Students recognize the costs and benefits involved in a kind act.

See the Good Challenge

Students define and practice gratitude, followed by a discussion on the costs and benefits involved when someone does something for you. (Gratitude for Tweens and Teens Lesson 2)

Level: Middle School, High School
Duration: ≤ 1 hour
My Notes: Add/Edit Notes

Planning For It

When You Might Use This Practice

  • Anytime during the year


Time Required

  • 1 class period




Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Define gratitude and why it’s important
  • Understand the costs of kindness and the benefits of receiving it


Additional Supports


SEL Competencies

  • Self-Awareness
  • Social Awareness
  • Responsible Decision-Making

How To Do It

Reflection Before the Practice

  • Keep a gratitude journal for a week, recording twice a week at least three things or people for whom you are grateful.
  • At least once, consider the cost to someone who did something for you and how their action benefited you. How does keeping a gratitude journal make you feel?



Slide 1 – Introduce the Lesson

  • Introduce the lesson.
    • Today we’re going to talk about what gratitude is. Can anyone tell me what gratitude is?

Slide 2 – Definition of Gratitude

  • After several students offer their definitions of gratitude, offer them this definition.
    • Gratitude is the ability to recognize and acknowledge the good things, people, and places in our lives.
    • For example, if your friend goes out of their way to do you a favor, you would probably feel grateful towards them.
    • Now I know you’ve heard of this before, but what you might not know is that it can have enormous implications for your physical and mental health.

Slide 3 – Gratitude Video

  • Have students watch this video “Nature, Beauty, and Gratitude” (9:47 minutes).
  • For a shorter version of the video, start at 3:31.
  • Please note: In the longer version of the video, there is a brief moment of nudity (:29 to :32).

Slide 4 – Why Gratitude is Good

  • After watching the videos, share with students what science has discovered about why gratitude is good for us.
    • There have been many studies on the effects of gratitude, and they confirm a few main effects.
    • First, gratitude is a positive emotion, so it feels good to be grateful. Positive emotions like gratitude can also make you feel more open, creative, and energized.
    • Second, feeling grateful has been linked to physical health outcomes such as lower blood pressure and stronger immune system functioning.
    • Next, because gratitude involves recognizing other people for their kindness, feeling and expressing gratitude can help strengthen relationships.
    • And, because of all these factors, people who feel and express gratitude more often to feel happier overall.

Slide 5 – Gratitude Warmup

  • In pairs, have students take about one minute to list three things they’re grateful for.
    • You can be grateful for big things, like having supportive parents, or small things, like being able to say “hi” to your friend before class started.
  • After a minute, ask for volunteers to share what they were grateful for.
    • Gratitude seems pretty simple, right? Let’s take a closer look at when we feel gratitude…

Slide 6 – When Should You Feel Grateful?

  • Discuss with students three things to consider when someone does something kind for you.
    • First, did the person do it on purpose? There’s a big difference between someone doing something to help you for selfish reasons (like needing a favor later) vs. for selfless reasons (like deciding ahead of time to do something helpful just for you).
    • Second, did that person’s help benefit you? Think about it: For someone to help you, that person has to really think about what you need or want. You wouldn’t be super grateful if someone brought you a tissue when you didn’t need one.
    • And finally, what did that act cost the other person? We often think of costs in terms of money, but it also includes people’s time and effort. For instance, if your mom gives you a ride to the mall, she not only spends money on gas, but also spends her time, which she could use to do something more fun for her.
    • Altogether, we may feel particularly grateful towards someone who sacrifices their own time, money, or effort to do something on purpose that benefits us.
    • Now we’re going to watch a video to demonstrate what we’ve been talking about.

Slide 7 – When Should You Feel Grateful?


  • Ask students to reflect either verbally or in written form about something that they discovered about gratitude or that surprised them from this lesson.



Thanks! A Strengths-Based Gratitude Curriculum for Tweens and Teens developed by Dr. Giacomo Bono and Yvonne Huffaker, in partnership with the Greater Good Science Center and the John Templeton Foundation. Slide design by Susan Mangan and Rachel Baumsteiger.

For the entire curriculum, click here.

Reflection After the Practice

Do you notice whether students are more actively practicing gratitude after this practice?

The Research Behind It

Evidence That It Works

Research has found that teens who had high levels of gratitude when entering high school had less negative emotions and depression and more positive emotions, life satisfaction, and happiness four years later when they were finishing high school. They also had more hope and a stronger sense of meaning in life.


Why Does It Matter?

School is preparation for life. Thus, students who have a greater sense of well-being are on track for becoming well-adjusted adults. In addition, both hope and feeling like your life makes sense and matters — or a sense of meaning in life — may encourage students to use their lives to contribute to the betterment of society. Indeed, one study found that teens with a strong sense of purpose also had a sense of gratitude for being able to give back.

“The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.”
–Henri J.M. Nouwen
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