Thursday, November 15, 2018

Give Thanks Everyday, It's a Renewable Resource

Beginning as early as Monday your social media feeds will be bogged down with everything “thankful, grateful, and blessed”. In our Pinterest society, those terms have become very cliche. You see them on wooden signs, vinyl quotes, t-shirts and so much more. I have a few questions about this: Do we only take out this decor during the month of November? Is being grateful something we should be thinking about daily or just during the week of Thanksgiving? Do these people posting about who they are thankful for on Thanksgiving actually rely the message to those people on a daily basis? Have we lost the true meaning to these words?

During a recent fourth grade Mystery Science lesson on electricity, a wonderful teaching opportunity was born that had nothing to do with electricity at all. Let me set the stage for you. I am all ready to teach a great science lesson on electricity. My students are going to talk about how important electricity is in our lives and then we are going to make flashlights! Every year this lesson is a favorite with my class. I start out like I do every year watching a few video clips, one of them in particular is about the Northeast Blackout of 2003. It discusses the problems that were created when there was no electricity in New York City. The questions posed after the video are: Imagine power is out for a day.

  • How would that affect your life? (For example: What things stop working? What things do you lose the ability to do?)
  • Now imagine power is out for a week (or even a year). What are some ways this might affect your life?

The answers I received this year surprised me. Typically the students understand right away how significant electricity is in their lives. We couldn’t use the microwave, watch tv, have heat/air conditioning, etc. However this year my responses were, “Not having electricity wouldn’t affect my life at all.” or, “I could still use my cell phone until the battery died, then I could use my portable charger.” I was baffled to say the least. It was hard for me to understand that they didn’t realize how lucky they are to actually have light switches in their homes. They had no idea how important electricity is in their lives. I knew this lesson was going to be much bigger than circuits, conductors, and batteries.

I started brainstorming things I could do with my class to help them find things they were thankful for each day. I told them about a study I recently read about being positive and thankful. In this study the researchers discovered that people who think happy and positive thoughts on a daily basis are actually healthier than those who choose to be negative. If you think about how thankful you are everyday, your life feel more fulfilled! If you’d like to read this study from Mind and Body, here is the link: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain
We started out project by listening to Kid President tell us the 25 things he is most thankful for.

Every student thought of one thing/person in their life they are grateful for and we made a class “Gratitude Tree”.

From there each student wrote a letter to another adult in the building about how they were thankful for them. To remind ourselves every day how thankful we are for the things and people in our lives each student has a gratitude journal. Every morning when they come into the classroom they write one new thing they are grateful for and why. I was surprised how great the journals are starting off! To end this project we are going to think of a service project our class could lead or participate in. We have been participating in this project for a few weeks now and our class has noticed a big difference in their attitudes. They have commented on how they are constantly looking for things to be grateful for throughout the day so they can write it in their journal. It’s a great way to start our day and to bring positivity to our classroom.

Questions for Twitter Tuesday, November 20th :
1. How can we say thank you to others more often, in a meaningful way?
2. What experiences could we give our students to help them find things they are most grateful for?
3. If you were given the opportunity tomorrow to hand write a thank you note to someone in your building, who would you write it to? Why?
4. What gets in the way of showing others how thankful you are for them?
5. Do you think your students know how grateful you are to be in their lives? If not, how will you change that?

Authored by: Nikki Schaff, 4th grade teacher at Liberty Elementary

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