Promoting Positive Self-Talk

What you think about yourself often dictates how you well you do
9 teachers like this strategy

About This Strategy

Self-talk is that inner voice inside that tells you if you are good enough or not good enough to do something. This voice really dictates your actions and how you view yourself. When a student has a lot of negative self-talk, this directly impacts their ability to complete work to engage in classroom activities that may be challenging for them. This strategy will help students to overcome negative self-talk and introduce positive self-talk to ensure success not only academically, but social emotionally as well.

Implementation Steps

  1. Listen to students as they complete a task. Pay attention to if you hear any negative self-talk. Negative self-talk can look like “I can't do this or I'm not good enough”. When words said like the above is when you would implement the following strategies .

  2. When a student has a message like "I can't do this" or "I'm not good enough" respond with naming what they said. 

    • For example,"I heard you say that you were not good enough. What you have just told me is a negative message about yourself. We call this your inner critic. We all have it and it doesn’t define us.”

  3. Create a time to follow up with the student. Tell that student that you will work with them about their inner critic. Be specific about the time and make sure to put it on your calendar or somewhere you will remember. 

  4. When that student comes back to meet with you, instruct him or her to write down what he or she said on a piece of paper. 

  5. Tell the student that the words we say and think relate directly to our feelings then to our actions. Draw a triangle and write "thoughts," "feelings," and "actions" at each corner of the triangle

    • Model completing the triangle by sharing an example problem with the student.

  6. Give the student a sheet of paper to draw his or her own triangle.  Their thought would be the negative self talk they said/ showed. The feeling is how they felt. The actions are what they did as a result of those feelings. 

    • Give space for this activity. 

    • Make this activity bold by using different color paper, markers, etc.

  7. Check in with the student to see if he or she would like to discuss his or her triangle or if they would like to keep moving. 

    • Choice is key here. Try not to force students to share if they feel uncomfortable.

  8. Have the student look at his or her negative self talk statement. Challenge the student to flip their negative self talk into a positive.

    •  For example,” How could we flip this statement into something positive, that challenges us to succeed.” If a student becomes stuck, provide them with a list of affirmations or discuss the student’s strengths that could be framed into a positive statement. For example, if the student is creative. A positive statement could be, When I face a problem, I will look for a solution in my own way."

  9. Once the student comes up with a flipped statement, have him or her write that on a piece of paper.

  10. Have the student read the statement aloud.

    • Try to go for a fluent and believable reading of the statement. If the student shows uncertainty, ask them to read again with confidence. 

  11. Discuss the impacts of their positive statement. Refer back to the triangle that the students completed.

    • For example, you might say, “Wow, you wrote that I am a problem solver, so even if I don’t know a problem right away, I will creatively think of a solution. How does that make you feel? What are your actions?”

  12. When the time feels right, have the student destroy the paper that has negative self talk on it. As the student destroys the paper, tell them that every time thoughts like these enter their mind, replace it with a positive self-talk.

    • Signs for what might be a good time to destroy the paper is if you are noticing smiling from the student, eye contact, a loud and proud reading of the positive statement, etc.

  13. Before the student leaves the room, have the student write their positive self talk on a sticky note. If they ever think a similar negative thought, they have a positive one ready.

EL Modification

This strategy is crucial for students who are English Learners. Many times English Learners feel a disconnect between what is happening in class and being able to relate to that. This can lead to a lot of negative self-talk and the overall feeling of not being good enough. Students who learn this strategy will have an additional tool in their tool belt to challenge any confidence or self-esteem issues that may block them from accessing their full potential.

Implementation Steps: 

  1. Give students sentence stems to help students flip their negative self talk such as "I am," "I can be," etc. See the resources below for examples. 

  2. Instruct students to draw themselves and list out their positive traits orally as you record them down on paper. Then use the list as a word bank to create a flipped statement into positive. Consult the anchor chart found in the resources below. 

  3. Provide examples with students to practice flipping a negative statement to a positive statement. Give them more examples of negative statements and have them flip those statements. Consult the resource in the implementation steps. 

  4. Utilize a graphic organizer to help create those thoughts, actions, and feelings. (resource below)

  5. Model/ Think aloud the thoughts, action, and feelings for the students. Make it a personal story about you. (Example: “When I was younger I really struggled with math. I would often say about myself, "I can’t do math." So I’m going to write, "I can’t do math" in the  thoughts section of the triangle, because this is what I was thinking…”

  6. Add hand motions to go along with think, feel, and action.For example, putting your finger to your head for "think"

Special Education Modification

This strategy is helpful to students with disabilities because it provides a place to challenge negative thoughts. It also challenges students to have a growth mindset and work toward their goals, which can lead to higher work production levels and completion rate.

Implementation steps:

  1. Provide a paper for students to draw themselves or name their inner critic. This is particularly helpful for students with lower cognitive abilities to understand their negative self-talk. When that student uses negative words, refer to as their named critic. For example, if a student says, ” I can’t read.”, the teacher might say, ”That sounds like something Nagging Ned would say? What do we say to Nagging Ned?”

  2. Practice saying the positive self talk multiple times.

  3. Show a video of how positive self talk can directly impact their actions such as the one included in the resource section below. Stop and discuss the video.

    • Possible guiding questions can be: What did she think of herself at first? How did that change? What are some of the words she said to herself?

  4. Utilize a graphic organizer to help students complete the triangle. Consult the resource section below.

  5. Show explicit examples of changing negative self to positive. Consult the resource section below. 

Enhancing Positive Self-Talk for Distance Learning

This strategy can be used virtually and will be beneficial during a time where students may be experiencing higher than normal amounts of frustration as a result of their learning environment.

Implementation steps: 

  1. In the virtual setting, it can be harder to know if students are experiencing negative self talk. Here are a few look fors:

    • Students not engaging in any work while participating on the call.

    • Parents reporting their student is saying things like school is too hard, etc at home

    • Students saying/ messaging they are struggling and need help without trying first.

  2. Once students(s) have been identified, create a breakout room or separate time to have this conversation

  3. Have students write on a document whatever they are saying to themselves. 

    • If students are open to sharing, have student share their statements aloud or via chat

  4. Share screen and show the triangle of actions, feelings, and thoughts

    • Discuss how these relate to one another. 

  5. Make a copy of the triangle for students to write in their own negative thoughts, feelings, and actions. 

  6. Challenge students to flip their negative self talk statement into a positive. 

  7. Have students write that down on another document.

  8. Instruct students to read aloud their new positive self talk statement loud and proud if willing.

  9. Wrap up class with a journal entry that reminds them of what they learned today.

Related Lessons

In this lesson, this strategy is used for the entire classroom focusing on flipping negative statements into positive ones and understanding the effects of negative statements on our actions.