Teaching Kids to Express Appreciation

How often do we take time to tell others that we appreciate them? We might let our family members know we care, but do we provide time for students to express appreciation in the classroom?

Team greeting cards are a simple way to encourage students to show appreciation for each other, and it only takes about 15 minutes to implement this strategy. Students in teams of three or four will pass cards around in “roundtable” fashion and will write words of gratitude and appreciation on them before returning them to their owners. This activity worked so beautifully with my students that I created these two freebies to share with you. You can use the Team Thanks gratitude before the Thanksgiving Holidays and Gifts of Appreciation before the Winter Holidays. Click the freebie covers below to download them.

Prewriting Discussion: What Do We Appreciate?

Before you begin the activity, lead a class discussion about gratitude and the importance of showing appreciation. Ask students to help you brainstorm different things they appreciate about each other. They might like someone’s sense of humor, their willingness to help, or their creative ideas when working together. Create a long list and leave it on the board during the next part of the activity.

Team Thanks


Gifts of Appreciation

Team Card Write-Around Activity Directions

When you explain the activity to your students, tell them that they will be passing cards around the team and writing words of appreciation on the cards. Let them know upfront that you expect everyone to write kind comments and that you will be reading what they write. While they are writing , monitor the activity to be sure that no one writes something that might hurt another child’s feelings. You know who to watch! While students are writing, you may want to play soft instrumental or holiday music to set the tone. Here are the step-by-step directions:

  1. Choose the appropriate type of card depending on the season of the year. Give each student one card. Both packets have several variations, but you can give all of them the same card if you like.
  2. Ask each student to write his or her name on the front of the card.
  3. Set a timer for about 2 minutes. Ask all students to pass their cards to the left and open the card they receive. They should notice whose name is on the front and think about what they appreciate about that teammate. Have them write a few sentences of appreciation on the front inside flat and sign their name to their comments.
    Note: If they are having trouble thinking of something to say, suggest that they start with the words, “Thank you for …” which makes it a little easier for some students.
  4. When the timer goes off, ask students to fold the card back before passing it to the next person on the left. This keeps the next person from seeing what they wrote.
  5. Ask everyone to check the name on the front before they begin writing. Set the timer again and allow about 2 minutes to write words of appreciation.
  6. Repeat this one more time and then have students pass the cards they are holding back to the person whose name is on the front.

Expressing Appreciation Year Round

My students really enjoyed this activity, and they treasured their cards. I often did this activity right before I switched the students to new teams, and sometimes they didn’t want to change teams after they read the comments from their teammates!

If you want to do this activity later in the year, you can download a generic card called Our Team Rocks. I hope your students enjoy it as much as mine did!