A central part of social emotional learning is the “I-Statement" or "I-Message." An I-Statement is a communication tool that helps kids express their feelings during trickier moments. Having a go-to script provides a comfortable foundation that they can use when they may be experiencing difficult emotions. There are many variations of I-Statements, but I’ve always used the following in my 3rd grade classroom:
“I feel ____ when you ____ because ____. I would like you to ____.”
Some ideas for using and practicing I-Statements:
Introduce I-Statements during a time of peace and non-conflict. This gives kids the chance to practice when calm before accessing it during heightened emotions.
The “because” aspect may be hard for younger children. You may want to start without that part of the script and introduce it as the kids get more comfortable.
Try role playing with common conflicts that arise at home or in the classroom. It’s okay if the kids feel a little silly; they will still be more open to using I-Statements when actually necessary.
Try reading a book with a familiar conflict and ask kids what I-Statement the character could say to voice his/her emotions.
This is a great opportunity to use the Emotional Vocabulary list you’ve built with the kids! It can help them zero in on the emotion they are feeling and communicate it effectively.
Have a sign with the I-Statement script displayed where the kids will see it often. The more they get familiar with it, the more comfortable they will be to use it.
Try using an I-Statement yourself when upset in some way with the kids. You are their best role model and shows this is not a tool just for kids.