With Thanksgiving just around the corner, what better time to instill in students the character trait of gratitude? For students, it’s easy to overlook the many blessings in their lives — and even become entitled — particularly since most of their needs and wants are being met by mom, dad, or another caretaker at this point. Gratitude, however, is an important character trait to develop at an early age. This simple lesson plan is an effective method for teaching students about gratitude.
Why Is Gratitude Important for Students to Learn?
According to Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, there are numerous physical, psychological, and social benefits to practicing gratitude. These include better sleep; higher levels of positive emotions; and an increased likelihood of being generous, helpful, and forgiving — all good things teachers would love to see from each of their students. Educators can also benefit from being reminded of what they’re grateful for, especially those feeling particularly ready for the holiday break!
It’s hard not to smile when reading Dr. Seuss, and this classic yet lesser-known story about gratitude is no exception. Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? recounts the tale of an old man in the Desert of Drize, who sings a song about a slew of zany people and places. Dr. Seuss’s hilarious, sing-songy rhymes will captivate your students and have them counting their blessings long before you ever say “The End.”
Suggested Grade Level: Elementary, Kindergarten–2nd
Common Core Standards:
Kindergarten – CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.1, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.2, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.K.3
Grade 1 – CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.1, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.2, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.1.3
Grade 2 – CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.1, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.2, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.2.3
Click here for information about your state’s specific Common Core standards.
- Introduce the character trait of gratitude and its meaning: “feeling thankful.” Share with your students some of the things you’re thankful for.
- Ask for a few students to share one thing they’re thankful/grateful for. If your students are seated in groups (of four, for example), the Kagan strategy “Instant Star” can be used for this brief activity. Be sure each group member is assigned a number (1–4, for example). Then ask for a particular number to be your “stars” and share: “Let’s hear from our 3s today.” Be sure all your students with that number have a chance to share either with their group or with the entire class before moving on.
- Show students the book you’ll be reading together: Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by Dr. Seuss. Explain that this book is about an old man who is thankful — not for the things he has/is but for all the things he doesn’t have/is not.
- To explain the idea of being thankful for something you do not have/are not, give students a list of items and ask them to raise their hand if they’re thankful NOT to have that/be that. For example, “Raise your hand if you’re thankful you’re not in ‘time out’ right now.” Other examples to use include the following: a turkey at Thanksgiving dinner, changing your little brother’s or sister’s dirty diaper, etc.
- Read aloud Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
- Discuss the story briefly, and remind the students of some of the people/places they heard about (Ali Sard who has to mow his uncle’s quick-growing grass, Mr. Porter who crosses t’s and dot i’s at the I-and-T factory, the forest in France with pants-eating plants, etc.). For older students, be sure to use prompt words such as who, what, where, when, why, and how as you discuss the key details, characters, and lessons in this book.
- Pass out one worksheet and piece of construction paper to each student, and have them take out their pencils and art supplies. Have your students write down what they are thankful for on the worksheet and draw that item/person/place on the construction paper. (You may want to have younger students only draw what they’re thankful for instead of completing both the worksheet and drawing activity.) When finished, be sure to display your students’ work for their classmates to see.
- Before moving on to another subject or lesson, review the idea of gratitude and its meaning: “feeling thankful.”
Extending Learning Beyond the Classroom
The more times students encounter a concept, the more likely they are to remember it and put it into practice. One way to expose your students to the idea of gratitude, and other similar character traits, on multiple occasions is character trait banners hung in your school hallways. As your students walk to lunch, recess, or another place, they’ll see the banners and be reminded to be grateful — as well as kind, respectful, hard-working, and more. For more information about hallway banners and how your school can implement this effective, affordable tool as part of its character education program, click here.