Sharing the Road – Roadmap for Conversation Skills (Part 3)

We promised more on conversational skills…

Once the student understands the visual template of the conversational road, with the Question and Comments on my side, and the Answers on his side of the road, I discuss how the “awkward silence” is there because he didn’t yet take over the control-car.  I explain that, often well-meaning adults will fill in the awkwardness by asking endless questions. In my practice, most students recognize that this happens to them. They want to understand what can be done to avoid this, as it is not particularly enjoyable.  The next part of our intervention focuses on analyzing conversations which do not have awkward silences.  

I explain (or we watch film clips and analyze them together) that “good
conversationalists” tend to have a sense of a balanced, fair
conversation.  We start with the formula of each person engaging in one round each of Question, Answer, Comment-Question.  Although this is a basic, almost “formulaic”
approach, it allows the student to learn a foundation upon which more complex
and deep conversations can occur (conversations that include expansion and sharing deeper information.)  I find this initial step requires much
practice, before the more nuanced work can begin.  We look at a basic,
“good conversation” and analyze what is happening.  We discuss
who is saying what, who is moving the conversation forward, who is
“driving” and who is responding/going along for the ride.  

initiator will ask a series of questions, and make polite comments for about
three turns, then he/she just senses it is time to allow the other person to
“take the wheel.”  The clued-in conversational partner will
often switch to the role of asking questions about the first person’s interest,
making comments.  For example:

A: How was your weekend?
     B: Good, I watched a great
A: Cool, what was it?
    B: Captain America.
A: I saw that!  What was your favorite part?
    B: I really liked the fight
scenes–the part where he saves his old friend was pretty cool.
A: Yeah, the special effects were awesome. 
Who did you go with?
   B: John and Brian.
A: Sounds fun.
    B: Did you do anything fun this
A: Nah, not really.  I had to help my mom
clean the basement.
    B: Man, that stinks.  How
long did you have to help?
A: All day Saturday.  At least I earned some
money helping.
    B: Seriously!  All I did
was spend money this weekend.  Are you going to get to do something this
A: I don’t have plans, you want to come over? 
I got a cool new game.
    B: Yeah, let me ask my mom…I
gotta go, talk to ya later.
A: Okay, see ya.

is not unusual for students with social-pragmatic deficits to have
difficulty asking questions when they are not truly interested in the
topic at hand, and students with language impairments may find sentence
formulation difficult, so we must practice these skills overtly.  We
brainstorm and write down a list of Wh-questions:

who, what, when, where, why, how, how much, how many…

we extensively practice various questions that would keep our conversation/drive going
in a common direction without whiplash and without closing the road.  We practice this on a variety of topics, such as past or future vacations, weeks, weekends, events etc.

week, I will share the next phase–going deeper by asking questions AND sharing.