Nurture an attitude of gratitude. Your students will thank you!

Wrap up the year with our 12 interactive classroom lessons

[Part three of three blog posts]

It’s impossible not to think about giving (and getting) presents this time of year. We are exposed to thousands of media messages each day that tout the importance of tangible (preferably costly) gifts during the holiday season.

That makes this an ideal time to dial in on the gifts we receive that are less tangible.

“The people in your life can themselves be gifts—and so can a thousand other things, big and little, many of which you probably overlook day to day. Taking time during the holidays to notice, contemplate, and express gratitude for these people and things can make your holidays far more meaningful,” noted Robin Stern, Ph.D., and Robert Emmons, Ph.D., in a post for the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. “If you’re struggling with family drama, stressful travel or disappointments, the practice of gratitude can help you through.”

The following four classroom activities can help students reframe their thinking about life letdowns, gain insight about everyday experiences, and boost appreciation for the people who care about them. Of course, these can be helpful exercises at any time of the year—not just in December!

One Kind Word
In this short exercise, students are encouraged to consider how a single kind word or action could have a positive impact on themselves or others. Students are asked to recall when somebody did something kind for them and think about how to do something thoughtful every day to make another person feel valued. Activity time: 10 minutes

Intentional Family Tree
Lots of people don’t have what is labeled a “traditional family unit.” That can lead to extra angst around the holidays when movies, TV, and other imagery promote clichés about what’s “normal.” This activity helps students identify “intentional family” members, why we should feel thankful to have them in our lives, and how to make those people feel loved. Activity time: 60 minutes

Finding Silver Linings
Students are encouraged to create a positive frame of mind by thinking about things that make their lives enjoyable or worthwhile, then recall a specific negative experience. The goal is to reconsider a frustrating experience from a different—more upbeat—point of view to see a potential upside to the situation. Activity time: 10 minutes

Subtract a Positive Event
By considering what their lives would be like if a specific positive event hadn’t happened to them, students can experience a sense of appreciation for what they have. In this exercise, students are asked to remember an event and all the possible things leading up to it that could have gone differently which would have prevented it from occurring. Activity time: 10 minutes

If you haven’t read them yet, we profiled eight other classroom activities in the first two blog posts of this series. Click through to read posts one and two.

All 12 exercises were developed in collaboration with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and they meet the Core SEL (social and emotional learning) Competencies created by CASEL.




Recap of all 12 social and emotional learning lessons profiled in this series:

  1. Rose – Bud – Thorn
  2. Seven Questions
  3. Motivational Self-Talk Book
  4. Speed Dating with Purpose
  5. Meaningful Photos
  6. Continuum
  7. “I Wonder” Ball
  8. “I Am” Poem
  9. One Kind Word
  10. “Intentional” Family Tree
  11. Finding Silver Linings
  12. Subtract a Positive Event