George Lucas Educational Foundation

Instilling Gratitude and Optimism

Instilling Gratitude and Optimism

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I am looking for SEL resources and activities that assist with teaching middle schoolers about optimism and gratitude. Any suggestions?

This post was created by a member of Edutopia's community. If you have your own #eduawesome tips, strategies, and ideas for improving education, share them with us.

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Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

Hi Susanna, this might be a stretch for middle school, but I have used this video successfully for years to discuss SEL at the elementary level - it's an adorable video of a mother and baby squirrel attempting to traverse a wall - they need some human help to do so - and it always generates a terrific, positive emotional response from the students:

Again, I'm not sure how it might play for middle schoolers but I wanted to share.

Hope it helps,


Charlene Pugh's picture

If you are looking for resources, check out They are the best when it comes to social emotional learning!

Stacey's picture

Wow, the video is so inspiring specially looking on the journey in education. I enjoyed it.

Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

We asked this question of our community on Facebook. Here are some of the responses:

Heather M.
Read The Positive Dog to your class. It's a fantastic book by Jon Gordon.

Christine P.
Try some stuff from Carol Dweck! Fixed mindset vs. growth mindset.

Saminah K.
First thing is the need to be optimistic yourself first.

Catherine G.
Yes, modelling the behaviour is so important. Use positive language and approaches and reinforce it when the students demonstrate it through praise and rewards.

Brittany W.
Yes! Through self talk and creating situations for students to look forward to.

For more, the discussion can be found here:

Carol McD's picture
Carol McD
Daughter of two teachers, mother of one student,

A fun exercise that can be life changing...ask your students to purposefully smile all day long. Make it a game by catching them in class not smiling and smile hugely at them to remind them. You should also do the exercise while they are doing it just to observe your own reactions. Ask them to remind each other, nicely, to smile all day and they should carry out this exercise for the remainder of the day at home and during whatever activities they participate in after school. But they cannot tell anyone it's an assignment for class. Tell them to notice what kind of response they get from others. Assign them to write one paragraph before they go to bed describing how it made them feel and what response they received from others. Discuss their outcomes. Your students will have great stories to tell, will report they felt happier while they were smiling, and that others seemed to be happier around them. This will lead you into a discussion about optimism and how to maintain an optimistic attitude.

Kevin Jarrett's picture
Kevin Jarrett
Maker Educator, Google Certified Innovator, Dreamer, Doer. Learning experience designer, workshop leader/speaker, author. Stanford #Fablearn Fellow. #GoogleEI

Love this! Clever! Thanks! Going to share with my colleagues!

Amy Erin Borovoy (aka VideoAmy)'s picture

What a wonderful idea. I've got three Five-Minute Film Festival video playlists that might offer some good resources...

Resources for Teaching About Character

10 Videos About Generosity and Giving Back

Videos on Kindness, Empathy, and Connection

All three of these posts have great videos but also links to more related articles and lesson plans and organizations at the bottom.

Good luck!

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