Play the 1-minute audio clip of tuning into a radio station and ask students to talk about what they noticed about the clip. Ideally, students will mention that the sound quality varied: That sometimes the music and voices were very crisp and clear, whereas other times there was an overwhelming amount of static, background noise. Students might also mention that the radio stations were changing because there were rapid changes between different styles of music and various radio hosts. Use these reflections to guide the introduction to self-talk.
Ask students to share what they think of when they hear the term self-talk before telling students that self-talk refers to their inner voices that provide an endless stream of commentary about their experiences, ideas, actions, and interactions. Explain that most people are not very aware of their self-talk by sharing that, similar to the static noise in the audio clip, self-talk tends to be background noise that we have become accustomed to. This static noise has little meaning and is often overlooked when we are trying to piece together an experience or situation.
Then, tell students that, just like they can tune into a radio station, they are also capable of tuning into their internal mind chatter. Tuning into their mind chatter allows students to hear the stories that they tell themselves and develop a better understanding of how their self-talk influences their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Let students know that they can think about their mind chatter as being two different radio stations that correspond with positive and negative self-talk. Explain that positive self-talk provides encouragement and support, increases confidence, facilitates perseverance and growth, and tends to be more optimistic.
Ask students to think about examples of positive self-talk. After several students have shared, or to increase students' engagement, let students know that positive self-talk might sound something like this: “I did the best I could with the resources I had”, or “I am proud of myself for trying”.
Next, explain that negative self-talk tends to involve blaming yourself, imagining worst-case scenarios, approaching situations with a ‘life or death’ mindset, and disregarding positive experiences. Once again, ask students to think about examples of negative self-talk. To get the conversation started, you might share a personal or narrative example. Common negative self-talk phrases include “I am such a failure”, or “My life is over”, in response to making a mistake or feeling embarrassed.
Once students understand the difference between positive and negative self-talk, ask them to consider examples of situations where they were talking positively or negatively to themselves. For each of these situations, encourage students to think and talk about how their self-talk affected their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. This can be done in small groups of 3-4 students, or as a class discussion. After a couple of minutes, ask students if they think it’s possible to change their self-talk.
Students will likely have many different opinions, ideas and answers to this question. Make sure that everyone has the space to share their thoughts and that students’ ideas are respected and accepted by the classroom community. For students who do not think that it is possible to change self-talk, ask guiding questions that might help them consider a different perspective.
Conclude this activity by sharing that it is possible to change self-talk and that over the school year, students will be learning tips and tricks for how to do this.
But, to change self-talk, they need to first be aware of it – that’s what the next activity is for!