by Marsha Rakestraw

Decorated gratitude jarA friend recently told me about one of her family member’s visiting and repeatedly commenting that my friend’s young daughters were “too kind.”

As an example, one night at dinner, when the relative had said she wished there was a breadstick left, each of the daughters broke their breadsticks in half and gave their halves to the family member.

The family member thought the girls were being too generous and kind and should be more self-interested.

We don’t need a world with more self-interest.

What we need is a world in which our young people are taught that kindness, gratitude, generosity, and other positive values are the norm.

One simple way to help those positive values become the norm for students is by adopting a practice of using positive values jars.

Here’s an example using the positive value of gratitude.

Provide each student with a reusable glass jar to decorate. (Old nut butter jars or jelly jars can work well – ask parents, guardians, and volunteers to donate.)

Lead a discussion about gratitude and what it means. (Be sure to emphasize that gratitude should extend beyond our interpersonal relationships to include gratitude for the wider world of people, animals, and the Earth.)

Throughout the month, have students take time to write down things or people or animals or experiences they’re grateful for and put those in their jars.

You may want to give them a few minutes each day or a few times a week to focus on this task. And some students may need more help identifying examples they can write down.

At the end of the month, students can read what they put in their jars and reflect. You can use class time to have students share some of their favorites.

You can also use their reflection as a writing prompt, art project inspiration, or a lead-in to a particular unit of study.

Making this practice a classroom norm – in which the teacher also participates – means that the culture of the classroom is positively affected, and the attention to gratitude won’t fade, as it might with a discrete lesson plan on the topic.

This practice extends to a variety of other positive values, such as kindness, integrity, courage, generosity, being an upstander, admitting mistakes, compassionate communication, and so on.


Image via Multnomah County Library/Flickr.


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