I try to cultivate an attitude of positivity and gratitude all year long. For me, it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, but everything to do with succeeding in the real world. Life is hard. Inevitably we will face obstacles and curve balls and it is our reaction to these challenges that will determine whether we thrive or merely survive. As part of the Capturing Kids Hearts program, we use various methods in class to affirm each other in an effort to maintain a safe and positive classroom culture.
Every year, during Thanksgiving week, I bring a brown paper bag for each one of my students and I write their name on it. Each one of them is asked to write notes of affirmation to every person in their class period and place in those students' bag. I also encourage them to write notes for others outside their block who have a bag in my room. I write a note to each student as well. This is an idea I picked up from my CKH training and love it. This year, I had the students write their name on the bag preceded with a positive adjective that starts with the same letter as the first letter of their first name and some chose to color it and decorate it. At my students' request, I also made a bag for myself and conveniently since my last name starts with a G, I wrote "Grateful Gonzalez" on my bag.
Pictured above are my high schoolers' bags. Newcomers participated as well, with some scaffolding of course. My middle schoolers whined a little, but everyone wrote a note to every student in their class period. I found it interesting that those students who said they had nothing affirming to write about certain students, after some thinking time, they wrote some beautiful notes. I respected their privacy and didn't ask to see the notes, but most of them showed them to me because they wanted them supposedly proofread. I think they just wanted some reassurance that they were on the right track. The activity was nothing new to my returning ELLs, but it caught my 7th graders a bit off guard.
Well, after Thanksgiving, I will ask students to reflect on this activity and offer some honest feedback. Overall, I think it went well, but I would like to hear from the kids after they have read notes written to them. I'm thinking of having them keep their bags up all year long and asking them to write to each other more frequently. Based on their feedback, I may need to tweak the activity some, so stay tuned for another post after I hear back from the students.
This was an awesome culmination to the "Attitude of Gratitude" month, but I'm hoping that this will spill over to every day. I'm hoping that this will help us seek and find the good in one another, especially in those who hide it well.