For Kids: Learning the concept of ‘thank you’

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” 
 ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

  Piper Kolb, 6: 
  “My mommy and
  my daddy.”

We’re heading into a season with some definite themes of goodness. November is a time to be grateful for blessings and show appreciation for them. Then December rolls in when giving to others is highlighted. Throughout the season, there’s an emphasis on family and recognizing that people are what matter most.

Such lessons can be difficult with young ones who don’t yet have the emotional maturity to easily grasp concepts like empathy and sacrifice.

  Michael Harris, 6:
  “Food - especially
  noodles.”

For children, witnessing those characteristics in others and having adults in their life that emphasize and reinforce those values goes a long way toward raising thoughtful, thankful citizens.

Modeling manners
“We talk about always saying ‘thank you’ when someone is doing something to help you,” said Joe Rusk, a kindergarten teacher at Willow School in Homewood.

“Please” and “thank you” are some of those basic lessons that you learn in kindergarten that should never be forgotten. And these lessons aren’t confined to the month of November.

  Carson Harrington, 6: 
  “Love.”

Replying with a sincere “thank you” for a kind gesture or gift is something that can be taught to those young enough to talk.

Patti DeBoer, a second grade teacher at Willow School said the school staff also integrates kindness into everything they do. She said the best way to teach children about being thankful is by modeling it.

“They take turns being respectful to each other and we do cheers in the classroom,” she said. “It’s integrated into our units and we talk about manners and how we need to be thankful. We’re teaching life skills.”
 

  Ja’ Nayia Walley, 6: 
  “New friends and
  a new school.”

When it comes to teaching kids to be thankful, Joanna Larson, Willow School’s Response to Intervention (RIT) coordinator, said, “We have to teach them how to speak to each other and what words to use.”

Alesha Hill, first grade teacher at Flossmoor Hills Elementary School in Flossmoor, said that modeling is key in teaching gratitude in the classroom.

“I focus on teaching the students how to express thankfulness to one another,” Hill said. “For example, expressing gratitude when someone helps you, says a kind word or does a kind gesture.”
 

  Khloe Phillips, 6: 
  “When someone gives
  me something, like
  a present.”

Brittany Bilbrew, a special education assistant at Willow School said that the repetition and consistency of always saying “thank you” is very important. “We make sure we say it over and over and hearing it at home is important, also,” she said. “The kids here are really good about it. We have really respectful kids.” 

People, not material things

One topic that Rusk emphasizes in his classroom when it comes to gratitude is that you can be thankful for things that you have, but that it’s relationships that are the biggest priority.
 

  Ian Arseneau: 
  “I’m thankful for
  my friends.”

 

“When we talk about what we are thankful for, rather than talking about things that are materialistic and can be easily replaced we focus on people that are important in our lives,” he said. “We think about all the things we have, but also the people at home who support us.

“I show examples of who I’m thankful for in my own life and it gets through to them and they can relate to what I’m saying.” 

Kindness and thankfulness go hand in hand
Kindness. Thankfulness. It’s hard to have one without the other. The more kindness you show and share, the more grateful you feel for what you have and for others’ kindness. That’s why encouraging kindness, acceptance, friendship and inclusion are so important — it all works into kids who are happier overall.

  Sophie Berg, 6: 
  “Having a fun time
  with my mom, my
  dad, my brother and
  my au pair, Sophia,
  and my golden
  retriever, Max.”

Rusk teaches his kindergarteners that being thankful also means being polite by letting someone else know that you appreciate them or something they’ve done.

Pam Kappmeyer, who also teaches kindergarten at Willow School, said that they’ve recently started character education and have been going over kindness and patience. “We’re explicitly teaching it this year. We’re doing a lot of read-aloud about it and modeling it,” she said.

“We try to engrain it in everything we do. It’s taught every day throughout the year to be thankful for what you’re given,” said Amy Brecheisen, kindergarten teacher at Willow School. “We don’t know necessarily what a child’s previous experience is and we want them all to learn it and to hear the same vocabulary to supplement what they’ve learned at home. There are so many negative things in this world and we try to teach them to be grateful and to give back to the community.”

  Owen Linde, 6: 
  “My toys and my
  stuffed animals and
  my kindle and my
  friends, Elliott and
  Mimi.”

 

Brecheisen said that through projects like a recent penny war that raised over $2,000 for hurricane victims, students have an opportunity to realize to be grateful that they weren’t impacted by a disaster and to be kind and give to others.

Following the theme
“Each month our school has a theme,” said Larson. “In November the theme is thankfulness and we will be recognizing it school-wide.” That means parents of elementary students may be seeing a lot of worksheets and art projects coming home related to gratitude.

Rusk said he plans to do the traditional hand-tracing project with students that will become a turkey, but with a twist — on each feather they will name something that they are thankful for. “During Thanksgiving week, we will focus on family and what we like to do with family and as a family,” he said.

“Every year the students create a turkey project which focuses on gratitude. This project allows students to work with their families,” said Hall. Students decorate their turkeys and then write down things that they are thankful for.”

  My’kel Leigh, 5: 
  “My mom, my dad,
  my brothers and
  my sisters.”

 

Instilling gratitude at home
Hall noted that modeling is just as important at home as it is at school. “Young children need to see what it looks like and what it sounds like,” she said. “Show appreciation to your children when they help around the house. Express gratitude to your children when you receive a gift from them. Your reaction helps to develop their sense of gratitude.”

She also suggests spending time talking with your children and finding out about positive moments in their day and having children spend time making cards or writing letters for friends and family members.

  Phoebe Abner, 5: 
  “My mommy and
  my grandma and
  my grandpa and
  my daddy and
  my cousins, Gabe
  and Miguel.”
  Alana Harris, 6: 
  “My cat, Sarah.”





 

 

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