How can we support our students with developing positive self talk?

What exactly is positive self-talk?

Actually, self-talk doesn't necessarily need to be taught – most of us are already engaging in it every day! The problem is that it may not be POSITIVE self-talk, but instead we're narrating actions (“okay, I've got my keys, now where's my phone?”) or it's negative (“I can't believe I just did that! UGH!”).

Positive self-talk is often in the form of “I am” or “I can” statements – think of them as mini-mantras. Here are some examples of positive self-talk:

  • I can do hard things.
  • I am important.
  • I can accept myself exactly as I am.
  • I am awesome!

How do you teach positive self-talk to students?

Modeling, modeling, modeling!

That's my number one recommendation before even introducing the idea of positive student self-talk. With my first grade students in the resource room setting, modeling most often looked like me narrating what I was doing, followed by an positive “I am” or “I can” statement.

Example of modeling positive self-talk in reading intervention groups:

“I see some words that use the /ar/ sound spelling. We've been working on this – I can do this! I can persevere.”

Will that feel silly? Possibly.

Will it be worth it for our students to see us modeling? Definitely.

Another idea for modeling is to connect it to a character in a read aloud book. Think of some favorite characters and the positive traits they possess:

  • Jabari from Jabari Jumps – “I can do hard things”
  • Chester from The Kissing Hand – “I am brave”
  • Molly Lou from Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon – “I can accept myself exactly as I am”

Idea – display examples of positive self-talk affirmations and have your students match them with the characters!

Visual Support

Combining concise language with visuals can support our youngest students.

For example, a student can choose a handful of positive affirmation cards (we call them “Power Words”) that can be displayed or even kept at their desk:

Provide opportunities to practice

Once students have observed modeling and self-selected some statements for themselves, it's time to practice!

In the resource room classroom, we didn't have a formal content block for social skills. There are still plenty of opportunities to encourage students to use positive self-talk by themselves and with each other. A “turn and talk” could be a safe place to do this. Your role is to provide feedback until students build up their own confidence.

Our ultimate goal? Positive self-talk becomes a habit for our students.

Wouldn't this be a great goal for ALL of us?

Ready, Set, Action!

Students can create their own affirmations and even add illustrations! If they need a bit more guidance, here are low-prep students cards – there are 48 different statements!

I can't wait to hear how positive self-talk goes with your students!

Hi there.

I'm Jennifer!

I’m Jennifer and I was a special educator in the elementary school setting over the past decade. I entered the classroom every day dedicated to making learning inclusive AND engaging.

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