AFFIRMATIONS AND POSITIVE PERSPECTIVE BUILDING FOR STUDENTS
This article includes FREE printables and resources for Educators.
As a teacher, you face a lot of stressful days at school, but the silver lining to facing that stress is that you’ve got a unique opportunity to help demonstrate a growth mindset for your students. One of the best ways to model a growth mindset for your students is through affirmations.
Regularly practicing positive affirmations can help you and your students manage the stress that comes in the face of change. Positive affirmations have the power to help your students lower their stress levels, decrease their anxiety, and build their self-esteem!
When something threatens our sense of adequacy, stress levels rise and self-protective reactions may take place that ultimately hinders performance and growth. Research shows, however, that affirmation of the self can actually curb some of these negative responses and allow us to respond flexibly.
Learn about the benefits of an affirmation practice in this video. Feel free to share it with your students too!
There’s science that supports incorporating affirmations into your classroom. Negative self-talk can increase feelings of anxiety and lead to depression. It can also increase cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, and have negative effects on both the mind and body. Working to shift students towards embracing affirmations and positive self-talk can lessen negative self-talk and bring lots of other benefits to their lives.
• Positive self-talk can help manage and regulate the emotional responses triggered by activation of the amygdala, the section of your brain most closely associated with negative emotions such as fear and anger.
• Positive self-talk can lower anxiety and increase feelings of self control and agency.
• Positive self-talk can help students recognize and process difficult emotions.
• Positive self-talk can make students less judgemental of themselves and increase feelings of self worth and self compassion, which helps students build stronger and healthier relationships.
Here are some exercises and activities you can consider using with students to help them start practicing positive self-talk.
1. START THE DAY WITH AN AFFIRMATION
Begin each day by setting aside a few minutes for students to state an affirmation. Use this Create a Great Week worksheet to start each day off with some positive self-talk. Take breaks throughout the rest of the day to complete the rest of the worksheet, or the following morning students can reflect on the previous day.
In the peak and pit section of this worksheet, have students identify the best part of their day and the biggest challenge they faced. Use this as an opportunity to celebrate students’ accomplishments and support students who faced difficulty.
2. TAKE AN AFFIRMATIONS BREAK
Use this exercise to help students build their self-esteem and develop a positive perspective.
Have students create an affirmation page. Give students a piece of card stock or construction paper and draw things that are important to them or images that represent their values. Students should also write 5 - 10 affirmations on this page. You can provide students with a list of affirmations to choose from, but also encourage them to come up with their own honest affirmations. While this initial activity will take a little time, you can use this as a brain break for weeks to come.
As a break during class, have students get out their affirmations page. You can spend a few minutes having students recite their affirmations out loud as a break, or have students show and explain their affirmations page to a classmate. Students can share with a new partner each time you have them bring out their affirmations page.
3. BOUNCE BACK AFFIRMATIONS
Have students find a partner and choose who will go first. The first person will state an affirmation and be affirmed. For example, the first person might say, "I am awesome." Then, that student is affirmed by the partner who will say, "You are so awesome." The first student says affirmations and gets affirmed for one minute before the students switch roles. This is a powerful affirmations activity that only takes a couple of minutes of class time and can be done on a regular basis.
4. AFFIRMATIONS CIRCLE
Have students stand in a circle. The first student will say their affirmation aloud. “I am creative!” The student to their right will affirm them, “You are creative!”, and then state an affirmation of their own. The group goes around the circle until every member has stated an affirmation and affirmed another student.
5. AFFIRM YOUR NAME
Have students write out their name vertically on a piece of paper. Students will then write an affirming work about themselves that starts with each letter of their name.
1. CREATE POSITIVE SELF-TALK COLLAGES
Have students spend time creating a personalized list of affirmations on a piece of construction paper or card stock. Offer students a list of suggestions, but allow them to choose which statements they connect with most. Students can also decorate this with drawings, pictures, or cutouts from old magazines that represent things they like about themselves and value. Students can post these around the room or keep them with their other class materials, but once a day make time for students to look at their collage and repeat one of their affirmations aloud to themselves.
2. EXPLICITLY TEACH THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NEGATIVE SELF-TALK AND POSITIVE SELF-TALK
This activity can be altered for younger and older students. First, identify a list of negative self-talk phrases. For older students, you can write these out on the board and work as a class to discuss why they are examples of negative self-talk, and then change the language to make the statements examples of positive self-talk. For younger students, you may want to write the phrases out on cards or posters and already have the revised version of positive self-talk prepared. You can still discuss as a class why the negative self-talk is negative and why the positive self-talk version is better to use. After the activity, for both younger and older students, post the positive self-talk examples somewhere students are able to see the affirmations.
3. DAILY AFFIRMATION PRACTICE
This can be done in an in-person classroom or a virtual class. As you work with students to use positive self-talk, they will need regular practice developing positive, self-affirmations. You can have a daily or weekly assignment where students write an affirmation. Give them a format or goal for their affirmations and have students write these as an exit ticket on their way out of class or as a quick assignment submission in an online classroom. One day students might write a simple “I am” affirmation where they identify one of their positive traits where the next time they might write an “I am learning to” affirmation where they identify some way they are improving.
Helping students learn to embrace positive self-talk and affirmations can help students manage the negative emotions they may be experiencing this year while simultaneously increasing their self-worth and self-compassion. Consider making time for affirmations in your classroom and create a great day!