thing that they are grateful for. It may be a hug from Daddy or Mammy, their favourite stuffed toy, or their lego. Encourage them to start their sentence with ‘ Today I am grateful for…’. Include yourself in this daily activity as children will learn even more from you practising alongside them.

Tips on practising gratitude in your classroom

There are lots of different ways in which you can introduce gratitude in your class. Here are a few ideas to get started:

  1. Say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. Don’t force this on children or insist that they say it every time, but it is important to include it in daily conversations with them. These two basic words are a great start to encouraging gratitude within your class.
  2. Look for inspiring moments in your day and share them with the children. It could be as simple as seeing a rainbow or the sound of birds singing. Encourage the children to look for their own inspiring moments and encourage them to share these moments with the class.
  3. Use opportunities such as Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas to encourage children to say thank you to their friends and families. This can be done by encouraging the children to make a card or a picture to bring home and give to family and friends.
  4. Play easy games with the children in the classroom such as: ‘Name a person who makes you happy’. ‘Name a person who makes you giggle’. ‘Name a person who makes you smile’. This encourages the children to tell people when they make them feel good.
  5. Encourage the children to say what they love about themselves and what is special about themselves. Children need to learn to love themselves and appreciate their own bodies as well as being grateful for what they have around them.

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