The Gratitude Game

Around Thanksgiving, probably most (if not all) of us talk about gratitude with our students. It’s easy to tie in character development with the holiday, as many of the students already associate Thanksgiving with being thankful. A few years ago, I was really tired of my same-old-same “tell me what you’re thankful for in a different variation of the craft we did last year…” so I came up with The Gratitude Game.

In this game, students work in teams. I tell them that I’ll give them a topic, and as a team they will come up with a response as to why they are grateful for that specific thing. Someone from the team will present the response to the whole group, and the team with the best response will win a point. They all seem really confident until I give them their first topic, which I like to make particularly awful… think garbage. cockroaches. spiders. You get the idea. They all look at me in horror as if to say, “How could anyone in the world be grateful for those things?!?!?” I smile, remind them of the time limit and walk around the room. We continue along this path, maybe with topics not so awful as cockroaches, but things that most of us would not typically describe as something for which we are grateful (rain, math, vegetables, etc.). After a couple of rounds, the responses get really creative, meaningful, and dare I say moving. 
As I’m sure you’ve figured out, the whole point in the activity is to encourage students to be grateful in unusual circumstances, remember the small things in their lives that really matter, and consider the positions of others who might actually be surrounded by some of these things or be living without them. It always generates lots of great discussion after the game, and sometimes even a few happy parent phone calls when students go home and thank them for their broccoli! 
How do you address gratitude in your school counseling or character education program?

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