Deliver Gratitude Day (6-8)

6, 7, 8

This lesson focuses on the meaning and benefits of gratitude. Students give examples of what people give up (opportunity cost) when they give philanthropically. For their service project, students will decide how they can 'deliver gratitude' to a deserving person or group. They will then complete a service such as writing thank you notes. 

Photo Credit: Gratitude Tag by Eugene Kim is licensed under CC by 4.0 

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne class period, plus time for a project

The learners will: 

  • discuss examples of giving and receiving gratitude.
  • compare and discuss the meanings of quotes on gratitude and giving.
  • gain an understanding of the 'cost' of helping others (time, money, effort, etc.).
Teacher Preparation 

Use the attached PowerPoint to guide classroom discussion.


gratitude: the state of appreciation and gratefulness; thankfulness

opportunity cost: the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made. Not all alternatives, just the next best choice 

GivingTuesday: the second biggest giving day of the year fueled by individuals advocating for what they care about through social media. 

Home Connection 

Students say thank you at least once a day at home for a week. 


Follow the project with a brief reflection.

  1. Discuss the impact of their project on the person they thanked. Reflect on how they felt when they said thank you.
  2. Student groups present a slideshow or social media message to encourage others to express gratitude and “pay it forward.” 
  3. Share the reflections with Learning to Give and a national audience.  The TeachOne initiative connects teachers across the country with others who completed this project.

Follow-up: Discuss what they’d like to do next to continue aiding their community.


  1. Adapt this one-period lesson plan for any grade level and follow it with a simple and powerful service project on Giving Tuesday. The reflection brings learning and service impact together. 

  2. Anticipatory Set: (5 minutes)

    Post this quote: “It is not happy people who are grateful; it is grateful people who are happy.”

    Ask the students what they think of the quote. 

    Define grateful/ gratitude. According to the world’s leading gratitude researcher, Robert Emmons, gratitude is an “affirmation that there are good things in the world.” 

    Say, "We are going to use this information about gratitude to make someone happy today." 

  3. Part One: (15 minutes) What or who am I grateful for? 

    Watch one of these videos about gratitude:

    Students quietly write a list of things and/or people they are grateful for. 

    Have students stand in two circles made up of the same number of people. One circle faces out, and the other circle faces them one to one. On your cue, they tell the person facing them one thing they are grateful for. Then the outer circle rotates clockwise, so everyone is facing someone new. Repeat several times - long enough for them to stretch themselves to think of new things, but not so long they lose interest. 

  4. Part Two: (10 minutes) Discuss quotes about gratitude.

    Put the class into groups of 3-5. Copy the following quotes and give random quotes to each group of students. Give them five minutes to discuss and plan, and one minute each to teach their quote and its meaning to the rest of the class. They may act it out or give examples. 

    1. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein

    2. “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” - Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

    3. "If you count all your assets, you always show a profit." - Robert Quillen

    4. "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey
  5. Share the Science of Giving on the white board and talk about the benefits of giving. Relate giving to gratitude - when someone gives to us, we feel gratitude, and when we give, we inspire gratitude in others. 

  6. Part Three: (10 minutes) Making a choice to make a difference

    Taking voluntary action and giving has a cost to the giver, something they give up, which may be in time, money, effort, energy, or a missed opportunity. 

    The cost of volunteering is simply something you have give up in order to help another person. Opportunity cost is "the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made. Not all alternatives, just the next best choice." For example, when you volunteer to clean up trash by the river, you may give up the opportunity to play soccer after school. When you spend time making advocacy messages for the Humane Society, the opportunity cost may be losing time connecting with friends on social media. Helping pass out water to runners at a marathon may cost the volunteer energy.

    Before taking action, the giver decides whether the benefits of giving time are greater than the opportunity cost. 

    Ask, "Are you willing to give up some time or energy to contribute to someone else's happiness?" 

  7. Read the book The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein, to the class. Discuss what the tree gave up in personal cost.  Lead the students to understand that you do not need money to help others.  You can give up your time, efforts, talents, and attention to help others.  

  8. Service Project

    Project Overview: Students communicate gratitude to someone either in a letter or on social media. The gratitude contributes to the well-being of all.  

    Procedure: The planning and writing can happen in advance, and the “Gratitude Delivery” will be completed on Giving Tuesday.

    • Explore the "GivingTuesday" website of the global initiative. The goal of #GivingTuesday is to encourage all people to give on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. GivingTuesday is the second biggest giving day of the year and it is fueled by social media. 
    • Think about someone who you admire or appreciate (parent, grandparent, coach, teacher, friend, mentor, school staff, military member). What do you admire? What did they do to help you?
    • Write a thank you note and send it to them in the mail.
    • Write a sentence of gratitude for someone on a piece of paper, and take a picture of yourself holding it. Post it on social media with the hashtags #unselfie, #givingtuesday, #gratitude, and #teach1.
    • Leave sticky notes of encouragement throughout the building.  
    • Deliver coffee and donuts to school staff, like lunch workers, bus drivers, and office staff.
    • Create short video telling about the generosity of someone special/someone who has made a difference in your life. Submit it to VING! for a chance to award that person a check for $1,000.  
Cross Curriculum 

Read about the service-learning project called Gratitude Brunch by California students who were taught using this Deliver Gratitude Day lesson to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Yamasaki is a 5th grade teacher from California who said, “I value teaching service and philanthropy to my students for many reasons. One main reason teaching service learning is valuable is because it inspires children to think of others, rather than just themselves. When they know they are helping others, it gets them excited about their learning and what they are doing.”

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Explain how <i>opportunity cost</i> relates to philanthropic giving by individuals and corporations.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> related to philanthropic giving by individuals and corporations.
      3. Benchmark E.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> in philanthropic giving.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify why people practice philanthropy related to their own self-interest.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify outcomes from the service.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.