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We All Teach SEL: Gratitude Activities and Tools for Students

Resources to inspire gratitude in every classroom, every day.

November 12, 2018
Danny Wagner Senior Editor, Education Ratings & Reviews
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES In the Classroom, Technology Integration, Tools

Building SEL (social and emotional learning) skills such as gratitude requires face-to-face interactions, meaningful discussion, and reflection. Edtech is no complete substitute for that, but there are tools that can supplement the development of character in the classroom and at home. According to the Character Lab, gratitude is:

appreciation of the benefits we receive from others and the desire to reciprocate.

While some tools focus specifically on gratitude, the websites and apps you use daily (in all subjects) can be used to promote thankfulness, too. You don't have to stop using the tools you love or toss out your lesson or curricular plans to start developing SEL. Below we have included some tips, tools, and actionable ideas for seamlessly integrating gratitude and life skills-building into your content classroom.  

Why gratitude?

As teachers, we sometimes forget that little, everyday actions in the classroom have a huge impact on our students' lives. Just a small offering of appreciation can transform relationships and boost student self-worth. Simple tokens of gratitude, such as students voicing their appreciation for a fired teacher, can shift the climate of entire schools and strengthen the bonds among teachers, kids, and the community. But gratitude is not just about recognition -- it's also about supporting and inspiring others. Studies have shown that when someone gets appreciated, they feel more socially valued, and this can lead to prosocial behavior. In other words, when someone receives thanks, they are more likely to pay it forward. The more teachers express and practice gratitude, the more inclined students will be to do the same, leading to a more appreciative, supportive, and equitable world.

Take action

  • Challenge students; ask them if they can find ways to be grateful for things they may find unpleasant, such as homework.
     
  • Have students reflect on the past, such as in this digital journal, expressing gratitude and recognizing changes over time.
     
  • Plan events with kids to show appreciation for school workers who often go unnoticed, such as aides and custodians.
     
  • Make sure the technology you use doesn't take the place of, but instead supplements, face-to-face interaction.
     
  • Using our Digital Citizenship Curriculum? Both our student interactives and lessons already foster key SEL skills.
     
  • Visit some other excellent SEL resources, including CASEL, Character Lab, Edutopia, and Ashoka.
     
  • Think about the digital tools you're already using in the classroom. Can you find a creative way to use them to model gratitude? Check out our suggestions below!
     

Directly target gratitude

mindprint learning websiteMindprint Learning
Students take online assessments to measure their strengths and challenges. Use Mindprint's advice to discuss the results with each student, showing them what strengths they can be grateful for, and then make a plan to build on them.

the harry potter alliance websiteThe Harry Potter Alliance
By starting HPA chapters, students work with supportive, empowering communities to do good work. Kids learn to appreciate each other as well as their own talents and voice, using them to take action on social issues such as equality.

 

Practice gratitude in all subjects     

For ELA classrooms

make beliefs comix websiteMake Beliefs Comix
This comics-creation site lets kids express themselves through words and pictures. Students can use the site library, or create their own text in a story about a time they were grateful to someone and how they might be able to pay the kindness forward.

this i believe websiteThis I Believe
This site focuses on the writing, sharing, and discussing of people's core beliefs through short essays. Have students listen to or read essays in the "Gratitude" section and then compose and publish their own self-reflective essay on the site.

 

For math classrooms

math science music websiteMath Science Music
This site helps kids learn about STEM through music. Kids engage in mathematical problems as they break down a song into its separate tracks, and then are able to describe their appreciation for math as a facet of the music they love.

tuva labs website

Tuva Labs
Kids can lead a project where they collect data on what people in their communities are grateful for. Upload the data to Tuva, and use the platform to experiment with multiple graphical representations and report on statistics and trends.

 

For science classrooms

DIY websiteDIY
DIY gets kids "making." Whether they're harvesting honey or building a circuit, kids post their creations online, get helpful feedback, and practice expressing thanks. They can further reciprocate kindness by commenting on other posts.

edheads websiteEdheads
Edheads' online simulations help students gain an understanding of STEM jobs, such as surgeon or engineer. Have kids play and then write a letter to a local organization, explaining why they're thankful for the science at work.
 

For social studies classrooms

metkids website

MetKids
Use the Time Machine to explore art from different time periods. See if kids can find similarities between historical figures they appreciate and themselves, and have them create their own art depicting themselves performing similar great deeds.

adl websiteAnti-Defamation League
After viewing lessons that touch on issues like bigotry and hate speech, kids can use the Take Action section to write and petition Congress, expressing gratitude for those who have fought for our rights and then advocating changes for the future.

 

For all classrooms

popplet appPopplet
Popplet is a mind-mapping tool with which students can place text, drawings, or video in colorful connected boxes. Kids can create a collage of what they're grateful for in their lives, connect those things to show relationships, and share with peers.

Microsoft Teams
Teams is a communication and collaboration platform. Teachers can create a positive space of polls, open chats, and resource sharing among students that can facilitate them asking for help, giving advice, and expressing appreciation for each other.

 

Engage families

 

Explore more SEL tips, tools, and teaching strategies.

We All Teach SEL