How to use affirmation cards in the classroom
This week, I’m bringing you the first blog post in my new series: Products We Love. This series is all about the products I use with my own kids. How we use them, why we love them, and my top tips for using them in your own homes and classrooms.
We’re kicking off the series this week with one of our favourite sets of affirmation cards. I’ve written before about my love of affirmation cards and how you can use them to build self esteem in children. When used correctly, affirmation cards can be a powerful tool for building positive self belief. We own several sets in our house. But our Growing Minds Affirmation Cards are right up there as some of our favourites.
So of course, I’m going to tell you why we love them so much, and how we use them at home. But in exciting news, these affirmation cards have recently been distributed and are starting to be used more widely in schools around NSW. So what I really want to focus on, is how you can use these amazing affirmation cards in the classroom to help you build resilient, confident students!
What are Growing Minds Affirmation Cards?
Growing Minds Affirmation and Encouragement Cards are a set of 16 x A6 sized (10x15cm) affirmation cards aimed at children aged 7-12 years old. They were created by Positive Mind Open Heart founder, Kellie Suffell, with the goal of building resilience and self esteem in children and promoting positive self talk.
Kellie was inspired to create her own affirmation cards when she was unable to find any that resonated with her 3 young sons. She says, “I wanted a way to encourage them all to reach their full potential, a way to encourage them to find emotional strength. But I couldn’t find any affirmation cards that weren’t overly “girly”. And I knew if I wanted my boys to take notice, the affirmations needed to be in a language they could easily process, while still being thought provoking and aesthetically pleasing for them.” So she created her own! Pretty clever, huh?!
Why we love them
These cards focus on important topics like kindness, friendship, and self confidence. They have a distinct growth mindset flavour with affirmations like, “Recognising my mistakes is a sign I am growing and learning”, “My challenges help me grow”, and “I am allowed to make mistakes”.
They also touch on topics like the link between feelings and thoughts, and learning to manage emotions. This makes them a fantastic learning tool and a fun, non confrontational way to open up an honest dialogue with your children about their emotions.
How we use them
My kids love to choose a card each night before they go to bed. They choose one that they feel really speaks to them and we talk about it together as part of our bedtime routine. We talk about why they chose the card and I ask them for examples of how they demonstrated the quality on the card during the day. It is this discussion that is particularly valuable when it comes to incorporating the affirmation into their own belief system.
And Kellie agrees: “I encourage this age group to display them on our timber stands on their bedside table. They can turn a new card over every few days or each week and read it to themselves. I encourage my boys to come and tell me about the card they have read, what they think it means, how they feel they can implement that phrase or affirmation in their day. Sometimes I slip a card into my boys school bag or lunch box as some gentle words of encouragement, to use their words kindly and to be a good friend.”
Using affirmation cards at school
Now these cards are great to use at home of course, and that’s where we use them ourselves. But they are also a valuable and powerful tool for nurturing social/emotional skills in the classroom – particularly with their growth mindset focus!
And, in August 2019, Positive Mind Open Heart affirmation cards began to be distributed to schools – something Kellie is very excited about! She says, “Affirmations encourage positive intention setting, address the issue of bullying and encourage kindness amongst your peer group. They are great for circle time and journal sessions. It has been encouraging to see their introduction into the private and public education sectors.”
I happen to agree. And I think it is so exciting to see schools embracing both the teaching of social/emotional skills, and the use of affirmations as a learning tool to facilitate it! Because as Kellie says, “If we educate our children from a young age to use the tools they already posses within themselves, this will enhance their ability to cope and adapt to negative life events with resilience and degree of positivity. I guess the question is….. how can this not benefit our children?”
So, affirmations cards in the classroom = good! But how do you use them?
Here are 5 ideas for using affirmation cards in the classroom:
1. Hang them up
These affirmation cards are a great size for displaying in your classroom. Create a culture of kindness and positivity and encourage a growth mindset by displaying your affirmation cards around the room. Put them on your wall or bulletin board, or peg them onto some string to create a banner for the room.
Placing these visuals around the room is a great reminder for your students of your class values and expectations. It encourages positive behaviours and serves as a guide for your students when they encounter a difficulty or challenge.
2. Keep them in your calm down space
It’s no secret that I love a good calm down space, and believe that all homes and classrooms should have one. You can read more about setting up a calm down space in your classroom (and why you should!) here.
But in a nutshell, a calm down space is simply a dedicated area in your home or classroom where children can go to regulate their emotions and calm down when they feel upset or overwhelmed. And positive affirmations are a fantastic tool to keep in your space. Reading positive and supportive messages can help your child reframe their thinking and develop positive coping statements to help manage their emotional overwhelm.
3. Use them to set an intention for the day or week
Choose a card (and a message) to focus on for the week. This could be a value you want your kids to demonstrate, a skill you’re working on learning, or a behaviour you’re wanting to see more of. Choose a card at random, or use this as an opportunity to address a difficulty your class is facing.
Are your students dealing with some friendship dramas right now? You might like to focus on “Be the kind of friend you would like to have” or “I am responsible for the words I speak.”
Display your card somewhere your students can easily see it, and remind them of it frequently. Discuss what it means, what it looks like, how they have demonstrated the quality, and how they can continue to demonstrate the quality in their everyday interactions.
4. Use them as prompts for reflection or guided writing/journalling
Have students select affirmations that are meaningful or important to them. Then have them write a story, a journal entry or other reflection piece about why the affirmation is important and what it means to them. Ask them to provide examples of how it’s true (or not true) in their own lives.
This is a great way to help kids reflect on their achievements, strengths and personal values, and to internalise the affirmation so they can truly carry the belief with them as they grow.
5. Use them to acknowledge and encourage students
Present students with an affirmation card when you see them displaying the positive quality on the card. Did you notice a student being kind to her peer? Present her with “It’s cool to be kind”. Did you notice a student trying his absolute hardest? Present him with, “I am proud of myself for how hard I am trying.”
This will help your students feel seen, heard and valued, and also helps them to recognise and acknowledge their own achievements. Plus, when you remind them of situations and times when they have lived and experienced the affirmation, you’re helping them build up a bank of “evidence” that the affirmation is true. This makes them more likely to believe the affirmation and helps them build a more positive and healthy belief system.
I’d love to know if you use affirmation cards in the classroom. Feel free to comment below and let me know! And if you’d like to get a set of affirmation cards for your classroom, you can check out Kellie’s range, including her Little Minds, Teen Girl and Teen Boy sets, in the Mindful Little Minds Marketplace. She’s even added a special pack designed just for use in the classroom which contains 20 double sided affirmation cards – one for each week of the school year! You can find them here.
Sarah is a psychologist, mama of 4 and the creator of Mindful Little Minds. She has over 10 years of experience working with children, adolescents and families experiencing mental health problems and has a special interest in anxiety disorders in children. In her spare time she enjoys hugging her kids, drinking coffee, and telling anyone who’ll listen how tired she is.