Monday, November 11, 2013

Conversation Breakdown

Ahhhh....pragmatic language skills....I'm teaching my older students about conversational breakdowns. So far, I've covered the basics of what a conversation is, the jobs of the speaker & listener, and body language. It amazes me that we are already two months into this venture and it's just now time for the real "fun" to begin.

Lesson #1 of my first lesson on conversational breakdowns- Don't compare it to a car breaking down on the side of the road. 5th graders will take this as a great opportunity to side-track the conversation to debate on the make & model of the car. Is it a car? What about a truck? What about a monster truck? Well, I'll be driving a motorcycle. you mean the engine blew up or the tire went flat? (It is also likely that they will think your drawing looks more like a hover-car than a car.) Four prompts later and we were mostly back on track.....

Lesson #2- Fast forward to giving them a different example through a potential conversational topic--- A little brother wanting to play a video game with his sister. It is a good idea to know the type of video game system and game ahead of time. Otherwise, 5th grade students will take this as another great opportunity to side-track the conversation. Two prompts later and we got back on track.....

Lesson #3- It's not a good idea to introduce a new concept to students after half-a-day of benchmark testing. 

So, yes, my friends....the first day of this topic was not as successful as I wanted it to be. I should have known better given the general wildness of my students post-benchmarks the past two years. I was really being overly optimistic about this year's bunch as they've accomplished a good amount already this year. However, there are days when sessions will be less than perfect. It's life and part of dealing with changes to our routines.We'll be reviewing the whole lesson again this week with new drawings. The computer example really struck a cord with my students so that's what I'm going to stick with for now. 

 The computer images are to describe how they feel at any point in conversations. They can simply point to them or hold them up. The keyboard pieces/Word processor features represent different options they can choose to repair the breakdown. (I found the strategies from this site to be helpful in breaking down what I want to cover.)

1. Backspace- Rephrase what they just said.
2. Dot dot dot- Pause for the listener to either question or insert (fill-in) a comment.
3. Spell check-self-correction
4. Thesaurus- circumlocution with synonyms with listener figuring out the right word

I like Jill Kuzma's advice for conversational skills. I think that her advice on how to keep track of conversational progress makes life so much easier. Grab your copy of my Conversation Breakdown posters here.


  1. Great post and I love how honest you are about sessions. Sometimes they don't go as planned! I love your idea of using computers to explain about Converstation Breakdowns. I have downloaded a copy and will be using it with some of my groups. Funny, my students present with similar characteristics... ;)

    1. Thanks, Beverly. I think it is important to admit that sessions can go much differently than planned. I know the SLP blogging world can give off the impression of super talented clinicians with perfect therapy sessions every day. That's just not me. I like to look back at my posts and see what I've been able to learn.
      I hope your students will enjoy the computer pictures and make personal connections to the activity. It was a big hit in my room, which was a huge relief after the car fiasco. :)