Kate’s Corner
Nov 19 2015

  The Power of Conversation

How many conversations are you in during your work day?  Now add after work; family, friends, shopping, meetings, play and just hanging around.  That is a lot of talking and I bet you are good at it.

Your word count is astonishing.  You have thousands of words in your head but instantly choose the ones to find out about snow plowing plans for winter, the ingredients for chicken dip soup, describe the latest Bill’s game or make your little one laugh or comfort their fears.  And you are good at it.

The tone and volume of your voice changes constantly to send messages and mirror your thoughts and ideas.  Not only can you modify and monitor your own voice, you understand tone and volume messages in others.  This is a critical communication skill. And you are good at it.

The Oxford Dictionary defines conversation (noun) as; A talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged. I’m not one to disagree with Oxford, but I think conversation is more than a noun – a label.  I think it is also a verb – an action word.  There are very clear actions going on when we are in a conversation  – we look then speak, listen and wait, speak, listen and wait … it is engaging, often animated, causes high response and leaves you wanting more.

Roberta Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, research psychologists and experts in early learning, identified conversation and word knowledge as powerful priority skill.  Their work concentrates on engaged conversation  no matter where it occurs, noting it is not just the quantity of words kids hear that makes a difference in language acquisition ; words that build vocabulary have specific meaning, are labels as well as words critical for inquiry, but also the quality of the conversation that creates powerful learning for children; such as high eye contact when talking, close proximity, clear speak and listen turn taking, and the  message in words &actions match and are clear .

Teach children all of your skills.  Model and include them in active, engaged conversations.  Be interesting, fun and animated when talking with your children.  Listen very carefully to them and celebrate this amazing ability that will build their cognitive / thinking skills as well as open doors to friendships.    Using questions is easy and successful for children but instead of a “closed question”, which has a yes/no or one word answer that closes down continued talking, use “open ended questions” that will create fun paths to extend & build vocabulary and conversation skills.

The holidays are the perfect time to really concentrate on conversation!

  • Open conversations in the produce aisle at the supermarket.                                                                 Closed question:  “Is this squash yellow?”                                                                                                         Open ended question:    “Wow this is a heavy, yellow squash.  Hmmm wonder how we can cook it and what do you think we will need?”  And the conversation begins.
  • While shopping.                                                                                                                                                         Closed question:  “Should we get daddy a blue or green sweatshirt?”                                                         Open ended question:    “Whoa!  Look at all of these sweatshirts.   These are really cool, let’s talk    about all the things daddy likes.  How do we know which sweatshirt is perfect?  And the  conversation begins.
  • While taking a walk.                                                                                                                                               Closed question:  “Are you warm?”                                                                                                                     Open ended question:  “I love these snuggly coats.  Who else do you think has comfy coats?  Hey, I think squirrels have cozy coats!  And the conversation begins.

Give your children the “gift of gab” this holiday season.   It’s the gift that lasts a lifetime!