Monday, May 30, 2011

Social Skills: Conversation

In Michelle Winner's books, Think Social, A Social Thinking Curriculum and Thinking of You, Thinking of Me, she has some nice suggestions for helping develop conversational skills. 

I have used this section of her curriculum once with my teenage boys group.  My suggestion for those of you who have not covered this unit yet would be to read over the information in both of the books and try to digest it.  Then I would implement the curriculum as outlined in the Think Social book.  After this is done, the conversations unit will need to be continually practiced in each session in the context of group discussions, games, etc.

One of Ms. Winner's suggestions is to use strips of paper stating the various parts of conversation needing practice: Questioning, Commenting, etc.  She also suggested slips that denote conversation stoppers such as interrupting.  These slips take the place of the sticks or marbles in the "thoughts" section; the conversation strips are earned to reward the student for using that particular form (or to train them to use specific conversational forms) and the stoppers are handed out to alert them of their bloopers.  Since I love visuals with pictures I made the following cards printed and laminated to indicate these conversation bloopers.  I wanted them to be humorous so that getting them would be a light moment to say "oops" instead of an embarrassing reprimand.

Silence:  Failing to say anything or saying too little as in, "yeah", are conversation stoppers.
WTC:  Not staying on topic with the thread of conversation.
TMI:  Talking too much, too long, or all the time.  Giving too many details until everyone's eyes glaze over.
Rude Interruptions:  The interruptions can be verbally butting in or I also dispense this card when someone is not paying attention to the speaker but is fidgeting or engaging in horseplay. 

Conversation Stoppers PDF

Here is something I made on Boardmaker years ago to address staying on topic.  It consists of a series of bubbles of 2 colors; one color for each speaker.  The first bubble starts the conversation with a comment or question.  The next bubble must bear some relationship to the first bubble in the form of a comment or question.  Each subsequent bubble must follow a thread of the bubble preceding it.  I tell the child that anything they say in their bubble must pick up on at least one word or idea from the comment/bubble before it.  It can be interesting to see where a topic leads.

Conversation Bubble Example 1
Conversation Bubble Example 2
Conversation Bubble Thread Template

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