Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Montessori Values – Practicing Thanksgiving Every Day

Montessori values thanksgiving every day girl giving boy sunflower

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.

— Cicero

In the Montessori community, the lessons of Grace and Courtesy are integral at every level. From young infants to adolescents, children are taught to live together in community. Grace and courtesy goes beyond the common social niceties of “please” and “thank you” by demonstrating the value of courteous and empathetic behavior and communication as a vital life skill.

Gratitude and Thanksgiving in the Montessori Environment


Gratitude is one of the lessons of Grace and Courtesy. We teach children to say “thank you” as a rote habit. But to truly understand the value of being thankful builds character through “generosity, humility, wisdom, joy, integrity and trust.” (Arrien)

To help children learn to value gratitude, we can incorporate it into our daily Montessori activities.


With younger children, we can learn to talk about what we appreciate. We begin by modeling, using our words and tone of voice to appreciate what we see around us:

  • I appreciate how Rinaldo cleaned up after he made snack.
  • Thank you for these lovely flowers. I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness, Jenna.
  • Mrs. Bigsby, our guinea pig, appreciates her water dish being cleaned. Thank you Kayla and Maya for helping with that today.

We can help children express their gratitude by using descriptive compliments, sometimes called “appreciations.” As you can see in the previous examples, appreciations make others feel important by recognizing their efforts. Maren Schmidt, of Understanding Montessori: A Guide for Parents, writes, “Descriptive compliments describe what you see, what you feel, and then use a word that sums up the entire experience.” (Schmidt, 2007) Descriptive compliments describe rather than evaluate, which makes them quite different from general compliments. General compliments, or praise, are often devoid of honesty and sincerity. Or, they can easily be misinterpreted as criticism. For example, if my husband tells me “that dress really makes you look thin,” I may wonder how my other clothes make me look!

The difference between appreciation and flattery? That is simple. One is sincere and the other insincere. One comes from the heart out; the other from the teeth out. One is unselfish; the other selfish. One is universally admired; the other universally condemned.
― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

We can share appreciations individually or offer them collectively. Some Montessori teachers invite the children to share appreciations at the end of the day or at the beginning of class meetings. They may also encourage older children to record special appreciations and place them in a gratitude chest. The appreciations can then be read aloud at a specified time during the week.

Let us remember that Thanksgiving is more than a day of feasting. Let true thanksgiving and gratitude live in our hearts every day.

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

— Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Works Cited
Arrien, Angeles. “What is gratitude?” Gratefulness.org. http://www.gratefulness.org/readings/arrien_gratitude1.htm
Schmidt, Maren. “Giving sincere praise.” Kids Talk Newsletter, June 9, 2007. http://www.kidstalknews.com/2007/06/giving-sincere-praise.html

Michelle Irinyi — NAMC Tutor & Graduate

As much as possible, NAMC’s web blog reflects the Montessori curriculum as provided in its teacher training programs. We realize and respect that Montessori schools are unique and may vary their schedules and offerings in accordance with the needs of their individual communities. We hope that our readers will find our articles useful and inspiring as a contribution to the global Montessori community.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, November 26, 2014.

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