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NYC Helpline: How To: Work with Students' Families

A Thanksgiving Community Building Activity    Lamson Lam

For the last three years I have done this Thanksgiving-based activity and it is often one of the most valuable school-wide community-building activities I do all year. 

I tell the students that we are on an "Appreciation Mission" or a "Mission of Thanks"
  1. I ask them to identify a list of all the low-profile people that they are thankful for throughout the school.  (By "low-profile" I mean not me, not their principal, not their last teacher, not a cluster or specialist teacher, not our student teacher-Often the low profile people end up being the cafeteria staff, the bus-driver, the school secretary, the security guard, the supply monitor, or the crossing guard.)

  2.   I make a chart of these people and allow the children to sign up for whomever they feel the most thankful for.  (Once they have written one thank you letter to a low profile person, the children are allowed to write their second letter to anyone they want.)

  3.   Every child writes a thank you letter that they decorate and frame to their special someone.

  4.   We post these Thanksgiving messages throughout the school, the cards are then either all posted together in a prominent place for the entire school community to read or they are posted where the "thankee" is most likely to read them.


  1. We are recognizing the members of our community who are often overlooked.

  2. Writing for a real and meaningful purpose.

  3.   A very powerful sense of audience impact (recipients almost always find their children for a hug and often have admitted to shedding tears over how touching a gesture it is).

  4. A side benefit of this activity is that I now have a list of adults that I can turn to if a child is upset, needy or misbehaving.  They have already established a special connection with my student.


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