Cartoon Strips to Teach "I Statements"

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"I Statements" Teach Emotional Control

I Statement Cartoon for anger. Websterlearning

Students with disabilities have a lot of trouble managing their feelings, especially "bad" feelings that they don't understand. Students on the autism spectrum definitely have difficulty with difficult feelings. They may be anxious or upset, but don't know how to deal with those emotions appropriately.

Emotional literacy is without a doubt a foundational set of skills, at least understanding what they are and when we feel them. Too often students with disabilities may deal with feeling bad by being bad: they may tantrum, hit, scream, cry, or throw themselves on the floor. None of these are particularly helpful ways to get over the feeling or resolving the situation that may cause them.

A valuable replacement behavior is to name the feeling and then ask a parent, a friend or the person responsible for helping deal with the behavior. Blaming, violent screaming, and craziness are all inefficient ways to deal with disappointment, sadness, or anger. When our students can name their feeling and why they feel that way, they are well on their way to learning how to manage strong or overwhelming feelings. You can teach your students to use "I statements" to successfully deal with strong feelings.

Name the Emotion

Students with disabilities, especially emotional disturbances and autism spectrum disorders, have difficulty identifying feelings, especially the ones that feel bad and make them "crazy." Often these feelings are the one that acts as antecedents for the most difficult and challenging behaviors. Learning to name those feelings will help them find more productive ways to deal with them.

Anger is one of the feelings that children feel that gets expressed in the most negative ways. One of the most important things I ever learned about emotions in my work as a protestant pastor and as a teacher I learned from Parent Effectiveness Training (Dr. Thomas Gordon) was that statement that "anger is a secondary emotion." In other words, we use anger to avoid or protect ourselves from the feelings we fear. That might be the feeling of powerlessness, or fear, or shame. Especially among children identified as having "emotional disturbances," which may be the result of abuse or abandonment, anger has been the one thing that has protected them from depression or emotional collapse.

Learning to identify the "bad feelings" and what causes them will empower children to deal more effectively with those feelings. In the case of children who continue to live in homes where they are still subjected to abuse, identifying the causes and empowering the children to do something may be the only thing to save them.

What are the bad feelings? "Bad feelings" are not feelings that are in and of themselves bad, nor do they make you bad. Instead, they are feelings that make you feel bad. Helping children identify not only the "feelings" but how they feel, is important. Do you feel tightness in the chest? Does your heart race? Do you feel like crying? Does your face feel hot? Those "bad" feelings usually have physiological symptoms that we can identify.

  • Sadness
  • Disappointment
  • Jealousy
  • Envy
  • Fear
  • Anxiety (often difficult for children to identify, but a driving forced, especially for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.)


In an "I statement" your student names their feeling and tell the person who they speak to, what causes them to make the statement.

To a sister: "I feel angry (FEELING) when you take my stuff without asking (CAUSE.)"

To a parent: "I am really disappointed (FEELING) when you tell me we will go to the store and you forget (CAUSE.)

It is important that you suggest sometimes that your students feel anger, disappointment, jealousy or envy. Using pictures identified in through learning emotional literacy can help your students think about the source of their anger. This is a foundation of both making an " I statement" and creating positive strategies to deal with those feelings.

After debriefing pictures, the next step is to model the eye statements: Name some situations that would make you feel angry, and then model making the "I statement." If you have an aide or some typical peers who help you during social living classes, role play the "I Statements."

Create Comic Strip Interactions for "I Statements."

The models I have created can be used to, first, model and then teach students to create "I statements."

  1. Anger: This feeling creates a lot of trouble for our students. Helping them identify what makes them angry and sharing that in a non-threatening, or non-judgemental way will go a long way to success in social situations.
  2. Disappointment: All children have difficulty dealing with disappointment when Mom or Dad have "promised" that they would go to Chuckie Cheese or to a favorite movie. Learning to deal with disappointment as well as "speaking for themselves" are important skills.
  3. Sadness: We sometimes believe we need to protect our children from sadness, but there is no way they can go through life without having to deal with it.
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"I Statement" Cartoon Strips to Help Students Deal with Anger

A comic strip to teach an I statement for anger. Websterlearning

Students with disabilities often have difficulty managing anger. One strategy that is effective is to teach students to use "I Statements." When we are angry, it is all too tempting to name call, or use bad language. It makes the person we are angry with feel they need to defend themselves.

By focusing on their own feelings, and what makes them angry, your students will help the other person know what they need in order to change their anger into a more positive feeling. The "I statement" follows this pattern: "I feel angry when you _____ (fill in here.)" If the student can add a "because," i.e. "Because that's my favorite toy." or "Because I feel that you are making fun of me," it is even more effective.


  • View pictures of people who are angry. See emotional literacy for some ideas. Ask the students why the people in the pictures might be angry. What are they arguing about?
  • Brainstorm and list the things that make them feel angry.
  • View the "I Statement" model cartoon together.
  • Make a new "I statement" cartoon strip, using the blank template. Use a scenario you generate from students or use one of the scenarios I provide below.


  1. A friend borrowed your PSP player and hasn't brought it back. You want to have it back, and he keeps forgetting to bring it to your house.
  2. Your little brother went into your room and broke one of your favorite toys.
  3. Your big brother invited his friends over and they made fun of you, teasing you that you are a baby.
  4. Your friend had a birthday party and didn't invite you.

You can probably think of some scenarios of your own!

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An "I Statement" for Sadness

social skills,teacher resources,printables,social skill cartoon strips
A cartoon to teach an "I statement" for sadness. Websterlearning

Sadness is a feeling we all may have, not only when we have a loved one die, but for other, smaller disappointments in life. We may miss a friend, we may feel that our friends don't like us anymore. We may have had a pet die, or a good friend move away.

We need to acknowledge that bad feelings are okay, and part of life. We need to teach children that they can find friends that will help them feel less sad or find activities that will help get their mind off their loss. Using and "I statement" for sadness helps children gain some control over the feeling, and also opens up the opportunity for their friends or family members to help them get over the pain.


  • Use pictures to help your students talk about the things that make people feel sad.
  • Brainstorm and list things that make your students feel sad. Remember, movies can make us feel sad, and help us understand what it is like.
  • Use the model cartoon strip to practice using an I statement.
  • Have students use the model strip to role play the interaction.
  • As a group, create an "I Statement" interaction using the blank cartoon strip using one of the students' ideas from your class list, or one of the scenarios provided below.


  1. Your dog was hit by a car and died. You feel very, very sad.
  2. Your best friend moves to California, and you know you will not see her/him for a long time.
  3. Your grandmother used to live with you, and she always made you feel good. She gets very sick and has to go and live in a nursing home.
  4. Your mom and dad had a fight and you worry that they are going to get a divorce.
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Help Students Understand Disappointment

A social skills cartoon strip interaction to help students deal with disappointment. Websterlearning

Often what makes children act out is a sense of injustice because of disappointment. We need to help students understand that circumstances that prevent them from getting what they want or believe was promised to them are not always under our control. Some examples might be:

  • Missing a promised movie or trip because a parent is sick.
  • A brother or sister got something that your student wanted. The student may not understand that they are too young for the item, or it was their sibling's birthday or reward for some achievement.
  • Not being allowed to ride on a ride at an amusement park because they are not tall enough.


  • Use pictures to help your students talk about the things that make people feel sad.
  • Brainstorm and list things that make your students feel disappointed.
  • Use the model cartoon strip to practice using an I statement.
  • Have students use the model strip to role play the interaction.
  • As a group, create an "I Statement" interaction using the blank cartoon strip using one of the students' ideas from your class list, or one of the scenarios provided below.


  1. Your Mom said she would pick you up after school to buy new shoes, but your sister got sick in school and you took the bus home.
  2. You knew your grandmother was coming over, but she didn't stay to see you after school.
  3. Your big sister got a new bike, but you still have an old one you got from your cousin.
  4. You have a favorite television show, but when you turn on the television, there is a football game on instead.