Today we read “Choose to Be Grateful. It will Make You Happier.” as a lead in to the students’ Thanksgiving break. We’ve been working on Reading Nonfiction stance questions and Signposts, and I wanted to get in another practice opportunity before break. But I mostly wanted to plan the seed of gratitude in the hearts and minds of my students.
The article indicates that behaviors can trick us into feeling positively. There’s an example in the piece referring to a 1993 experiment in which “human subjects smile[d] forcibly for 20 seconds while tensing facial muscles,” so my students and I decided to give it a try. I watch the clock while grimace/smiling, calling out time intervals. Some students did not participate. Many did. Some had to turn away from the rest of the room, so they could maintain their clenched faces without busting into laughter.
And when we released, we laughed together. The general consensus was that it worked, overall. We could not determine, though, if it was due to the silliness of having to stare across the room at someone smile/grimacing, the feeling of pent-up laughter, or the giggles that came with the release. While I’m not sure we were all convinced, it did feel good to just be silly together.
After reading the article, we added to a gratitude list, and then of course ran out of time before the narrowing and revision of writing part of the lesson, in which our gratitude snippets would be specific and original. I gave them time to write on the board anyway, and asked them to list their most “useless” or everyday item on their lists. In the spirit of sharing, here are some of the everyday elements of my work I take for granted: all the supplies/resources I need to teach well; reflective, professional colleagues; students who want to learn; a warm classroom; a perfect daily schedule; autonomy, autonomy, autonomy.
Here is a sample of the collective gratitude list from my ninth graders. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.