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  • Writer's pictureStacy Crouse

Teletherapy Social Language Activities that Spark Real Conversations

The scene is all too familiar in speech therapy rooms everywhere. An SLP greets students in a social language group by asking an open-ended question to get the conversation rolling. “What did you do this weekend?” Crickets. No one bites.

Have you been there? Same, same. Teletherapists definitely aren’t immune to also feeling like they're sometimes pulling teeth to engage students in virtual social group activities and conversations. So let's explore some ways to get your students (willingly) initiating and interacting, and therefore working on their pragmatic language goals.

Incorporate students' personal interests and experiences.

As you know, students (and people in general) are more likely to engage in topics that are relevant to them. One of my favorite conversation practice activities is a simple game in which students try to be the first to make their "path" of connected circles reach the other side of the board. On each turn, a student fills a circle by asking or commenting about a topic to create their route.

Conversation practice game for teletherapy with older students working on pragmatic goals

It's a structured way to facilitate real conversations and utilize several strategies for working with older students such as incorporating topics of interest and game elements. Various versions of this activity help you break the ice with new students, discuss weekend plans, or share about winter or summer break.

A scavenger hunt in teletherapy is a creative way to get students to share about themselves. Students gather everyday items from around their home or school (ideally before the session). Then they talk about the objects with group members, which definitely elicits some stories! Seasonally-themed scavenger hunts are a great way to integrate themes in teletherapy, too!

Teletherapy scavenger hunt social language activity for speech therapy

Encourage students to share their opinions.

Posing questions that invite students to react or give their opinion on a specific topic is another useful method for increasing participation. For example, YouTube clips of the Epic or Fail segment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show are also perfect for stimulating conversation.

Not only do the videos provide a shared, humorous context, but they promote students to give their predictions on what they thought would happen or should have happened. Email subscribers can download a free Epic or Fail video companion to track students' responses!

targeting conversation skills in teletherapy using videos

Just a note if your teletherapy platform doesn't support audio of your shared screen (to be heard by the students)– no problem! You'll be able to focus on the nonverbal communication of the people in the situations... and hear group members' comments while the video is playing.

Many students love to share their opinions on high-interest topics... like food! This set of 100 interactive poll questions provides an organized and visually appealing way to do so.

poll questions for conversation and social skills in teletherapy

Your students will love expressing their opinions on these lighthearted matters. The activity works really well for those working on perspective taking and/or accepting the opinions of others. Click directly on the PDF to tally the "votes" and use the index of pages to identify poll questions that contain specific speech sounds for your mixed groups!

Use activities that call for interpretation.

Lastly, try presenting videos or pictures that your students cannot resist commenting on. As you've probably seen yourself, there are tons of hilarious videos on the web that are amusing to kids of all ages. Of course, you'll need to screen them first, but searching "funny videos" on YouTube Kids or TikTok will give you thousands of options. This post on We Are Teachers has several great ones too!

Interesting photos can prompt students to make connections to something they know about or have experienced, which will make them more likely to chime in. The National Geographic website has galleries of cool photographs, many relevant to current events in the world.

The New York Times hosts a site called "What's Going On in This Picture?" whose purpose is to invite students to discuss captionless photos from around the world. The images encourage critical thinking for older students, and new ones are posted weekly.

Sometimes, the physical distance between students in a teletherapy social group may discourage participation. But activities that welcome students to share their specific interests, opinions, and viewpoints can make speech therapy sessions smoother by spurring real conversation among group members. Get even more social group activities for teletherapy from Donna at Badger State Speechy!

Originally published 4/4/2020. Updated 10/17/2023.

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