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A Creative Gratitude Workshop for Secondary ELA

Have you ever heard of positive psychology? It’s a branch of psychology steadily gaining momentum and enthusiasm. Rather than focusing on what might go wrong with our mental health, it focuses on what can go right. How to develop our character strengths and reinforce our mental health.

Cool, right? Years back, two psychologists identified twenty-four positive strengths in humanity. Check out the inspiring video below to learn a bit more about that.

Today I’m going to share a model for teaching a workshop on one of these character strengths, gratitude. It’s an easy and flexible lesson plan you can use anytime in November. But you can also use it as a jumping off point to build a larger unit around this concept. We could all use some positive energy these days.

After your day on gratitude, you could pull students into small groups, let them choose a trait, and then create workshops of their own for the class. Before you know it, you’d have a week focusing in on strengthening and developing positive traits, using ELA skills to do so.

Start with an Introduction

I suggest you start the same way I started this blog post. Your students have probably never heard of positive psychology, so play them Tiffany Schlain’s excellent video above to give them some context.

Next, focus in on gratitude. Show them how it’s defined on the VIA Character Institute’s website. (You could even have them take the VIA survey to discover their core character strengths, if you have the time). Via has write-ups for every character strength, which students could come back to later in developing their own workshops, if you choose that route.

Bring in an Expert

Next, why not bring social scientist Brene Brown in as a guest expert? Her research on gratitude is fascinating. Play the short clip below for your students.

Isn’t it a surprise to hear Brene say that gratitude brings joy, rather than the opposite? This surprising research-based revelation helps set the stage for the next two activities.

Have Students Create Gratitude Journal Pages

It turns out that writing, in detail, about what you feel grateful for, helps bring you joy and strengthen your gratitude muscles. Put on some quiet music, maybe a roaring Youtube fire on your smartboard, and give students time to complete the gratitude journal activity (click here to make your copy).

Share the Joy with your Community

Finally, if there’s time, lay out copies of the gratitude postcards (they’re in the same Google slide deck as the journal template).

Invite kids to write to people in their lives with a message of gratitude. If you’d like to keep the messages inside your school, you could suggest they write to a friend, a teacher, a staff person, and an administrator. If you’d like to go beyond the school, you could add family members, community leaders, adult friends, coaches, etc. Encourage the kids to actually deliver their cards. You might offer to deliver cards to adults in the community for them, if you have a staff mailbox system that would make that easy.

Continue as you Wish

Now you can wrap up the lesson, or announce your small groups and let students sign up for the character strengths they would like to feature in their own workshops. They can easily follow this same model – introducing the trait, finding an expert talk online that sheds light on the value of the trait, and then creating an activity to help practice and strengthen the trait.

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I'm Betsy

I’ll help you find the creative ELA strategies that will light up your classroom. Get ready for joyful teaching!

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