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Using Holiday Conversations to Build Lifelong Skills
Using Holiday Conversations to Build Lifelong Skills
Kim Papastavridis, Director of Language and Literacy

Using Holiday Conversations to Build Lifelong Skills

Using holiday conversations as a time to engage in longer discourse is a step toward holding more ideas in mind, enjoying each other's personalities, and breaking free from electronics.

Many parents say that getting a few words about their child's day is like squeezing blood from a turnip. Well, they don't exactly quote that quaint folk phrase, but getting details from a tired child who wants a lifelong break from language can be tough.

Here are some tips to help build communication, perfect for practicing on those long rides home or at the holiday table:

  • Ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions. Instead of, "Do I need to take you to get materials for your project?" ask, "What is the best way to get your project started?"
  • Start the conversation by telling your child what YOU learned today. Ask your child what s/he thinks about it.
  • Say, "I want to ask your opinion about something." This sets a listening frame of mind.
  • Make deliberately outrageous or silly statements that your child has to refute.
  • Talk about friends' qualities. "Who is the most responsible person in your class? The kindest? Why do you think so?"
  • Ask opinions about things not having to do directly with this school. "I heard that some schools are doing away with student desks. What do you think about that?"
  • Ask a question you want each person at the table to answer. Use a conversation starter and take turns. "You should always start a meal with dessert because..."

Even talkative magpies can refine their conversational skills. Many children invest their energies into talking or questioning, at the expense of listening to responses. Here are some tips to help with listening:

  • Make sure everyone present has a turn. Require the listener to incorporate what the last person said into their contribution. "I agree with what you said about needing storage space, but I think that a classroom would be more fun without desks."
  • Model qualifying phrases during a dispute. "I respectfully disagree..." "I'm good with that so long as..." and my all-time favorite, "Permit me to doubt."

With the start to the holiday season upon us, it's good to remember that children learn to talk by talking.

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