Teaching conversation skills to teens can be a challenge. Teens who are used to texting, instant messaging, and social networking may not always have the communication skills necessary for college or the workplace. English language arts and public speaking teachers use games as part of their overall communication curriculum. Using similar games with your teens and their friends can help them have fun while learning even more about the importance of good conversation.
Yes and No
The Yes and No game helps teens learn to use other words to answer questions without saying the words "yes" and "no." Forcing teens to search their minds for other words to convey meaning helps them realize how much more they have to offer in a conversation. Begin the game by placing one teen on a chair in the center of the group. The other students in the group ask the teen in the chair questions, and the teen is not allowed to say "yes" or "no" in his or her answers. When the person in the chair makes a mistake and uses one of those words, he or she must leave the chair, and the next person takes a turn. Repeat this until each teen in the circle has had a chance in the chair.
The One-Minute Speak game is a fun activity for small groups. Have a list of subjects ready that teens might like to talk about -- such as sports, movie stars, animals and music -- and choose one person in the group to begin talking. If that person hesitates, repeats a word, stops or has to think what to say next, another person in the group can say, "hesitation," "error," or "repeat" and take over the conversation. Pay attention that the takeover is legitimate. Whoever is left talking at the end of one minute wins the game.
An important part of quality conversation is the ability to make others believe what you say is true. The dictionary game helps teens practice the power of persuasion by trying to convince others that the definition for a word they have chosen is true. Have the first player choose a word from the dictionary that is little known or obscure. That person then makes up a definition or shares the real definition with the group. The definition has to be completely true or completely false. Have the other teens in the group ask questions about the word and then vote on whether the definition given is true or false. The person with the dictionary gets one point for every person who is deceived. The teen with the most points at the end of the game wins.
Quality conversation is as much about word choice as it is about the quantity of words spoken between two people. The Phrase-Word-Charade game get teens interacting in conversation in three ways: phrases, word choices and body language. Each person in the group writes down three nouns on three small pieces of paper and places them in a bowl. Make a large circle and divide into two teams by counting off. The first player chooses a piece of paper and then proceeds to use phrases to convey the meaning without using the word itself while his or her team members try to guess. After each correct guess, the player chooses another word until time runs out at 45 seconds. When each person has had a turn, count the points from that round and place papers back in the bowl. For the second round, players choose words out of the bowl but only use one-word clues to convey the meaning to team members. For the third round, players can only use charades to convey the meaning of the words they choose out of the bowl. At the end of three rounds, count up all the points to see which team wins.