Beyond the Thankful Turkey: 10 Ways to Teach Gratitude All Year

Gratitude Turkey craft (box)Remember the last time you made a turkey out of a cardboard box, pasted colorful construction-paper feathers on the back, and filled the interior with slips of paper filled with grateful thoughts?

Maybe this was a school tradition when you were a kid. Or maybe it was just last week, in your own classroom.

Of course, you probably don’t need a cardboard turkey to teach students about gratitude. After all, Thanksgiving is just one day in 365—and gratitude is a great year-round gift for any class.

As to the benefits of gratitude in the classroom, consider this: anecdotal data suggest that students who practice gratitude are generally more engaged with, motivated by, and connected to learning in general.

Grateful students also feel more connected to their teacher and fellow classmates.

It’s also true that gratitude is a great gift to any overworked teacher. The more grateful your class, the happier everyone will feel, including you.

So if you want your students to show more thanks for what they have, take a look at the list below.

Reimagine the Gratitude Journal

A gratitude journal is still one of the best, time-tested ways to feel more grateful. Some teachers hand out small notebooks that students write in each day. But what about younger students who can’t read or write with confidence? Maybe it’s time to reimagine the traditional gratitude journal and try something new.

  1. Regardless of their age, most children enjoy an occasional show and tell. Assign your class to bring something they are thankful for to class (ask each student to tell you ahead of time what they want to bring, so you can approve each item ahead of time).
  2. If you have a class social media account, ask children to find a scene in nature that inspires gratitude. Parents can then post the photo on your class’s Twitter feed or Facebook page. You can assign different gratitude categories every month or whenever you prefer.
  3. Make a class gratitude video. Record the audio separately so you can have children say what they are grateful for. Include drawings, objects, or scenery that visualize the gratitude list.
  4. Poll your class informally about what they’re grateful for on a given day. Afterward, you can post the list on social media or your blog. If your class follows a blended learning model, this kind of activity can also help students practice good digital citizenship.

Serve the Community

Every community has needs, large and small. While your classroom may not be able to offer large-scale assistance, you can still organize class projects to help others in your community and build your students’ gratitude for things they may take for granted. Here are a few ideas to try:

  1. Collect food for your area food bank. Most communities have food banks that need donations all year. Even one can of soup or tuna per child can go a long way toward helping those who are hungry. More importantly, this activity helps foster a giving, grateful attitude. However, be sensitive to your own students’ needs. Some students may not have resources to donate.
  2. Prepare one or two no-sew fleece blankets as a class, and then donate them to a local center for women and children, or to another shelter in your area. You can also donate to Project Linus.
  3. Do your students’ families have DVDs they no longer use? Collect them for use at area hospitals or libraries.
  4. Build consideration for the homeless by creating snack packs that contain items such as apples, protein bars, granola, or other portable food items.
  5. Talk to the children about a local cause that may interest them. If appropriate, help them write a letter about this cause. Send the letter to your mayor or city council. Invite a city representative to talk to your class at a later date, if possible.
  6. Older students might hold a service scavenger hunt instead of a more typical field trip. For example, your class could leave uplifting quotes or messages on a few car windshields, or pick up trash at the edge of the city park. Another item on the list might be to wash a few windshields at the local gas station or gather a few stray shopping carts that are far away from a store. Offer treats at the end of the activity.

By following just one—or several—of the above activities, you actively help your class members feel more gratitude. You also build stronger relationships with each other. And that’s something everyone can be grateful for.


For more educational posts, browse our list of blog topics on the right side of this page.


Imagine Learning gives back to Ferguson School District

Unity Celebration 2015, Imagine LearningThe Thanksgiving season is an excellent time to commemorate those who look outside their own blessings and strive to directly fill the needs of others.

Imagine Learning employees endeavor to do just that by giving back and recognizing educators, soldiers, and others who bless the lives of those around them.

Read more »


Classroom Funding Follow-up: Promoting Your Project

Donating hands for fundraiserIn our previous blog post, we talked about how teachers can fund larger classroom projects through sites like Donors Choose. Perhaps by now, you’ve already created a project listing. That’s great!

But after you finish your listing, you’re only halfway done. Remember, your chances of being funded increase exponentially with each personal contact you make and every e-mail you send.

So, to expedite the funding process, you need a good promotion plan.

Funding Promotion 101

It’s a given that teachers are busy people. All the better reason for a smart promotion plan. Get going with the avenues listed below:

Contact Lists

No matter how you want to get the word out to others, first you need a contact list. Not sure you can create a sizeable list? Don’t worry; just start where you are.

Include students’ parents at the top of the list. Next, go through your e-mail and social media contacts. Jot down the names of college friends, former teachers, retired colleagues, PTA members, and anyone else you see as passionate advocates for education.

Tip: Use a spreadsheet to easily sort names by e-mail address, phone number, or contact type (parent, colleague, friend, etc.). If spreadsheets aren’t your thing, color code your list by using colored markers. Then, you can decide how to promote your project to each group.

Personalized E-Mails

No matter how tempted you are to send one mass e-mail, stifle the urge. Remember, when you address would-be donors personally, they’ll feel more inclined to donate to your cause.

To help you get started, Donors Choose provides a great online e-mail template. Read about template 1 and click the link at the bottom of the description to connect to your own e-mail. By using a template, you save time and allow each recipient to feel addressed personally.

Finally, check back with your e-mail list a week or so after your first mailing. This gives stragglers a second chance to donate and shows them how close (or far) you are from your goal. Let donors know that they’ll receive photos and letters from the kids if you make your goal.

If you can, send a third—final—e-mail when you make your goal. And don’t forget to include your Donors Choose teacher page next to your e-mail signature.

Social Media

Even if you’re not terribly active on social media, don’t ignore the promotional power of a few well-crafted posts to Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. Just make sure all posts and tweets link to your teacher page.

Here’s a list of good social media platforms you might include:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Pinterest
  • Reddit
  • BuzzFeed

If you’re already part of an education-based social network, it’s okay to mention your project there; just remember, non-educators are your targeted donors, so the platforms listed above are better choices.

If you already have a blog, create a post specifically for your fundraising project, and then send a blog-post link to your preferred social networks.

Non-Tech Methods

Just because most of the world is online doesn’t mean you should ignore non-technological promotional methods. After all, word of mouth is still a powerful tool.

You might send a catchy promotional flyer home with each of your students. Mention your project at a community or church group meeting. Do the same at a PTA meeting. Ask retailers you frequent if it’s okay to leave some flyers near cash registers.

The point is: now’s not the time to be shy. Your funding chances depend on your spreading the word.

In the end, whether you crowdfund through Donors Choose or another online funding venue, remember that people really do want kids to have a great education. Try a few new promotional strategies—you may just become a believer.


For more educational topics, browse our blog archive on the right side of this page.


Classroom Funding Spotlight: Donors Choose

According to the NEA, teachers annually spend almost $2,000 out of pocket for their classrooms. And most of that money goes for supplies.

However, when teachers need to fund a larger project—for anything from a school fieldtrip to technology updates—they generally need outside help. And that help may seem hard to come by, especially in disadvantaged areas.

Fortunately, today’s educators can turn to online crowdfunding as a strategy. And Donors Choose is one of the best crowdfunding organizations out there for teachers.

Donors Choose logo

Background Info

Donors Choose began when a Bronx, NY high school history teacher launched a philanthropic website dedicated to teachers’ project requests.

Once celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Stephen Colbert got on board, the site really went into overdrive. The Gates Foundation also offered support.

To date, Donors Choose has helped teachers fund well over half a million projects in all fifty states.

The Process

Teacher and kids use iPadsA kindergarten teacher may need a few iPad minis for his or her literacy stations.

Or, a classroom of ADHD kids might need some wobble chairs to redirect restless movements without disturbing fellow classmates.

Regardless of the need, teachers can start a project this way:

  1. Go to Donors Choose’s teacher page. Visit and click the green “get started” button.
  2. Set up an account. Read a user agreement, answer several questions, and complete a short tutorial. Just click the blue button to begin.
  3. Create your project. Next, explain your project in more detail. Donors Choose staff will review your project and get back to you within a few days.
  4. Promote yourself! Send home flyers, send e-mails to generous friends and family members, post on social media, and spread the word verbally. Read more about these strategies in our next blog post.

As you will see, Donors Choose offers a straightforward application process; however, you can still improve your chances for funding by writing a listing that captures attention.

How to Write a Good Listing

If you’ve ever written a grant before, you’ll be happy to know that Donors Choose has created a simpler (shorter) process. Essentially, your final listing will include four or five paragraphs within two basic headings: “My Students,” and “My Project.”

These headings suggest a personal, relatable approach. As you write about your project, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Be clear. Understand your needs exactly, and be prepared to say exactly what your project entails.
  • Be engaging. Help readers relate both to your kids and to your project. Inspire enthusiasm from your intended donor.
  • Be specific. List how much your project will cost, how long it will take, and the intended result.
  • Be correct. Follow the same format shown by others teachers on the website. Pay attention to guidelines on the website and comply with each one exactly. Proofread and edit carefully!

Once you finish your listing, ask one or two colleagues to read it through and comment. Then, when you’re ready, submit your listing and move on to the promotion stage of your project.


Learn the best ways to promote your classroom fundraiser by reading our next post, “Classroom Funding Follow-Up: Promoting Your Project.


3 Top Social Media Choices for Elementary School Educators

Part III: Facebook

If you’ve followed our blog lately, you know that we’ve covered the basics of both Instagram and Twitter in previous posts. Why did we leave Facebook for last? The simple reason is that we wanted to end with something familiar to most readers.

Is Facebook right for your elementary classroom?Chances are, you already use a personal Facebook account. If not, it’s easy to create one. But more on that later.

Although Instagram and Twitter are popular choices for educators, Facebook still has some traction in the educational world. Of course, some teachers still think Facebook is best for personal use only. Regardless of your view, you should still understand Facebook’s reach and follow good digital citizenship whenever you post.

If You Don’t Have an Account

Joining Facebook is as easy as joining any other social network:

  1. On Facebook’s sign-up page, enter your name, e-mail address or phone number, and a new password.
  2. Click the “sign up” button.

Once you’ve logged in to your personal account, you will create a profile (aka “timeline”) page for yourself. Then, you can create educational or topical pages that link to your timeline. Start by clicking the “pages” link on the left sidebar of your home page; then, click the “create a page” button and design a classroom (or other topical) page.

How Educators Use Facebook

Occasionally, you may find that some young students already have Facebook accounts, having gained access on their own (with or without parental permission). But remember, like most other social platforms, Facebook is for those aged 13 and above. Therefore, avoid friending your students, both for their safety and yours.

However, feel free to create teacher/administrator groups and post relevant comments, inquiries, and articles on education. Or you can create an event (fundraisers or social gatherings) and invite others to participate. Facebook makes it easy to send invitations and remind friends about upcoming events.

If your school doesn’t block Facebook access on site, use your profile page to access videos, photos, or articles you’ve posted for educational use. If you’re already friends with a lot of other teachers and elementary school leaders, take advantage of those connections in an already-familiar format.

Another Facebook perk is that most Instagram and Twitter users automatically link their posts and tweets to show up on Facebook as well.

If in doubt about Facebook—or any other social media platform—consult your school’s digital citizenship policy or create an updated policy as fellow teachers and administrators. Once everyone agrees with the policy, put it into motion.

Finally, remember, social media are merely tools in the classroom. They don’t replace key curriculum components and time-tested strategies. But if you’ve never considered using social media in the classroom, now’s your time to try.

You may just find that you’ve helped your class in a new and exciting way!