Gratitude is both recognizing your opportunities and expressing appreciation for those opportunities. It is also acknowledging what people do for you and showing appreciation towards those people, whether through spoken or written communication or through action.
Application to College Success
Character Lab provides links to several studies, each of which reveals the positive effects of gratitude. Among the benefits associated with developing and maintaining gratitude are increased optimism, energy, and enthusiasm as well as a greater likelihood for physical activity and positive social behaviors. The benefits of gratitude are crucial to helping students navigate the myriad of emotions that come with college life and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Opportunities and Strategies for Developing Gratitude
How can educators cultivate gratitude on daily basis within the constraints of their classrooms and required curricular objectives?
- Write a note of gratitude using correct grammar. One strategy that I’ve used in my classroom that both amped student engagement and cultivated gratitude was an optional extension activity that resulted in notes of gratitude. Once students finished the assignment for the day, they could choose to write a thank you note to a friend, teacher, or parent thanking him/her for something specific. The catch: the note had to include examples from our recent grammar lessons. I allowed students to choose a colorful notecard and envelope, set clear expectations, and gave specific directions which I also projected from a Power Point. The result: students applied their knowledge and skills in an authentic manner while reflecting on what they were thankful for and spreading positive emotions.
- Shape the Path. In their book Switch, Chip Heath and Dan Heath state that a behavior is more likely to be repeated if the path towards demonstrating the behavior is clearly shaped and easy to follow. If you seek to create a culture of gratitude in your classroom, shape the path by providing access to materials. This might look like keeping a bin of notecards in a public place in your classroom or setting up a small “gratitude table” where students can write a thank you note at appropriate times during a class such as the extension activity mentioned above.
- Develop students’ awareness of their opportunities. Some of the most powerful moments my colleagues and I have experienced with our students occur when they begin to recognize the circumstances, people, and opportunities that are leading them on the path towards college matriculation and completion. I’ve observed a fellow colleague teach students about the opportunity gap while guiding them to articulate how their circumstances and opportunities, as well as the people in their lives, help open doors that would otherwise not exist. This knowledge empowered students and also cultivated gratitude.
- Build a culture of appreciation and praise. One of my favorite aspects of YES Prep is the culture. When I first started my campus had the tradition of Friday Shout-Outs. Every Friday after school, staff members who chose to attend would gather in the library and shout one another out for a job well done or help offered. This tradition diffused to our weekly grade-level Family Gatherings. At Family Gathering, an entire grade-level would gather together, and students would give shout-outs to their peers and teachers. This group culture helped to cultivate gratitude across our school. For more strategies on building a group identity, read our post: Cultivating a Group Identity: How do you do it and how does it pay off?
What strategies do you have for developing gratitude in your students? Share your ideas in the comments section below.