A guide for how to use affective language effectively


One of the building blocks of a restorative practices model is the use of affective language. Remember, restorative practices are built around the idea that students (and people more broadly) thrive when they are provided with both high expectations and high support. Classroom management processes built around these principles feature non-punitive ways to keep students engaged and to respond to misbehavior.

Affective language allows teachers to foster a classroom environment where everyone is respected and humanized. Basically, affective language is a form of communication that emphasizes the connections between students’ actions and the feelings of others. It generally takes the form of I-statements, and offers a precise description of the student’s behavior and its emotional impact on other members of the classroom community. For example,

“I feel frustrated when you have side conversations when I’m trying to explain this concept.” or

“I am delighted to see you helping each other understand the material.”

This resource from the Student, Family, and Community Support Department of San Francisco USD contains helpful pointers about how to craft affective language effectively. It may seem unnatural at first, but as it becomes second nature it establishes a norm of emotional expression and interconnectivity that contributes to feelings of classroom belonging.