One of the more common criticisms of kids is that they are ungrateful. The truth is we are all ungrateful, entitled, and selfish when the sin nature is allowed to rule. We need to shift our attention off of ourselves and what we don’t have and instead refocus our hearts on all that we DO have.
Do you want to encourage your students to develop an ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE? I tell my students all the time, “We have so much to be thankful for!” But do they know WHO we have to be thankful to? Remind your students that we owe everything we have to our amazing Creator!
Do your students struggle with showing gratitude? Here are some ideas to help start the discussion (and there’s a FREEBIE in here for you!):
I always start a unit of gratitude by reading the story of Jesus cleansing the ten lepers from Luke 11:11-19. Ten men who are suffering from leprosy cry out to Jesus. He generously and miraculously heals them and, while they are thrilled, only one comes back to thank Him. It’s a important reminder that we need to thank God for answered prayer requests (even if he doesn’t answer in the way we expect).
Here is a short cartoon of the Bible story from Sharefaith Kids:
Here are some other Bible verses that remind us to be thankful:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34
I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1
You can post these verses around your classroom (have your students write/decorate them!) as visual reminders of the call to be thankful.
Picture books can be a powerful way to drive the message home that we have so much to be thankful for. HERE is a great list of picture books for kids that focus on gratitude.
Kids need to do more than just talk about being thankful – they need to practice!
If you ask my kids what they are thankful for, they’ll most-likely say the last thing they ate and the toy they are currently holding. If we want our students to be reflective and intentional about developing an attitude of gratitude, then sometimes they need some structure and prompting to get them started.
I love the tradition of creating Gratitude to God Journals. Each day in November we fill out a gratitude card with something specific that we’re thankful to God for. (But really this excise could be (should be!) done any time of the year!
Here are the 30 things we focus on:
1. a family member
2. a friend
3. a teacher
4. a book
5. a sport
6. a breakfast food
7. a toy
8. an activity
9. a memory
10. an animal
11. a family tradition
12. a vehicle
13. a tv show or movie
14. a dessert
15. a song
16. a neighbor
17. a room in your house
18. a smell
19 .a holiday
20. something silly
21. a Bible story
22. a drink
23. a specific pair of shoes
24. a season
25. a snack
26. a vacation
27. something that makes me laugh
28. a game to play
29. a talent
30.something you learned to do
You can have your students write different things they’re thankful for in a variety of ways:
- in a spiral notebook
- in their planner each day
- on index cards and put them in a class gratitude jar
- on a gratitude pumpkin
I have my students answer the prompt and we compile the pages into a Gratitude to God Journal. It’s a memorable way to think of all that we can thank God for and is a wonderful keepsake to look back on.
I have a version for younger students (Preschool-1st grade) that just asks them to answer the prompt in a word or two:
I have also created a version for older students (2nd-5th graders) that gives them valuable practice writing complete sentences by asking them to copy the prompt and then answer it.
These exercises have proved SO valuable to my students – and to my own heart, too! There is always always always something to be grateful for! We serve a good God who chooses to lavish us with His love. And I don’t know about you, but that fact alone makes me grateful.
If you’d like to download the Gratitude to God Journals, they are available here:
Another powerful exercise to express our gratitude can be to tell someone you’re thankful for them!
I have made these FREE note cards that you can use to tell your students you’re thankful to God for them. I put them on each student’s desk (with a little treat) on the last day of school before Thanksgiving break:
Download these cute cards for FREE here: Thankful for You Cards FREEBIE
I’m thankful for YOU, teacher friends! The work you do matters to God – and through the ups and the downs, we have so much to be thankful for!