Improve life outcomes

Jumpstart: Gratitude 2 - Universal


CASEL Competency Focus: Self Management
Time: 20-30 minutes
Materials: writing utensils, scissors, colored pencils, markers, Tree of Life printout, or large poster board, token page, paper cups, masking tape


1. Identify the meaning of gratitude
2. Identify the people, places, and things for which they are grateful.
3. Express gratitude for the people, places, and things for which they are grateful.
4. Identify how expressing gratitude is good for all of us and others.

Definitions of Key Terms:

  • Gratitude: focusing on what’s good in our lives and being thankful for what we have.
  • Optimism: hopefulness and confidence about the future.

Lesson Procedures

Introduction: Write this quote on the board:

"I was complaining that I had no shoes, till I met a man who had no feet." – Confucius* (*He was China’s most famous teacher, whose ideas have profoundly influenced the civilization of China and other countries. Source: Britannica .com)

Ask students to think about that quote. Ask, “What does it mean?”

Tape student’s thumbs to their palms so they can’t use them. Ask them to open a book, pick up a pencil, and pick up a paper cup.

Ask, “What would life be without our thumbs? Can you be grateful for thumbs?

Have you ever seen less fortunate people and felt grateful for what you have? Sometimes we get so busy in our lives that we forget to be grateful.

Gratitude is a positive emotion! It's about focusing on what's good in our lives and being thankful for the things we have. Gratitude is taking time to notice and appreciate the things that we often take for granted, like a home, food and water, friends, family, thumbs, even technology.


Have students fold a piece of paper so that they have 3 columns. Instruct the students to write People at the top of the first column. At the top of the second column write Things and at the top of the third column write World. Tell the students to take a few minutes to make a gratitude list under each category.

After you complete this activity, reflect on what your life would be like without those people, things, and the world around us.

When we express gratitude it makes others feel good. How do you feel when someone says thank you for something you did or said? Gratitude says that You Are Special to Me!

When we express gratitude it is good for us too! Science tells us that grateful people experience fewer aches, pains, and illnesses than other people, and live healthier lives. People who write down things that they are grateful for in a gratitude journal just before bedtime reportedly sleep better! Gratitude increases our optimism!

Keep an Attitude of Gratitude!

Gratitude can be expressed in so many ways to people, places and things.

  • Elementary Example: Have the students decorate, cut out, and hand out tokens of gratitude. They can write messages like Thank You in the circles. They can hand them out to family, friends, and school personnel for a specific reason to someone who is important in their lives. Tell the receiver of the token why they are grateful to that person. Keep a list of who received a token.
  • Secondary Example:
    • Share the painting of The Tree of Life, by Gustav Klimt, with the class. (
    • Explain that The Tree Of Life is an important symbol in nearly every culture. The roots of the tree grow deep down into the earth while the branches reach for the heavens and connect them together. The swirly branches make people want to keep looking at the painting to explore and find more.
    • Using the art materials, you can draw your own tree or you can use the print out provided. Look at the swirly branches. Write the people or things that you’re grateful for along those branches.

  • Express Gratitude Every Day!

    1. Say please and thank you.
    2. Help someone less fortunate.
    3. Send out thank you cards.
    4. Look for beautiful moments in your day.
    5. Share your gratitude at the dinner table.
    6. Compliment others.
    7. Keep a gratitude journal.
    8. Write a letter.
    9. Create a gratitude jar.
    10. Donate to a charity.