5 Ways to Embed Teaching Gratitude in Your School Counseling Program

It feels like we were preparing for BTS season just a little while ago, and here we are, bracing ourselves for Thanksgiving already! One of the things I love most about the festivity that the end of the year brings is that amidst it all, we are reminded to be grateful for all we have. And as counselors, taking that with us to our students, in different ways, and across the different tiers, is an opportunity I'm personally grateful for.

If you're wondering how to incorporate gratitude-themed activities into your lessons and sessions, here's what I'd suggest:

1. Thanksgiving Themed Lessons

Tier 1 lessons are the easiest way to reach more students. Considering the calendar year is almost ending, I suggest using this Tipping the Scale Gratitude Lesson and Activity which encourages students to shift their focus from disappointments to gratitude, prompting insightful discussions. It's an excellent choice for both classroom settings and individual counseling sessions.

I have found this is also a great time to do responsibility-themed class lessons and in keeping with the season, this What's On Your Plate Thanksgiving Themed Responsibility Activity is what you could use, especially with younger children who enjoy making crafts. You could easily modify it based on the grade levels you work with. Alternatively, if you wish to use a digital resource instead, with the Thanksgiving Responsibility Boom Cards, students will be able to identify things they are currently responsible for, other tasks they could start to be responsible for, who is impacted by their responsibility, why it is important to be responsible, and how being responsible makes them feel.

2. Gratitude Roll and Respond Games

Games are a universal hit among students of all ages and tiers. offers a delightful blend of learning and fun. This Gratitude Discussion Cards and Dice Game encourages students to reflect on gratitude, share their experiences, express their feelings, and identify things they are thankful for. Additionally, it delves into the benefits of gratitude and how to exhibit it both within and outside the school environment.

3. Digital Gratitude Games/Activities

For a tech-savvy approach, this Thanksgiving-themed Digital Coping Strategies Activity that helps students learn easy, applicable coping strategies to use to help them calm down when they are feeling strong emotions, is quite the winner. Digital resources offer a great way to make resources more accessible to students. Despite not directly related to teaching gratitude, all of the clip art and the scenarios are specifically Thanksgiving-themed. These activities require zero preparation.

Another seasonal activity you could use with your kiddos is this set of Gratitude Boom Cards that helps students learn the importance of gratitude. This resource would be perfect to use in an elementary school counseling character education lesson, small group, or individual session.

4. Gratitude Journals

End-of-year reflection activities are ideal for fostering positivity and spreading joy, and Thanksgiving is the perfect time to introduce students to this practice.If you teach lower elementary, this Thanksgiving-themed Gratitude Journal is a great reflection activity for students to focus on the positives in life and spread joy to others!

The Creative Gratitude Journal for older students can be used around Thanksgiving or at any time of the year. This resource prompts students to recognize what they're grateful for, how to express gratitude in various aspects of life and plan their gratitude journey. This journal can be used class-wide or in smaller group or individual sessions.

5. Gratitude Restorative Circles

Community circles are safe spaces where students can share, build trust, and gain a sense of belonging within the classroom community, and more and more schools are advocating for this approach to social justice. School counselors are using restorative practices and community circles to have their students self-reflect and this Thanksgiving-themed Restorative Practices Community Circle encourages students to share about gratitude during the Thanksgiving season! Through this activity, students will build connections, understanding, belonging, and trust while they listen to their peers. Students will also feel a sense of empowerment and ownership when they respond to the prompt. This new resource also comes with a facilitator's guide which is especially useful for those who've never initiated restorative circle activities before.

If you're looking for a range of resources you could snap up together, you might be interested in this Gratitude Bundle that has something for each tier. Looking for a Gratitude Freebie to try instead? Your students will enjoy dragging and dropping the turkey parts to create a unique turkey that reflects what they are grateful for.

Here's hoping you have a Happy Thanksgiving and do know I am grateful for every counselor who makes up our Bright Futures Counseling community, in one way or another!

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