Gratitude in the classroom

Studies have identified that students who practice gratitude during their teen years are more content with performance in school and they exhibit more positive behaviours such as kindness and social connection (Froh, Bono, Emmons, 2010). Using gratitude activities in the classroom has been associated with benefits to student mood, wellbeing and even a decrease in materialism (Polak & McCullough, 2006).

So could you use gratitude in the context of your own teaching?

This Gratitude exercise could be used with students (or adults) from late Primary School age onward during Tutor time, as part of PSHE or Religious Studies. Gratitude exercises such as this can also used when students are approaching periods of high levels of stress such as the exam season.

It is helpful to ensure students are settled and quiet before beginning this exercise. Short stilling exercises such as those encouraging students to focus on their own breathing are useful for this purpose and Mindfulness colouring exercises can also be used to this end.

In the classroom context, if students are not used to this type of exercise, some of them may find it unsettling. Therefore, it can be helpful for students to fold their arms on the desk and then lie their head on top when taking part on activities such as this. This strategy avoids students feeling vulnerable with their eyes closed and worrying that other students are looking at them! It is also helpful to assure students that this is a stilling and mindfulness exercise that should help them to feel more relaxed and is not a religious practice.

When reading the Gratitude meditation aloud, take the time to pause at the end of each phrase for a second or two. It is helpful to lower the tone of your voice and model a sense of calm for the students.

At the end of the exercise, give students a few minutes to stretch and talk about their experience during the exercise. Then the students can be encouraged to reflect on what they are grateful for in a variety of ways. Some suggested gratitude related activities are:

  • Students make a list of 50 things they are grateful for.
  • Students may like to draw a diagram or mind map of what they are grateful for in a variety of categories: relationships, experiences, facilities, things, places etc.
  • Students may want to take the opportunity to write notes of gratitude to the people they are most grateful for.
  • Decorate a gratitude rock that can be kept in pockets as a reminder to try and focus on gratitude.



Froh, J. J., Bono, G., & Emmons, R. A. (2010). Being grateful is beyond good manners: Gratitude and motivation to contribute to society among early adolescents. Motivationand Emotion, 34(2), 144–157.

Polak, E. L., & McCullough, M. E. (2006). Is gratitude an alternative to materialism? Journal of Happiness Studies,7(3), 343–360.



10 ways to build relationships with your tutor group

The start of a new school year is a great time to set an intention for the months to come. The old saying – ‘start as you mean to go on’ certainly applies. Establishing positive relationships is key to the process of teaching and an attempt to build this relationship with academic classes in the early days will usually be rewarded.

Establishing a positive relationship with a tutor group that you don’t spend masses of time with is equally important but it can be challenging for teachers who are trying to navigate the demands of the academic curriculum and administration to have enough time and energy to devote to this additional pastoral responsibility.

To help you out, this year, here are a 10 activities that can be used to help build a positive relationship with a new tutor group.

  1. Vision board – A vision board is a great tool to be used when setting goals and an intention for the year to come. All that is needed is basic materials such as a pile of magazines, scissors and glue. Encourage students to select words and images that convey how they are hoping to feel at the end of the year and what they are hoping to accomplish both at school and beyond. The finished vision boards can be kept and given back to the students to reflect on at various points of the year. I wrote more about this here.
  2.  Mini time capsule – On day 1 take a photo of the tutor class together and print it. Put it together with student responses to a questionnaire such as the one outlined here in a sealed envelope, to be revisited at the end of your time together.
  3. Just Dance – get students moving by having an impromptu dance party. Select one of the classic Just Dance videos on Youtube to be your class anthem and get practicing! I particularly love this one.
  4. Team building activities – set a challenge for teacher allocated groups of students to complete. Inexpensive packs of playing cards can be used to try and build the tallest possible tower or students can see how many of them they can fit on a single piece of A4 paper.
  5. Mini tournament – have a paper scissors rock championship or a jenga tournament – winners play winners until there is an ‘ultimate’ class champion.
  6. School charades – classic charades with an academic twist. You can use this basic list of topics or devise one that is specific to your school.
  7. All about you – Take some time to tell the students things about you that they do not already know – such as where you were born, what your favourite food is, how old you are and basic information about your family as this helps to build those all important relationships.
  8. Talking stick -use to structure question and answer sessions around the new school year or any other topic you choose. Sit everyone in a circle and pass around a ‘talking stick’ which can be any size or shape. Only the person with the stick speaks. A good starting point for this exercise is what students are worried or excited about or they can be asked to share the best thing that happened to them over the summer. Anyone who does not want to share just passes on the stick when it is their turn.
  9. Digital quiz tools– If your students have access to devices in the classroom, use a tool like Kahoot to make an interactive quiz – cover a range of topics like school history, school rules, facts about you, facts about the school etc.
  10. Meditate – Set a timetable for tutor time that includes opportunities to rest and recharge when possible. I find the guided meditations on Headspace particularly helpful to structure quiet time.

Wishing all teaching colleagues a peaceful start to the new school year!image


Snapshot in time task!

Results are in and no doubt the start of the new school year is looming large in your mind. Many of us in addition to our academic teaching loads are also required to be tutor teachers and to build up a pastoral relationship with young people, trying to get to know them and engage with them enough to become mentors to them. In the next few days I am aiming to share some of the strategies I have used so far in my career to help develop these important relationships quickly.

Today I wanted to share this very simple Snapshot in time task that I have used with students from Year 7 through to the Senior year levels in the pastoral context. This is an easy way to start building up a picture of the students in your tutor group and if you store away the completed proformas, it makes for a fun tutor time later in the year too as the students can look back and see how their list of ‘favourites’ has changed. There is a space for students to put a picture of themselves which could also potentially help with learning names if you are going to working with a new group of students this year!

classroom image