15 Ways to Teach Kids Kindness and Gratitude

Community Service Ideas for Students in Every Grade!

It doesn’t matter what grade you teach, students are never too young (or too old) to volunteer or help out. As we head into the holiday season, here are some ideas to try with your students to teach them compassion and kindness.

1. Do a 10-day “thankful” challenge.

This is how it works: Every day for 10 days, you write down something that you’re thankful for. Every student in your class can have his or her own poster. Then they can glue on a new item each day. Their families will love it when they take it home for Thanksgiving.

2. Solve problems with the St. Jude Math-A-Thon.

This program helps improve students’ math skills in grades K–8 while providing the opportunity to help kids just like them.

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3. Write anonymous notes.

Give everyone in your class an envelope or mailbox, then encourage students to write positive notes to one another without signing them. They will love the undercover aspect of it, trying to find times to deliver the notes when no one is looking.

4. Team Up for St. Jude through Game Day.

The St. Jude Game Day Program is a way for your school to raise funds during an athletic event (football, basketball, baseball and more) that is already taking place on your campus. All you do is add the “Team Up for St. Jude Spirited Game Day” program to your game. Score!

5. Send “just because” letters.

Everyone likes receiving mail. Have your students bring in a pre-addressed stamped envelope for someone special in their lives. They can create a card or letter, then drop it in the mail. This is guaranteed to make someone’s day.

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6. Mix it up at recess.

Kids often play with the same schoolmates day after day. Encourage your students to play with at least two new kids (or they can sit with someone new at lunch). Chances are, they’ll make new friends and connections.

7. Teach the art of the thank-you note.

Thank-you notes are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Help your kids learn how to write a proper thank-you. It’s a skill they’ll use for years to come.

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8. Wear pajamas to school.

This is one of the easiest items on the list. Designate a special “Pajama Day” in your school where everyone pays 50 cents or $1 to wear pajamas. Collect this money to donate to St. Jude.

9. Hold a raffle at your special event.

Chances are, you already have plenty of school events on the calendar. For instance, a school dance, party or concert. During one of these events, raffle off something special, like lunch with the principal. Have the money go to a worthwhile organization.

10. Hold a PB&J drive.

Food pantries are always asking for more peanut butter and jelly because it’s a good and easy source of protein for kids. Hold a Peanut Butter & Jelly Drive at your school, and offer incentives. For instance, if you bring in more peanut butter, the principal has to wear a silly costume. But if you bring in more jelly, the gym teacher has to instead.

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11. Organize a Trike-A-Thon event.

Even the youngest St. Jude supporters can get involved when you hold a St. Jude Trike-A-Thon. This bike- and riding-toy-safety program teaches kids valuable safety lessons while they also learn how they can help others. The event will be one of your most popular events of the year and a great reason to invite parents to the school to watch their children show off their new riding skills.

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12. Put together a care package for a senior center.

Connect with a local senior center and ask them if they have any current needs. Then send a note home with students asking them to bring in an item to help out. Once you have everything together, put it in a big box and fill it with cheerful notes from the kids. The seniors will love it.

13. Clean up around your school or neighborhood.

Encourage students to take pride in their surroundings. Put on some plastic gloves (kids will love this part) and go around picking up garbage to beautify the area.

14. Donate books to your library.

Hold a book drive with your students, then take them to either your school or local library. You could also donate to a local community center or shelter.

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15. Hold a “coat, hat and mitten” drive.

You can’t underestimate the importance of kids having warm winter gear. While it’s standard for a lot of students, this is something that many kids can’t count on.

This is the fourth in the “Community Service Ideas” articles sponsored by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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Stacy Tornio

Posted by Stacy Tornio

Stacy Tornio is a senior editor with WeAreTeachers. Nearly everyone in her family is a teacher. So she decided to be rebellious and write about teachers instead.