Teaching Gratitude: Handwritten Thank You Notes Lesson Plan

Uncategorized Nov 19, 2020

Fostering a culture of gratitude is something that I hold near and dear, both in my classroom and at home. My own children are known (as were my sister and I when we were little) for being polite kids who always say “please” and “thank you,” and this is because they are encouraged (trained) to do so at every waking moment.

As I write this, we are only about a quarter of the way into this school year, and already my students know that when I stare at them and blink I am usually waiting for a “Thank you, Mrs. Morris.” It isn’t that I need the recognition or extra attention, but rather that my students need to know that I expect them to acknowledge when another human has done something for them.
(And, yes, I have been known to ask many a teenager, “What do you say?” I think they just honestly get so swept up in their day that they plain ol’ forget and need reminding. That’s what we are here for, aren’t we? The safety net of reminders before adulthood starts and all the responsibility is truly on them?)

Living in the digital age, common courtesies and manners are among the first things to be lost in the shuffle of high-speed information and exchange. Our modes of communication have been made shorter and quicker to keep up with demand and competition, and as such so has much of our thoughtfulness and intention. No matter if it is in the business world or within the setting of a classroom, the expectation of immediacy outshines the notions of salutations, personal meaning, and sincere sign-offs.

For all of the aforementioned reasons (and oh, so many more) I present to you, my friends and colleagues, a classroom lesson in saying “Thank You.”


GRADE(S): 9-12 (can easily be adapted for earlier grades)
TIME: 1-2 class periods
  • Writing utensils & notebooks/paper

  • Paper or Thank You cards (or adapt to writing emails)

  • Internet & A/V access (for showing a YouTube video)

  • Sticky notes (approx 7 for every 2 students)

  • Thank You Note Lesson Slides (ENTER EMAIL BELOW)




Students will…

  • Identify appropriate context and audience for communication via handwritten note, email, text message, phone conversation, and face-to-face meeting

  • Demonstrate knowledge of how to write a handwritten note by writing and sending/delivering a “Thank You” card




Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.



Students should each have several sheets of paper (or a notebook of some sort) and a writing utensil to begin the lesson.

 Display the following prompt and instruct students to copy it down on a sheet of paper:

Think of a living person you know who has been incredibly influential in your life. Why is this person so important:

Set a timer for 5-7 minutes (depending on the class) and tell students to address the prompt by writing the entire time. When the timer ends, simply ask students to find a place to stop and put their pens/pencils down.


Without debriefing their written responses just yet, play for students the following video on YouTube, entitled “An Experiment in Gratitude | The Science of Happiness,” by SoulPancake:

After the video has played, pair students and give each pair 7 sticky notes. Display the following questions around the classroom, have student pairs discuss and write their answer to each question on a different sticky note, and then post each sticky note under the corresponding question.



  1. What does gratitude look/sound like?

  2. What does the absence of gratitude look/sound like?

  3. When is it appropriate to express gratitude through a handwritten note?

  4. When is it appropriate to express gratitude through an email?

  5. When is it appropriate to express gratitude through a phone call?

  6. When is it appropriate to express gratitude face to face?

  7. When is it appropriate to express gratitude through a text message?

When pairs have completed the above task, ask for students to volunteer to read through the answers to each of the questions for the class, starting with “What does gratitude look and sound like?” Lead students in a quick debrief of each question and set of answers as you go.

**For further discussion as to why gratitude is important, have students read, annotate, and then discuss the blog post from PsychologyToday.com, “Why "Thank You" Notes Are Important. Write Them Today.” linked below:




After the class discussion had concluded, inform students that, while they will not be making phone calls to the recipients of their gratitude, they will be expressing their gratitude in a handwritten note.

Next, review the sample thank you notes, one written by author Roald Dahl to a fan of The BFG, and the other written by J. K. Rowling to a fan of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, pointing out how each follows the “anatomy.”
Instruct students to begin drafting their thank you notes on the paper they have, following the structure on the handout.


After drafting, students should revise, edit, and proofread their thank you notes.

Final thank you notes should be written on a sheet of paper, a thank you card, or typed up as an email.
Collect copies of the final draft & use the Anatomy of a Thank You Note as a guide for grading.

Students should mail or deliver handwritten notes (or emails) ASAP! If possible, reflect again as a class a few days later.

PLEASE let me know how this (or a similar lesson) goes in your classroom by commenting below! Post pictures and tag @thecaffeinatedclass on Instagram!

Happy Thanking!!!



My Simplified Teaching Method was born out of desperation - I loved my job but could see how the pace I was moving at would burn me out sooner than later.

Watch as I explain the method, where it came from, and how it can help you, too!