You’ve just come home from a bad day at work. All you want to do is talk about what happened with someone, to get a different perspective and maybe even some advice. You start talking, but this happens:
Isn’t it frustrating when you are trying to talk with someone and they aren’t listening? Listening and responding on topic during a conversation is a skill our kids need to practice and learn. Here are two fun ways I’ve tried with success. You can do these activities with groups of kids, or pairs of kids. If you are working with a child one on one, get involved and practice the conversations with them.
Talk About Your Favorite Things
So many times kids want to talk about something they love, but it’s not always the right time. In the middle of science class is not the time to start talking about your Pokemon card collection.
I’ve done this activity with groups before, and it never ceases to amaze me how their faces light up when I say “I want you to talk about Minecraft with each other”.
This activity is designed to give kids the opportunity to talk about something they enjoy and practice having a conversation at the same time.
1. Have them generate a list of their favorite topics. For example, some topics might be:
- My Little Pony
- Doctor Who
- Star Wars
2. Break the group down into pairs. Each person in the pair picks one topic they’re going to talk about. The pair decides who is going to be the first person to talk.
3. Review the basics of what’s expected in a good conversation.
- Conversations are not two people taking turns saying unrelated sentences.
- There needs to be a back and forth of questions and/or comments on one topic.
- If you get stuck, ask a follow up question. They can always ask a "W" question (who, what, when, where, why)
- Topic changes are allowed and expected in conversations, but if it happens abruptly, it can feel awkward. If you want to change the topic, wait for a break in the conversation. You can use phrases like: that reminds me… or that makes me think of...
4. Set a timer for 5-10 minutes, and have them focus on the conversation topic that the first person decided on. Once the time is up, switch who starts the conversation and set the timer again.
Interview each other
Maybe there needs to be more structure around practice talking back and forth. Use the interview questions below as a starting point for practicing asking a question and then asking a follow up.
- Divide into pairs and each person takes one card.
- Figure out who is going to ask the questions first (Child 1). Once you figure that out, then Child 1 asks Child 2 the first question
- Child 2 listens and responds.
- Once Child 2 answering has finished, then Child 2 asks Child 1 “what about you?” or “what’s your answer?”
- Then the kids switch roles.
This helps kids practice listening and talking, plus they get to know each other a little better.