Communicating with peers isn’t always an easy thing for children to do. Some children struggle to hold meaningful conversations with others due to language barriers, delayed social development or a simple case of shyness. Provide language-based activities to guide conversation and foster communication between kids in amusing, educational and interesting ways.
Reading circles are part of a common strategy that teachers use in the English classroom to promote literacy and spark discussion about books. They are easy to adapt for home use -- simply provide each child with a copy of a book or short story, and designate a “specialist” role to each child to facilitate conversation about the reading. Specialist roles might include “fact finder,” “question maker,” “description explorer” and “character biographer.” Instruct the children to take turns reading a section of text aloud, and, once they finish the reading, encourage each specialist to contribute an observation or idea about the reading, based on her specific role. The description explorer, for example, might recall the colors of items or smells experienced by characters in the story, while the question maker’s job is to pose questions to the other kids that the story leaves unexplored.
Object Box Activity
The Object Box activity only requires a shoebox and a few household items to spark verbal interaction among a group of children. Cut a hole in the shoebox lid large enough for children’s hands to fit through. Fill the box with ordinary items, such as a washcloth, a few grapes, a hairbrush or a small spice jar. Everyone takes turns reaching into the box and describing what he feels as the others try to guess what the object is. The activity promotes descriptive conversation skills and cooperative communication between children.
Role-play activities encourage imagination and enable pairs of children to communicate with each other in unusual or extraordinary ways. Instruct one child to take on the persona of a rock star or famous actor, and assign a reporter or interviewer role the other child. The interviewer must think of and ask relevant questions to the celebrity, who must imagine and communicate appropriate answers to the questions. Make the game a little more challenging and promote creative thinking skills by assigning unique or unusual roles. For example, make one child a shark, and assign the other child the role of a tuna. Encourage the pair to imagine how a conversation between the two might go.
It only takes a bit of creativity and imagination to think up a verbal game to promote communication between children. Give a group of kids a deck of playing cards and create a quick reference list that states a different category that each suit represents. Ensure that the four categories are age-appropriate and broad enough to spark conversation -- relevant categories for elementary school children, for example, might include “favorite memory,” “things I can do all by myself” and “funny things my mom does,” while categories for teens might include “embarrassing moments” and “the best dream I ever had.” Instruct the kids to take turns drawing from the deck of cards and then contributing a personal anecdote to group discussion, based on the suit category. Another idea is to play 21 questions. Provide kids with a list of imaginative, thought-provoking questions to ask each other, such as “If you were stranded on an island, which three items would you want to have with you?” or “If you had to be an animal for a day, which one would you be and why?” Avoid yes/no or one-word questions to facilitate conversation.
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