Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Nov 10, 2017 | Posted by Nathan King


Gratitude matters.

“I do believe the happiest people that I meet are the ones who have that habit, that attitude of gratitude." – Andrew Pudewa

With the possible exception of Thanksgiving Day, our culture is not a culture of gratitude. Complaints, marginalization, and rants are far more common than kind and thoughtful words of appreciation. However, is it possible that this lack of general thankfulness could be reversed? Let us suggest an exercise in which students are given the task of writing thank-you notes. Would a little practice in thankfulness make a difference and stem the tide of selfishness? Let’s find out!

This month, challenge your students to write words of heartfelt gratitude to someone (or several people). Of course, as with any skill we desire to impart, you’ll need to start this small but potentially world-changing journey by showing your students how to do it step-by-step.

IEW is very good at lending process to purpose, and writing an excellent thank-you note falls into the category of Inventive Writing. However, by following a few guidelines found in Unit 7 of Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, students will find that the process is a snap! (Don’t worry if you haven’t yet taught Unit 7. Our one-a-month schedule recommendation puts Unit 7 in February or March!) Start by telling your students that they will invent what they will say; they will not rewrite a source text. It is vital that they generate what they say by asking questions of themselves.

These questions could include the following:

  • Who is this person, and what do I appreciate about him or her?

  • What is the reason I am writing a thank-you note?

  • When has he or she helped me in the past?

  • Where has this person been most helpful in my life?

  • Why am I thankful for this person?

  • How will I use what he or she has given?

  • What problems has he or she helped me to solve?

  • What is the best thing he or she has ever given me?

  • What is the worst thing about not being around this person?

Have your students look through their list of answers and choose three topics to include in their note. Each topic should include five or six supporting sentences as details. So, if students are writing to a grandmother, they might include one topic that explores what’s wonderful about their grandmother, another about how great the gift that grandma gave them is, and another topic about what they will do with the gift.

Once students have their three topics, help them create a key word outline. Remember, it is impossible to write everything about a topic! Then, have students write the body of their thank-you from their outline. A well-written introduction and conclusion will help the reader understand why she is receiving such an amazing written masterpiece. It never hurts to point out to your students that after grandma receives a thank-you of this quality and effort, she’ll be glad to do more to garner gratitude in the future!

November is the season of gratitude, particularly in the United States, but students around the world will benefit by expressing their thankfulness to the people in their lives who matter most. Give them this opportunity to let others know how grateful they are, and perhaps they will gain a better understanding of how to come up with their own content by writing thank-you notes. Perhaps by writing the note, students will notice not only a benefit in their relationships, but something better in themselves. Gratitude matters, and IEW can help!


Nathan King, the customer marketing manager for IEW, grew up as the son of a pastor in Wichita, Kansas. Following his graduation from Manhattan Christian College and Kansas State University with a degree in secondary education in history, he worked for thirteen years as a youth pastor in his hometown. Since he began working for IEW, Nathan has enjoyed both the marketing and customer service sides of his position. Nathan and his wife of thirteen years, Melissa, homeschool their four children, but it is his amazing wife that does the lion’s share of this vital mission!

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