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I-Statements

“I” statements are familiar to most teachers, but many teachers are reluctant to use them because they seem artificial and stilted. An “I” statement is a way to analyze and reframe a situation. The traditional formula is:

I feel __________ (put a name on the emotion and claim it)

when __________ (formulate a nonjudgmental description of the behavior)

because __________ (describe the tangible effects of the behavior).

More important than using the statement is the process students must go through to formulate it. Speaking in “I” statements helps students take responsibility for their own feelings and actions. Working through the statement gives students clarity about their feelings and the situation that provoked those feelings.

“I” statements are a conflict management technique because they require individuals involved in a conflict to put space between their action and their reaction. This allows the individuals to take time to get in touch with their feelings and to choose an appropriate response instead of reacting spontaneously. Although using “I” statements can be uncomfortable at first, they are effective and using them gets easier with time because students learn how to adapt the statements so that they sound natural and still incorporate all the necessary elements.

Modeling “I” statements for students is important. You may want to stop in the midst of a “you” statement and struggle in front of the students to formulate an “I” statement. This will show the students that you think “I” statements are important and that it is natural to struggle to learn something new. Students will also begin to notice a difference in how they feel when being the recipient of an “I” statement versus a “you” statement.

A lesson plan for an activity on “Rethinking I statements” to use with students is available here. You’ll also need the Communication I-Way Map handout and Communication Map worksheet.

(Content developed by the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management)

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Related Catalog Resources

Below you'll find a randomized listing of up to 20 related items (we may have more...) drawn from our Resource Catalog.


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Coaching Children in Handling Everyday Conflicts This newsletter article from the Responsive Classroom provides an example of a teacher assisting two second grade students as they work to resolve a conflict in the moment. Five basic skills are focused on to help build children's capacity for conflict resolution. These include: - Cooling off when upset - Speaking directly to each other -...(see more) Catalog Listing

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In the mix lesson plan: Managing anger Web based lesson plan "designed to teach anger management and conflict resolution through the 'I-Message' communication technique and other group activities." Draws on materials provided by PBS's In the Mix program School Violence: Answers from the Inside. Catalog Listing

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Listening without formulas 15-page Powerpoint presentation given at the Sustaining Conflict Resolution Education: Building Bridges to the Future conference in Fairfax VA, which discusses the use of reflective listening, I-messages and paraphrasing in conflict resolution. Catalog Listing

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Conflict resolution protocol for elementary classrooms, A 4-page PDF excerpt from the book, "The First Six Weeks of School" which discusses teaching conflict resolution, "a basic belief underlying The Responsive Classroom® approach to teaching is that how children learn to treat one another is as important as what they learn in reading, writing, and arithmetic. We believe that social skills such as...(see more) Catalog Listing

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