Relationship Skills

Family Resources on When I Feel I Need Part 2

Project and Purpose

Students practice using “When…I feel…I need” statements to communicate their emotions and desires.

Essential Questions

How does a “When…I feel…I need…” statement help us communicate better and avoid a tense situation?

If this lesson was used in the classroom: Students assessed how to describe and discuss their emotions and feelings with others. In part 1, students learned about vocabulary and discussed how to describe various emotional states by developing charts in small groups. In part 2, students practiced using their vocabulary using “I” statements, or statements that focus on describing their own feelings which helps focus the conversation. Students used the sentence formula as they speak to others, “When I feel [emotional state], I need [type of support from other person].” Using “I” statements is helpful keeping emotionally charged situations focused on how an individual feels without being accusatory toward others.

Getting Ready for the Conversation

People sometimes have difficulty communicating because we don’t know the right word for what we are feeling or other times people have trouble describing their needs to others. In this series of lessons students expand their vocabulary and practice describing various emotional contexts in ways that support relational connection. Once students understand the vocabulary associated with various feelings, they can tell others what support they need.

Conversation Starters and Practice at Home

The first item is for follow-up after participating in class activities.

Describe the purpose of a “When I feel…I need…” statement. Give an example. Why would this be helpful in talking with someone?

Why do you think it is important to understand how to describe different emotions (or feelings) you have?

Choose several emotions that you sometimes feel and define them. Practice expressing these feelings in a “When I feel…I need…” statement. Assess the effectiveness of using this approach.

School to Home Resources on When I Feel I Need Part 2


  • 3 completed A-Z charts for “Sad,” “Mad,” and “Happy” from previous session
  • “When I…” Starter Statement sets (See PDF Lesson)


1. Review the previous session and have students once again examine the charts full of emotion words. Have them pay close attention to the circled and boxed words on each chart and allow them to confirm the meanings of any of the words they do not readily recognize.

2. Tell students they will use these charts to specifically name emotions in the exercise today about a kind of “I” statement.

3. Say: If you think about it, we can only speak for ourselves and control ourselves; therefore, we need language to communicate our feelings and our needs. When in a conflict, telling the person we are upset with “You should…” or “you need to…” only makes the person angry or ready to argue defensive. It’s hard to argue with someone who only speaks their own truth, and it can help calm down confrontational situations.

4. Explain that students will practice using this “I” statement: “When…I feel…I need…” to communicate feelings and what they really want. Show the examples (see provided handout/slide) and do the samples together.

5. Form groups of four, have the foursome sit in a circle and count off 1-2-3-4 in order. Tell students they will practice completing “When I…” statements in their small groups. They may use the emotion charts to search for a word that suits the situation, but they may also use other emotion vocabulary if they feel the statement needs something more suitable.

6. Give each group a set of four “When I…” starter statements and explain the order of the exercise:

  • Person 1 says the opening “When I…” statement; Person 2 completes the second part “I feel ____”, filling in the blank with what they consider an appropriate emotion; Person 3 completes the third part of the statement: “I need…,” explaining what the person can do to help solve the problem.
  • Start a second round with Person 4 saying the second “When I…” statement; Person 1 completes the “I feel…” phrase; Person 2 completes the “I need…” portion.
  • Third round: Person 3 starts a new opening statement; Person 4 completes the second part; Person 1 completes the third part.
  • Fourth round: Person 2 starts a new opening statement; Person 3 completes the second part; Person 4 completes the third part.

7. Have the groups select two of their completed statements to share with the class.

8. As the groups share their completed statements, discuss how the exercise worked within their small groups.

  • Does everyone respond with the same emotions?
  • Does everyone respond with the same needs?
  • Did people within your group have different ideas? How were those ideas expressed?
  • Were there any conflicts among the members of the group? How were the conflicts solved?
  • Did anyone think to use an “I” statement such as “When I give my suggestion and people say my idea is dumb, I feel infuriated; I need to take a deep breath and ignore the person.” How could this have helped you?


Close with a discussion: How can this exercise help us communicate our needs better and help us avoid tense situations?

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