Strategy

I-Messages

I-Statements

UDL 5.3

An I-Message is a statement about one's feelings or beliefs expressed as a sentence beginning with "I" and is completed with a "you-statement". I-Messages can support students in conflict-resolution and self-expression of social and emotional needs. I-Messages are also used to avoid accusatory or escalatory language. By beginning with "I" rather than "you" the speaker takes ownership of his or her feelings rather than implying that they are caused by another person. For example, a student might say: "I feel anxious because I won't be able to finish my work on time. I would like if you could give me back my pencil," rather than: "You are hogging my pencil." I-Messages often consist of three parts including a feeling/emotion, event, and behavior. I-Message 3-Part Model: 1. I feel... (insert feeling word) 2. when... (tell what caused the feeling). 3. I would like... (describe what you want to happen instead).

Ready-to-Use Resources

Posters

I-Message Posters

A series of posters to support students’ use of I-Messages. The posters include an I-Message definition, a sentence frame for crafting I-Messages and multiple I-Message models.

Grade K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 · Behavior & SEL · 3 pages


Implementation Tips

Sentence Starters
Provide sentence starters (e.g., I feel... I want... I would appreciate it if...) to support students when using I-Messages. Individual tool cards and posters displayed in the room with frames and visual aids can be helpful for English learners and others with limited communication skills.
Modeling
Model using I-Messages to communicate your own thoughts and feelings. For example, to support a student who is having difficulty managing social interactions, a teacher might say, “I feel sad when you are unsafe with your body. I would like you to use kind words/ask for help instead." By modeling the use of I-Messages, students will better understand how and when to use the strategy.
Role Playing
Have students practice using I-Messages with partners or in role-playing scenarios. Students can brainstorm scenarios in which using I-Messages might be helpful with partners and practice different statements that might be used in the situation.

Examples

Conflict Resolution
To support two students who are experiencing a conflict, a teacher provides I-Message outlines for both students to use when communicating with each other (e.g., I feel ___ when you ___ because ___.). Each student is given an opportunity to read their message without interruption so that both voices can be heard. The teacher then guides the students in resolving the conflict. As students become more familiar with this practice, the teacher can assign a student mediator to help remind and prompt students to use I-Messages to self-advocate and navigate challenging situations with others.
Community Building and Role Playing
As part of a community building activity, students participate in a role playing activity in small groups based on social scenarios provided by the teacher (e.g., new student in class, taking turns during recess, etc.). Each group acts out the scene in two ways. In the first round, students present the scenario but the target student/victim is not allowed to speak. In the second acting round, the target/victim is asked to use I-Messages to support positive interactions and develop solutions for each scenario. After each scenario has been played out, the class discusses how each situation changed or was improved by expressing I-Messages to others.
Social Isolation
To help a student who appears to be isolating himself in social environments (e.g., sitting alone in the cafeteria, playing alone during choice time), a teacher encourages inclusion by asking the student to create I-Messages about the emotions surrounding his isolation choices. The teacher then asks other students to write positive I-Messages focusing on their own emotions about the student’s isolation choices. As students share these I-Messages they gain a deeper understanding about how one another feels and brainstorm ways to be more welcoming to each other.

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