Road Map for Conversational Skills

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Last
week I shared the importance of learning the “art” or
“dance” of conversation. By expanding vocabulary for emotions,
students can more accurately convey how they are feeling, which is very helpful
for peer negotiations, communicating with teachers, therapists and parents.

Another
skill that should be overtly taught to students who don’t naturally
“get” conversation, is how turns work and how to keep the
conversation balanced. This week I’ll share the “Road Analogy” and
how I introduce it to students. Over the next couple of weeks, I will expand on
this method.
One
person chooses a topic (usually I choose, and focus on the student’s interest
first) See Figure A.

If
we are on the same road, neither of us will suddenly leave the road, we will be
on the same topic, heading in the same direction. If the student suddenly
changes topic, I can use the metaphor of getting whiplash, drawing a sharp exit
from the main road. Neither of us will hog the road (talk too much) or randomly
park in the
middle of the road (provide too little information.) The first lesson may look
something like this:
1)
I ask John a question like, “How was your weekend?”

2) He answers,
“good.”

3) I draw a “Road Closed” sign, and let him feel
the discomfort that exists because he didn’t move his car along the road, but
shut the conversation down inadvertently. (Many adults meet the student 99% of
the way, asking a multitude of questions, which is not at all a balanced
conversation. By doing this, the student doesn’t experience the natural
consequence of slight discomfort when they fail to “do their part” in
the conversation.   See Figure B.