Rebecca Reynolds

Kindergarten Teacher (now 1st!)

Klondike Lane Elementary School

Louisville, KY

The Gratitude Experiment

Spread gratitude across the school community with this simple activity.

View the practice »

Each morning in my classroom we host our own morning meeting. During this time it is a chance to share about our lives, feelings, and anything else that could be on our minds. Students find comfort in the stability and belonging within our classroom family that we have created. My students have explored many different topics, like bullying or getting stuck in “the dip” (See Class Dojo if you don’t know what I am talking about, great resource!). One great element of the morning meeting is to engage in deep discussions. I told my students that in morning meeting this month we would be discussing gratitude and their eyes grew larger and their mouths dropped open — they are only 5 and 6 you know!


We started with the prompt “What is something that makes you smile?” and students talked with their knee-to-knee partner about people who made them smile in their lives. (I was thinking about sharing how chocolate makes me smile, but they were already grasping gratitude right before my eyes). Throughout the week we kept up with the prompts and discussed gratitude.

To adapt the Gratitude Experiment for my classroom, I decided to have our class choose people in our building who were not teachers and who deserved to have their buckets filled. If you haven’t read Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud, check it out! Students chose our principal, our plant operator, the lunch ladies, and the nurse. I had students brainstorm how those people have been there for them in a special way and how they remember it making them feel. Students were then able to pick one of those people they wanted to write to and wrote their notes on a sticky note. To make things fun we delivered the notes to them as a class, we discussed how seeing them smile would fill our buckets and fill their buckets too!

Watching the students see their post-it notes read by the lunch ladies, was priceless. One student told me, “I love gratitude, I can feel it.” My heart melted, and students wanted to create more for others they loved. I have left the post it notes out during recess and they are able to write gratitude notes to friends and family if they want.

In moving forward with this experiment, I plan to create a writing center with the list of prompts in the toolkit. Students will have a chance to write about their gratitude and extend their learning. I am so proud of my students and their accomplishments with gratitude, this experiment has opened their hearts to more. They want to fill their buckets by showing how much they care about everyone in their lives. Each morning when I get a hug from them, I know that they are grateful to be in my classroom, just as I am grateful to have them in my life.