Conversation Skills

By Activity Bank on Jun 28, 2013

This activity has been revised and was originally created by Charlotte Cushman and published in the Perkins Activity and Resource Guide (1st edition, 1992).  The second edition is available for purchase.

It’s important for students to learn to communicate with others, for social as well as functional reasons. This activity is designed to help students improve their expressive language skills, and to engage in appropriate social conversation. Lessons include English Language Arts, Social Skills, and Independent Living.


None required


  • Tell students that a conversation is when two or more people talk about a subject in which they are interested. A conversation should include give and take. Discuss how to begin, maintain and end a conversation. Emphasize the value of each person’s opinion.
  • Create a list of topics of general interest, such as families, music, hobbies, pets, special events or outings, school, sports, favorite movies, television shows or food.
  • Have students choose a topic they would like to discuss. Suggest that they choose something that they think would interest other people too.
  • Help each student to formulate three to five questions pertaining to their topic: “What do you like to do after school?” “Do you like to play outside?” “Do you like to watch television?” Encourage students to think about what their own answers would be.
  • Split up into small groups (preferably groups of two). Begin with one topic. Cathy asks Tom, “What do you like to do after school?” Tom replies, “I like to listen to the radio. What do you like to do, Cathy?” Supervise to be sure that neither student dominates the conversation.
  • Have students report back to the group or teacher about what the other person said. Stress the importance of paying attention to the other person’s response.


  • Increase the complexity of the topics. Introduce abstract topics and continue to exchange ideas and opinions on a variety of topics. Talk about values and emotions – fears, wishes.
  • Have students practice conversation skills on the telephone.
  • Practice interview skills. Have students take turns interviewing each other and then ask them to interview people around the school. This can be done for the school newspaper or to practice job interview skills.

Hint: Students can practice their conversation skills in natural settings – during snack time, break time, or lunchtime. Encourage students to engage in spontaneous conversations about their weekends, for example.