How I turned the classic I Am Thankful For writing into a highly collaborative, community building activity
I’ve always loved using an I Am Thankful For activity with my students each year, spending time discussing the importance of gratitude and being appreciative for the things in our lives.
Because it’s one of those activities that students usually do in every grade, I wanted to give it a different spin; a digital twist and a way to build classroom community.
This activity already lends itself to high student engagement, but anytime my students get to add real photos or work in the same Google Slides presentation as their classmates, it takes engagement to another level.
If you’ve read other posts of mine, you know I’m sort of obsessed with having my students work in the same Google Slides presentation.
It’s a highly effective way to get your students collaborating in an online space, engage in digital conversations (especially ideal for those students who aren’t as comfortable communicating their ideas out loud), and build community.
How does this Thanksgiving thankful activity for students work?
I created a template in Google Slides that includes a cover slide for a class picture, discussion slide to start the activity off, and one slide for each of my students to customize.
As I introduce the activity, I have all of my students log into the shared presentation and work together on the discussion slides. They each fill in one of the text boxes with something that they’re thankful for. This is a perfect way to get the activity started and give students some ideas for when they customize their own slide.
After students respond, I have them come to the carpet where we go over the slide and students share out what they wrote if they wish.
We talk about how gratitude can be for people or really important things in our lives or simple daily pleasures that put smiles on our faces and make our days more enjoyable.
After the class discussion, students go back to their seats and I assign the slides that follow, 1 to each student.
*Note: I know teachers are sometimes hesitant about having students work in the same presentation, but I give my students clear tips and instructions about how to work properly so that no one’s slide gets deleted. (I include these tips with the activity.) If you’re not comfortable doing that, you can always give each student their own copy of the slideshow and then manually copy and paste each student’s completed slide into one slideshow when they’re finished. After, you can share the completed class presentation and have students comment so they still get the group activity experience. More on that later!
Just know students LOVE knowing they’re all working in the same Slides presentation, so it makes for an amazing collective experience.
On their slide, students get to do one of their favorite things…use the camera to take their selfie! It’s also a way to know whose slide is whose in the end.
Then students will use the insert image feature right in Google Slides to add 5 photos of things they’re grateful for. It’s fun to see what students add, from pictures or clipart of friends and families, to their favorite foods, super heroes, sports, and more.
As a fun decorative touch, I also let my students decorate their slide with fall themed digital stickers that they can choose from and move around their slide.
How do students collaborate in Google Slides?
If you’ve never had your students use the comment button in Google Slides or Google Docs, you can start by watching this video about differing ways you can use commenting in your classroom.
Digital comments also lends itself to addressing digital citizenship with your students. It’s always a good idea to introduce digital citizenship or review it before you have students interacting in an online space.
To use commenting in this activity, wait for all students to finish their slides. After, you’ll have them comment on their classmates’ slides, asking questions about the pictures, talking about what they have in common, or giving feedback on their slide as a whole.
Depending on the amount of time you have or if all students finish around the same time, you can do this part later on in the day as a group, as a morning work activity, center rotation, or as students finish their work throughout the day.
The commenting feature in Google Slides is really easy to use. Students either click on a friend’s slide or on a specific image on the slide, click the comment button in the toolbar, and type their comment.
In order for students to all get feedback, I have students comment on the slide above and below theirs to start. Then I let them comment on other slides, being mindful that everyone gets around the same amount of comments.
I give students time to look back at the comments that were left on their slide. They can even reply back to that person, starting a discussion thread. They LOVE LOVE LOVE this.
My students always come away from this activity with a smile. I use this activity around Thanksgiving, but it can really be used at any time of year or multiple times throughout the year. Use the editable template to remove the fall clipart.
I Am Thankful For Activity Includes:
👍 TEACHER APPROVED: Thousands of teachers and students are already loving this no-prep activity! Read below to see what they’re saying about how they’re using it in their classrooms.
This was so fun and such a needed change of pace. Loved being able to discuss things that we are TRULY thankful for. Thank you!
Julie, 3rd, 4th, 5th Grade Teacher
My students loved this assignment. It was great seeing them engaged and letting their classmates know what they were thankful for. My students took their time in creating thoughtful sentences and added some great pictures. Thank you!
Selina, 6th, 7th, 8th Grade Teacher
This is such a great resource. I used this as a station for students to complete independently. It kept them engaged and they loved adding images.
Kristie, 2nd Grade Teacher
This was such fun to use. I even heard from several students who said, “I loved doing this!” Thank you!
Mrs. Rogers' Neighborhood, 3rd Grade Teacher
My class loves this! We share one students slides a day during our morning meeting.
Sarah, 3rd Grade Teacher
This activity was great for my distance learning classroom. Students were able to share their thoughts with the group easily. They loved sharing pictures of themselves. This is a great activity for culturally responsive teaching.