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December 12, 2011 Thanks for Nothin’ By Brent Vasicek
Grades 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

    It can be a great motivator. It costs nothing. It’s easy. It’s two simple words! Thank andyou. That’s it. Or, if you are really pressed for time, one word will do: Thanks. And, I suppose if you are a super efficient digital native, a thx will even suffice. Below you will find ways to show appreciation for next to nothin’.

    Several years ago I had a student run back into the classroom at the end of the day. As he ran in, all out of breath, I asked him, “Greg, what did you forget?” He said, “I forgot to say thank you for teaching me today.” That free gesture made me want to work harder for that kid than ever. Since that day, I make sure to give students many avenues to express their appreciation.


    Three Components of Appreciation

    Teach students the three components of appreciation:

    • Timely — A thank you works best when it is given in a timely manner. However, thank you is one of those things that are better late than never.
    • Genuine — The world is full of inauthentic comments and gestures. Tell students that the more sincere the gesture, the more meaningful it is.
    • Specific — A general "thanks" will do, but when you explain why you're grateful, it has more impact. “Thank you for helping me with my homework because you saved me some real frustration” has more meaning than “Thanks.”


    Hidden Nice Notes

    As much as we would like to do what the boy's teacher does in this Hallmark commercial, it could get rather expensive. A former principal showed me that a pack of index cards, a few stickers, and a colored pen is all you need to leave a Hidden Nice Note. For one week I make a point of writing an appreciative statement on an index card for each student. I then deliver this card to the student secretly by placing it in a book,


    mailbox, or locker, or by taping it under his or her desk. After the week has gone by, I ask the students how they felt when they found their genuine thank you. Most concur that it gave them a smile and a moment of happiness. The students reflect on why it made them feel good, and we discuss the components of a genuine thank you, described above.

    I introduce the Hidden Nice Note station for them to utilize during their leisure time to show appreciation to their peers. If you are looking for a touching picture book to introduce this gesture, check out The Hickory Chair



    Tokens of Appreciation

    Along the same lines as the Hidden Nice Notes are Tokens of Appreciation. These are coins you can purchase and distribute to show thanks. The great thing about the coins is that they keep getting passed from student to student.


    Random Acts of Kindness

    As a class we occasionally do a random act of kindness. We scope the school for a worthy classroom and then surprise them with a treat, usually in secret. This could be a homemade card, cookies, or a holiday pencil. This could also be an act of service such as cleaning their lunch table or sanitizing their desktops during cold and flu season.


    Boom Boom! Cards — For Teens

    For a slightly older crowd, try Boom Boom! Cards. Each card specifies an act of kindness (e.g., "Leave a nice note in someone’s locker," or "Buy a stranger a cup of coffee"). Once the action is completed, it is logged online at The Boom Boom! Card is passed along to someone else to perpetuate the kindness. By logging onto the Boom Boom! Card site, one can see just how far that action has gone over time.


    Morning Nominations

    Peer to peer recognition is often more powerful than teacher-student. Each morning immediately following the bell, we take three quick nominations from students who would like to say something nice about a classmate: "I nominate Samantha for helping unstack the chairs this morning." "I nominate Dominic for being a good sport in gym class." "I nominate Jack for helping me with my math." One of the students is chosen to turn on our electronic sign. It is a feel-good way to start each day. See this in action in the video linked to in this post.


    Integrity Bracelets

    Teacher to student recognition is also important. I try to find a pivotal moment for each student in my class, one of those moments that is unique to that student's struggles or goals. I then make a big deal about their action and honor them with an Integrity Bracelet. You can read more about this in the post I devoted to the topic of integrity. Students wear these bracelets with great pride for months and years.

    What are some ways you promote the life skill of appreciation?

    Thank you for reading,


    Please feel free to utilize these ideas. If you are a teacher in my building, I thank you for allowing these particular modes of appreciation to remain unique and fresh to the 4th grade.


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