Conversation is interactive oral communication between two or more people. The development of conversational skills and etiquette is an important part of socialization. Conversation covers a lot of territories, and can include any unscripted communication between two or more people.
We start learning turn-taking rules as small children, and over time, we absorb shared expectations of social conversations (chit chat, hanging out), everyday conversations (discussions, becoming acquainted), and important conversations (confessions, confrontations).
Why Do Children Need To Have Good Conversational Skills?
The ability to communicate effectively is a very important skill in our socially dynamic world. The better we are at it, the better our quality of life will be. As a child develops, it is important we nurture their communication skills so they are capable of expressing themselves, clearly and confidently, in all aspects and areas of their life.
A child who is good at communicating verbally will find it easier to produce written communications, and thus will likely perform better in school. Likewise, a child who is good at communicating verbally will interpret what they read more accurately, helping them in all areas of academics.
Looking to their future, being able to communicate with employers, co-workers, relationship partners, community workers, etc. is crucial. Good communication skills are listed amongst the most desirable skills for success in life and can sometimes be the deciding factor on whether or not someone gets a job, makes or keeps a friend/relationship, or gets what they need from community workers.
Being able to express your wants and needs, and engage socially with others, is a very important skill to have from childhood, all the way through life.
Like any skill, communication skills can be developed and refined with practice, but by helping develop good communication skills in a child from their youth, you are equipping them straight away with the skills to build a successful future.
What Happens If Children Do Not Have Good Conversational Skills?
Language is the vehicle for learning. It is the means by which teachers teach and children learn. Imagine trying to learn and understand new information without the ability to listen, understand and talk.
Children with speech and language needs are at high risk of difficulties with reading, writing, and spelling. If children can’t say words, they will be more likely to have difficulties in ‘sounding out’ words for reading and spelling, or writing them down. If children can’t understand the words they hear, they will struggle to understand what they have read.
Children with communication difficulties are more likely to have behavior difficulties. Many children with identified behavior needs have previously unidentified speech, language and communication needs. Imagine the frustration of not getting your message across.
Friendships are incredibly important for children. Making and keeping friends is difficult if you have poor communication skills. Children often choose friends who are good at communicating, so children with difficulties are doubly disadvantaged
Self-esteem and confidence are affected. Children with communication needs often see themselves as less able and less popular than their friends. Young people identify good communication skills as important for feeling confident.
Strategies/ Tips For Improving Conversational Skills
Make It Real and Relevant
Just like you enjoy talking about things that interest you, so does your child, so engage her in conversation topics that relate to her daily activities. For example, see playtime as an opportunity for discussion. Ask your student about what her dolls are doing if she’s role-playing with them on the floor, or ask her how she could build the highest tower possible with her set of blocks. You also could ask your students about a movie, video game, or TV show they saw.
Encourage Listening Skills
Engaging in meaningful conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. Encourage your students to listen and pay attention by reading with them and asking them about details of the story. For example, after reading that a character in your students” book hid under the bed, check that your students were listening by saying: “Where did the boy hide?” When your students ask you a question and you provide an answer, occasionally check for listening and comprehension. Ask “What did you hear me say?”
Talk About Non-Verbal Cues
When it comes to understanding a conversation, nonverbal cues are important for getting what someone’s trying to say. Help your students understand facial expressions by asking about them. For example, if you’re reading a picture book, point to one of the characters and ask, “How do you think she feels right now? Why do you think she feels that way?” To help your students understand jokes, ask them what it means when someone says something that sounds serious while wearing a big smile.
Use Lots of Questions
Questions keep conversations going, so ask your students lots of them and encourage your students to ask questions. Favor open-ended questions, instead of questions with yes or no answers. You’ll get a more detailed response from a child. Get your students to ask each other question too. Make suggestions if a child struggles with initiating the conversation: “Why don’t you go ask that other little boy what game he’s playing in the sandbox? If you want to play too, you could always ask to join in.”
Be Familiar With Developmental Milestones
While most children develop conversation skills on their own when teachers offer opportunities, others may need extra help or explicit teaching to learn communication skills.
How Good Conversational Skills Help Friendships
Communication skills are the key to developing (and keeping) friendships and to building a strong social support network.
They also help you take care of your own needs while being respectful of the needs of others. People aren’t born with good communication skills; like any other skill, they are learned through trial and error and repeated practice.
Helping your students develop stronger conversational skills will help them significantly improve their social relationships with their peers.
Thanks So Much and Happy Teaching!
Cindy ~Socially Skilled Kids