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7 Activities for Giving Thanks in the Classroom

By Heather Painter

November 12, 2015

While showing gratitude is something we strive for all year long, Thanksgiving provides a special reminder and opportunity for teachers. Below are seven ideas for giving thanks with your students this Thanksgiving.

1. Thanksgiving décor: Create a bulletin board encouraging students to give thanks. One option is to ask students to write down what they are thankful for on a leaf and collect them all together for display. You could also print out blank thank-you cards, and encourage students to write a message to someone they are thankful for.

2. Students show thanks to one another: One way to build a close-knit classroom culture is to provide students with an opportunity to show their gratitude for one another. For younger students, play a game at recess where all the students stand in a circle. The first student passes the ball to another student, while stating a reason he or she is thankful for that person. This continues until everyone has a turn. Another option for older students is having students pull classmates' names from a hat, write them quick notes, or go up to them personally with their thoughts.

3. Get crafty: Whether you go for a traditional hand-turkey drawing, or a garland of thanks, there are many ways you and your students can create something to celebrate Thanksgiving. When students are finished with their projects, encourage them to share the artwork with a person they are thankful to have in their lives!

4. Gratitude through journaling: Sentence starters like the ones below can help students think about giving thanks

  • “I am thankful for…”
  • “_______________ is special to me because….”
  • “The opportunity to ________________ helped me _________________.”
  • “It is important to show thanks because ________________.”

Alternatively, you could also introduce the habit of keeping gratitude journals in which students write down things they grateful for as they occur. These journals can be especially helpful during tough times, when students can read back through their positive entries and find comfort.

5. Stories about giving thanks: Dr. Seuss’ Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (appropriate for pre-K through 4th grade) reminds us to appreciate the opportunities we have, while William Steig’s Common Core-aligned Amos and Boris (K-3rd grade) reminds us to be grateful for the friends we have in our lives. Nikki Grimes’ Thanks a Million (1st-5th grade) and Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree (Pre-K-3rd grade) offer poems about giving thanks.

6. Videos about giving thanks: One teacher created a great video for educators (and possibly older students) about being culturally responsive and challenging assumptions about the story of Thanksgiving. Kid President also offers up some words of wisdom about giving thanks.

7. Be an example: Lead by example by showing your students that you are thankful for them during this time of the year—and always! 

“It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy. ”