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ACTIVITY: I-Messages" &
FOCUS: Communicate Better; ALSO: Respect, Act Courageously
STEP 1 – 4 COMPONENTS OF "I-MESSAGES" ("MAGIC
- Explain that while words are better than fists for dealing with anger
and conflict, it depends on the words they use. The phrases that make up
the "I-Message" (call them "Magic Phrases" for younger students) are
- Distribute the "Verbal Muscle"
worksheet and introduce the four phrases.
1. I feel___________________ (angry, hurt, scared...)
2. when _____________________ (say what happened)
3. because_________________ (why it upsets you)
4. and I would like____________ (what you
want to happen or change)
- If helpful, have younger students repeat the phrases as a "chant" or
STEP 2 – THE FOUR LEVELS OF "VERBAL MUSCLE"
- Introduce the four levels of "verbal muscle," perhaps writing them on
newsprint or the board. Use the example on the
worksheet and then apply these four
levels to other examples that might be more appropriate for your students.
- Invite students to offer examples from their own lives and brainstorm
how to apply the four levels to these examples.
STEP 3 – PRACTICING "VERBAL MUSCLE"
- Pair students and have them take turns using the "I-Message" component
of "Verbal Muscle" on a situation(s) in their lives where they have been
- After completing Level 1, have the partners add Levels 2 and 3 to
- Finally, have them add Level 4, the follow-through step, to their
- Have students identify any difficulties they had with using "Verbal
Muscle" and brainstorm ways of overcoming these difficulties.
STEP 4 (OPTIONAL) – "COLD WATER WORDS"
- Have students explain what they think this phrase on the worksheet
- Share your own "cold water words" and times when you used them
- Have students identify their own "cold water words" and times when
they might work.
CHECKLIST FOR THIS ACTIVITY
- Copies of the "Verbal Muscle"
worksheet for each student
- Optional for younger students: Newsprint with the four phrases of the
"I-Message" and four levels of "Verbal Muscle"
A Volcano in My Tummy: Helping Children to Handle Anger, by Elaine
Whitehouse & Warwick Pudney (New Society Publishers, 1996).