Ongoing engagement, Setting the tone activities

Gratitude Journal

Support students’ wellbeing by suggesting a daily or periodic practice of gratitude, promote radical self-compassion.

Click on the CC icon in the bottom right corner of the video to turn on closed captions.  

Gratitude Journal
Educator prep: None
Student prep: None
No tech needed, Paper / pens
Duration: 5-30 mins

Activity purpose

Support students’ wellbeing by suggesting a daily or periodic practice of gratitude, promote radical self-compassion.

Useful for

Promoting wellbeing at the beginning of semester, mid-semester, end of semester - beginning of class, end of class, asynchronous assignment, shared or private.


Minimal - prepare prompts and tips (see resources).


In the video, three faculty developers explain their own personal regular gratitude journaling practices. Ideas include making time in the morning to prepare for a day where you notice things for which you are grateful, and making time at the end of the day to reflect on things you are grateful for.

Teachers and students should feel free to adapt to what fits their purposes and suits their context.

Classroom applications include:

  1. Suggesting it for students to do on their own for their own wellbeing. Possibly ask them after trying it to write a reflection on the process or share with the class.
  2. Occasionally or periodically asking students to share some of their gratitude (without forcing all to share).
  3. Give students options to reflect on things they’re grateful for, things that bring them joy, their accomplishments, etc. Point out there are things that are within us (gratefulness for our own competence) and things that are external to us (gratitude for people in our lives) and things that we start to notice (taking joy in little things). 


Individually, it can take 5 minutes of someone’s day. It could take 5 minutes at the beginning or end of class, or if people want to talk, it may take longer. It can be a written assignment or just a suggested, ungraded practice, but you can grade students’ reflections on how it has made them feel (e.g. ask students to do it daily for a week or two, then reflect on the process). The Growing forward journal from Stacy Thomas is about 15 minutes of journaling.

Adaptations and examples

There are no rules with this activity, it can be done privately, offline, or collaboratively, online; it can be done orally or in writing, though the recommendation is to have it written in a place one can go back to. One adaptation might be to encourage people to take photos or videos of small delights they encounter in the day, and share with the rest of the class.

Technical requirements

Pen/cil and paper (though one could write digitally too).

Useful resources

More 'Ongoing engagement' activities:
Equity Unbound Activity
PowerPoint Karaoke
Engage students in improv presenting, and enhance oral presentation skills in a light and humorous way.
Maha Bali, Jasmina Najjar, Hoda Mostafa
Equity Unbound Activity
Tiny Tales
Encourage short, focused storytelling, easy to share with others, writing stories in 100 words (or fewer), or 6 words or 2 sentences, etc.
Laura Gibbs
Equity Unbound Activity
Cognitive/exam Wrappers for Metacognition
Help students reflect on their exam/assessment performance in order to improve future performance in your course.
Maha Bali

Do you have an activity that you would like to suggest?

Do you have feedback or suggestions?

Share your thoughts, leave a commentx