Saturday, January 21, 2012

Social Skills: The Question Game

As a teacher, I work all day with very challenging students. Many of my students have special needs including behavioral needs. I also work with a range of regular education students and English as a Second Language students. No matter the background of the student, I am finding that they all need some basic instruction in how to have a conversation with an adult or another kid.

The game is great for introverted children because it teaches them how to engage in a conversation. The game is also effective for extroverted children because it teaches them not to dominate a conversation.

The Question Game is a social skill game that I made up. Kids love the game, and it teaches kids how to have equal conversations with adults and other children. Here is the structure of the game.


The youngest person gets to decide who is person A and who is person B.
  • Person A asks the other person a personal question.
  • Person B responds in 2 to 3 sentences.
  • Person B asks person A a question.
  • Person A responds in 2 to 3 sentences. 
  • Round 1 is complete and you repeat again for round 2.
The game is really this simple. It is amazing, though, how powerful the game is. I play this with my 3 year old and have played it with a college age English as a Second Language student. I play this game daily with my students at the end of class.

Here is a sample round:

A: What is your favorite color and why?
B: My favorite color is green. I like it because trees and green and I like trees.
B: What is your favorite color?
A: I like red best. I like it because it is bright and lively.
A: What did you like about recess today?

 Problems and solutions:

The child says a one word response. 
 A child saying a one word response could be doing this for a number of reasons. It is possible your child feels awkward  trying something new. It is also possible your child doesn't know what to say. For both of those problems some general coaching will help.

On the other hand, it is possible your child does not want to play the game. In that case, I would acknowledge that the child is not interested and drop the game for the time being. I would, though, make a point of playing the game (and having a lot of fun while doing it) with another adult in front of the child.

One word responses sample

A: What color do you like?
B: My favorite color is green. I like it because trees and green and I like trees.
B: What is your favorite color?
A: Red ( long pause)
B: I like red because . . . (roll hands to let your child to know to keep on talking)
A: continues to pause
B: because it's pretty? lively? the color of my shirt
A: because it is the color of my shirt.
B: good job. Now it is your turn for a question. You could ask me about food I like.


Your child does not know what questions to ask
 This is a very easy problem to solve. You can write out a list of questions that your child can ask you. Here are some sample questions:

  • What was a favorite part of your ____? (day, recess, movie, book, school etc.)
  • What was the least favorite part of your ____? (day, recess, movie, book, school etc.)
  • What do you like most about _____? (our house, your bedroom, church, your work, the weekend, reading)
  • What is your favorite ______? (type of car, video game, movie, book, color, food, thing to do outside when it is sunny, thing to do on a rainy day)
My son almost always starts the game by asking about the best part of my day. This is an easy way for him to start the game, and I am modeling how I would like him to respond when he tells me about his day.

Your child will not stop talking
 Instead of talking for 2 to 3 sentences your child goes on and on. Maybe they are young enough they don't know what a sentence is or are just so excited they want to tell you the whole story. Of course, there is a place for your child telling you the whole story, but not in the question game. This is a social skills game. The point of the game for a talkative child is to learn to share the air space!

Here is one thing I do - I let the child know that every "and then" counts as a sentence. After I ask the question, I hold up three fingers. This lets them know that they have 3 sentences. Each time the child says something that is a sentence or says "and then"

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