Tech Tuesday: Gratitude is a Story

The practice of gratitude is one that research suggests can be helpful psychologically all year round, so my hope is that this post will be useful to you in many days beyond Thanksgiving. However, when you think about it, gratitude is based in narrative, as a thought/emotion we have in response to life events. Culatta and Westby (2016), in a tutorial entitled “Telling Tales,” suggest that intervention to improve narrative language including emotional and theory of mind content should “focus on emotion and character traits that cross events.” For this and other reasons, particularly “in these difficult times,” we would do well to cultivate expressions of gratitude in interventions across the year and in varied contexts. Here are some resources to help you promote gratitude along with narrative and expository language.

Set a Rationale.

Your initiative may seem a bit touchy-feely, particularly to boys. It can help to ground it in science. Headspace’s video The Power of Gratitude in Uncertainty (whoa, how relevant!) and The Science of Gratitude from Tremendousness both are short, digestible explanations of the role of thankful thinking on our psychology and physiology. A simple discussion web can be a great way to gather thoughts and reactions from a student or group; in this case I asked my group “What about this information surprised you?”

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Employ short meditations.

Meditation tracks can elicit narrative and expository responses based on what one is asked to think about during the activity. For your youngsters, the MyLife (formerly Stop, Breathe and Think/Kids) track Thank the Farmer asks for a brief meditation with a snack and visualizing of the steps the food item underwent to get to you (consider using MindWing’s Sequence Icons as a post-activity scaffold). My students enjoyed this very much and we had “same but different” stories coming out in response to eating potato chips or bananas. Similar tracks can be found for older students.

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Have a grateful “show and tell.”

Particularly in teletherapy, having students share about possessions can be personalizing and motivating. In a recent tele session, I had group members prepare to share an item they feel grateful to own. Anna Vagin’s wonderful Conversation Paths pack was easily modified to target the essential details necessary to “tell the story of” or describe the item and promote interaction between the members of the group.

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Practice with a Gratitude Jam.

Jamboard from Google (built into your Google Workspaces) provides a collaborative space to make a visual array. A how-to should be forthcoming, but a nugget here; your editable Jamboard space can be shared in Google Classroom, a Meet, or via link in a Zoom session. In this case, I provided a model along with relevant expository LIST icons, also from the Mindwing Digital Icon set, and students made their own on blank frames in the Jam. Jamboard allows for an easy Google Image search within the activity.

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Grateful Books.

Gracias-Thanks book coverEPIC! Books for Kids (free for educators) continues to be a go-to for all topics, and gratitude is no different, with many relevant titles available. Gracias Thanks (Mora) is available within the platform and provides a humorous—and language-mappable with Story Grammar Marker® or ThemeMaker®—approach to grateful thinking.

I hope you have an as-good-as-possible Thanksgiving this year!

Sean Sweeney
Sean Sweeney

Author

Sean Sweeney, MS, MEd, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist and technology specialist working in private practice at the Ely Center in Needham, MA, and consults to local and national organizations on technology integration in speech and language interventions. Sean has transitioned to telepractice in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis but is looking forward to a return to in-person work in the fall! His blog, SpeechTechie (www.speechtechie.com), looks at technology "through a language lens." Contact him at sean@speechtechie.com



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