Sparking Conversation in Teletherapy Social Groups
The scene is all too familiar for Speech Language Pathologists everywhere. It’s Monday and you greet your social language group by asking an appropriate weekend recap question to get the conversation rolling. “What did you do this weekend?” Crickets. No one bites.
Have you been there? Yeah, me too. Well, guess what? Teletherapists aren’t immune to feeling like they're pulling teeth to engage students in social groups sometimes. However, there are many activities that will get your students talking and interacting. Activities that work for teletherapy.... or you know, those days when the printer is on the fritz, if you see your students face-to-face.
One of my favorite activities to practice taking follow-up conversational turns is this simple game where students try to be the first to make their "path" of connected circles reach the other side of the board. On their turn, each student uses one of the phrases in a circle to formulate a question to ask a peer. If the peer answers 'yes', the student marks the circle and is encouraged to think of a related follow up comment or question to show interest and get more information. If the peer answers 'no', the student can identify a different question to ask. It's a perfect game for the beginning of the year when you want your students to get to know each other, but you know better than to try a lame icebreaker activity.
Another great way to get students talking about funny topics is this Boom Cards activity, which asks hypothetical questions and gives 3 provided choices. The questions spark students to discuss silly scenarios and justify their answers. The questions are about current and relatable topics, which can bring even your most reserved student out of their shell!
I've used YouTube clips of the Epic or Fail? segment of The Ellen DeGeneres Show to target several goals in speech therapy, but these videos are perfect for eliciting conversation. Not only do they provide a shared context of humor, but they prompt students to appropriately share their opinion on what they thought would happen or should have happened. Most teletherapy platforms don't allow the audio of your shared screen to be heard by the students, but I think that's a bonus in this case! You can easily focus on the nonverbal communication of the people in the situations, as well hear each other's comments while the video is playing.
Oh, and FYI- I've created this Epic or Fail video companion and added it to the freebie library for my email subscribers. Click here to check it out!
I saved the best for (almost) last. This interactive PDF contains over 100 poll questions for lighthearted, high interest topics. Kids can't help but share their opinions and answers (which works out really well for those students working on perspective taking and/or accepting the opinions of others). You can click right on the PDF to tally the "votes" of those in the group.... or even poll other students or staff around the school. Bonus- it even has an index of pages containing specific speech sounds for those all too familiar mixed groups!
And finally, do you know those email forwards with a subject line like, "The Most Jaw-Dropping Photographs of the Decade"? Well don't automatically swipe and delete those (unless it's spam)! Those emails can be a great "warm up" for social groups! Interesting photos can prompt students to make connections to something they know about or have experienced. But you haven't kept a folder of email forwards? No fear, the National Geographic website has galleries of cool photographs, many relevant to current events in the world.
While I can't promise your next adolescent social skills group won't have moments of painful silence, I hope you'll try some of these activities to get your students chatting. And if you're still looking for more social group activities for teletherapy, check out a couple more relevant blog posts: