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3 Ways to Spread Thankfulness
When we approach holidays at school we often look for ways to celebrate and be creative in ways that are inclusive and community building. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays where we can all stop and find little ways to spread kindness and gratitude no matter a person’s religion, culture or traditions. This year I found 3 amazing ways to highlight our thankfulness using some creative tools. The students adored these little projects and the entirety of school staff has been able to see why we are thankful for them as well. I will also share how we utilized discussion and community building to make the impact of these activities more significant.
1. Teacher Notes of Thankfulness
We kicked off the celebration of gratitude I used the Pumpkin #4 Die Cut to write a note to each of my students. The time it took to stop and think about why I am thankful for each student was well worth it. I knew I wanted these notes to be a model of genuine compliments as well as make them each unique to each scholar. Each student's face lit up as soon as they walked to their desk in the morning. They took a moment to read their note, they shared it with their peers and the number of “thank yous” were numerous. Not only did these notes show gratitude but they also encouraged positive conversation and started the day off in such a constructive way. This was such a big hit in fact, that I used the same pumpkin cut outs for the remainder of the week to write notes of thankfulness to former students, colleagues and even my administrators. It was so life-giving to do the simple task of thinking intentionally about the people I am surrounded by every single day in order to share with them why I am thankful for them. This activity reminded me that in order to build a strong and safe community, it takes more than just knowing one another, it takes celebrating and discussing the amazing people in our community.
2. Student Notes of Thankfulness
Because the teacher notes were so successful I decided to take it a step further by allowing time for my students to write notes of thankfulness for one another. To make this work I went back to my Pumpkin #4 Die Cut. I then passed out one pumpkin to each scholar. I wanted to ensure that every student was going to receive a note and so I pulled my classroom sticks. These are popsicle sticks that I have in my classroom with each student's name which I use to increase engagement. Each student was then given a popsicle stick with a name on it and that is who they spent time writing a meaningful note to. My directions were that students needed to write about a strength, talent of unique quality that the student had. I gave the example of how we wouldn’t write, “I like your clothes,” instead they could write something like, “You have a fun and unique style or fashion sense.” We have been working in my classroom on utilizing genuine compliments when encouraging others so this project allowed me to extend on that teaching in a real-life setting. The students then spent several moments writing their notes. I then took a vote to see if we wanted to share these notes out loud or to keep the notes to themselves. The answer in my room was a resounding SHARE IT OUT! We then took several moments sharing these compliments and reasons for being thankful for one another. As I read the notes, students were nodding their heads along in agreement with each highlighted attribute of their peers. The students loved them so much they all decided to keep them on their desks. Even to this day I walk into the room and I see these pumpkins sitting on desks, causing students to smile a time or two throughout the day as they remember they are valued in our classroom.
3. Thankfulness Door Decor
The last way we shared thankfulness was focused around sharing our gratitude with the entire school. It all started with some prep work. I used the Typewriter Alphabet- 3” to write out the words, “We are unbeLEAFably thankful for school.” I then pulled out my Leaves #4 Die Cut and I made enough leaves for each student to write on two of them. We started this activity by coming together as a group to talk about why we were thankful for school. We talked about the learning we get to do, the fun we have with friends, the creativity we get to use, the movement and exercise we get, and the people who help us learn, grow and succeed. It was a very deep and meaningful conversation that the students were able to participate in. We then took time to create our leaves. The students shared some incredible thoughts about why they are thankful for school. They highlighted our school counselor, our Specialist teachers, their classmates, learning new things, recess, and even yummy lunches they get to eat at school. It was so fun to stop and read the many reasons why they are so glad that they get to come to school. It is also so exciting to see people stop by and read the leaves. It has made so many people smile and feel seen and validated by the students in my classroom. This little project was a simple way to say thank you to people who oftentimes might feel overlooked in a school setting.
Through these activities I was astounded by how thankfulness is something that creates huge waves of positivity. When I shared reasons why I was thankful, I saw my students then reciprocate that thankfulness back to me as well as find other ways to share why they were thankful for others. The level of positivity and kindness that these small little projects created were amazing. I think it is important to share that when we create or utilize these types of tasks it is also important to dive deeper. We want it to be more than just giving them some markers and asking them to write one reason why they are thankful. These projects can be extended into something incredibly meaningful by having conversations about why we are thankful, how the people and things in our lives impact us and how we can use those examples to help us be our most successful selves. I also worked very hard to share with my scholars ways that I was thankful for things in my life. Being a willing model of thankfulness is a way to encourage students to really invest in this idea of authentic gratitude. The combination of both my personal investment and the students' positive approach in these activities created a high level of appreciation that spread kindness and thankfulness like a flood through the hallways in our school.
Written by Amy Pinegar