November brings the coming of Thanksgiving projects, such as coloring the Mayflower and turkeys, pin-punching fall leaves, counting turkey stickers and making booklets with the parts of the turkey! Most importantly, however, November reminds us to “give thanks.” How do we teach children to give thanks at such a young age? We present specific lessons in gratitude. Related to the lessons of grace and courtesy, the lessons in gratitude are also an integral part of the Montessori curriculum.
“These exercises help the children prepare for social life… teaching them how to navigate friendships and collaborate with one another,” Maria Montessori said.
Teaching gratitude is one of the ways we help the child prepare for life.
To begin instilling a sense of gratitude in the child, one of the earliest lessons taught is how to say thank you. Like all the grace and courtesy lessons, it is first presented formally in a large group. Then, as a follow-up, we offer gentle reminders. While it may seem like reminding a “thank you” doesn’t stir up real gratitude, encouraging the child to verbally express appreciation can be an important “practice session” and learning tool for genuine gratitude down the line.
Adult role modeling is another essential tool in teaching gratitude. Montessori teachers are always mindful to not only thank children for being kind, generous, helpful and respectful toward them, but they also make special notice of any time they observe a child displaying positive behaviors in the classroom. (Example: “Thank you for helping your friend with his work.”) In addition, it is not unusual for the teacher to also acknowledge the entire classroom during a daily group meeting for notable random acts of kindness. (Example: “Today, I heard many children using kind words. Thank you for remembering how to be kind to one another.”)
A final way we incorporate the teaching of gratitude is with our gratitude tree. Each child places a heart on the tree. Each heart notes what the child is grateful for. (Examples: “my family,” “my dog,” “my friends,” etc.) This community-building project is a visual reminder of the many feelings and thoughts of gratitude by the children.
The key to teaching gratitude is this: The earlier we present these lessons, the more positive the outcome. Research suggests “instilling gratitude in children (by age 5) could help them grow up to be happier people” (2019, Journal of Happiness Studies). That is why these lessons are given early, are presented with an attitude of patience and kindness, and are incorporated into all the daily activities in the Montessori Primary environment.
Thanksgiving blessings to you all!
Calendar of Events
Nov. 24: Feast Day
Nov. 25-27: Thanksgiving Break (No school)
Nov. 30: Teacher Planning Day (No school)