From a young age, we are taught that it is important to be grateful. However, many fail to realize the lasting benefits that come from an “attitude of gratitude.” Recent developments in the study of gratitude indicate that being grateful can have a positive impact on a student’s overall performance in school. So how can we, as teachers, cultivate gratitude in our classrooms?
How Gratitude Can Improve Student Performance:
Gratitude produces hope and encourages prosocial behaviors in students; which ultimately results in greater academic success. We all know that when gratitude acts in relation to other positive emotions it results in increased well-being and overall success in life. More specifically, school aged children show a high correlation of gratitude to increased levels of hope (Froh et al. 2009b). And when a child feels hopeful, he/she is more likely to set goals and actually achieve them. Having hope also enables children to trust others more freely and cultivate stronger relationships (Dunn and Schweitzer 2005).
One of the biggest factors for academic success is student involvement in school, extracurricular or otherwise. This is why cultivating gratitude in our schools is so important! When students have gratitude, it enables them to strengthen and build new friendships. Studies show that students with high quality friendships tend to do better in school than their counterparts (Rubin et al. 2006). On the other hand, school aged children that are unsatisfied with their lives exhibit more aggression, sexual risk-taking, poor eating and physical inactivity (Huebner et al. 2006). If they dislike school they are more likely to lag in academic functioning, extracurricular activity and connecting with school (Huebner and Gilman 2006). Feeling connected to school is a main factor for encouraging prosocial behavior and academic growth (Resnick et al. 1997). As a result, gratitude may heighten other social emotional skills for building character, success, and well-being in a child’s development.
What Teachers Can Do to Cultivate Gratitude in the Classroom:
With so many schools of thought about the cultivation of gratitude, it can be difficult to decide the best one for your classroom. And although the study of cultivating gratitude in youth is relatively new, at least it’s a good starting point. The following studies have produced promising results. In the first study (Froh et al. 2008), youth were instructed to “count their blessings” daily, which resulted in higher feelings of gratitude and life-satisfaction immediately after the intervention. In the second study (Froh et al. 2009a), children and adolescence were instructed to write a letter and personally deliver it to someone to whom they were grateful and were compared to students who simply kept a daily gratitude journal. The results showed that students who wrote and delivered gratitude letters showed greater gratitude and positive affect two months after the intervention. The third study (Froh et al. 2010), facilitators taught children how to think gratefully through a gratitude curriculum. The children reported more grateful thinking, gratitude and happiness, and also wrote more “thank you” cards to the PTA. Some of these positive effects were still found 3-5 months later. With the longest lasting results, teaching students to think gratefully is the most effective way (proven by current research) to increase student gratitude in your school.
The Reading Horizons Gratitude Challenge:
We, here at Reading Horizons, love results! This is why we feel that the third study worth replicating in your classroom. In this study, facilitators taught a gratitude curriculum over the course of five sessions. After one session a classroom was encouraged to write “thank you” letters to the PTA for putting on a special event. 80% more students that were taught with the gratitude curriculum chose to write letters than the control group.
With the results in mind, we have decided to replicate the curriculum used in this study to help spread gratitude in schools. The sessions are only 20 minutes a day for five days and are completely planned out for you. Now is your chance to finally have a week of gratitude in your classroom!
***The following sessions are based off of the original Gratitude Curriculum with minor editing for feasibility***
“The Giving Tree,” by Shel Silverstein
“Gratitude Is,” YouTube Video
“The Gratitude Dance,” YouTube Video
Share Your Story:
After completing the Reading Horizons Gratitude Challenge feel free to post your experience under the comments section. We’d love to hear from you!
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Froh, J. J., & Bono, G. (2008). The gatitude of youth. In S. J. Lopez (Ed.), Positive psychology: Evploring the best in people (Vol. 2, pp. 55-78). Westport CT: Greenwood Publishig Company.
Froh, J. J., Bono G., Emmons, R. A., Wood, A., Henderson, K. A., Fan, J., et al. (2010). Nice thinking! An educational intervention that teaches children how to think gratefully. School Psychology Review, 43, 132-152.
Froh, J. J., Kashdan, T. B., Ozimkowski, K. M., & Miller, N. (2009a). Who benefits the most from gratitude intervention in childrenand adolescents? Examining positive affect as a moderator. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 408-422.
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Rubin, K. H., Wojslawowicz, J.C., Rose-Krasnor, L., Booth-LaForce, C., & Burgess, K. B. (2006). The best friendships of shy/withdrawn children: Prevelence, stability, and relationship quality. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 143-157.