Pragmatic Skills Series: Topic Initiation


We are constantly working with our students trying to get them to keep the conversation going.  For many students, starting the conversation can be challenging.  Many students require prompting in order to talk to their peers.  Whether it is working with a group on a project in class, sitting at lunch, or at a birthday party, students need to understand how to approach a peer for appropriate interactions.

Pragmatic Skills Series: Topic Initiation

One way I like to address this is through role playing.  I like to give students the topic and they must figure out a way to appropriately start it.  In my therapy room, we have worked together to create a script and then act it out.  Can the student walk over to another, tap them or call name to get their attention, and then introduce a topic?  It is important to understand that you may have to talk about something
that may not be interesting to them.  Once they have practiced my topics, I let them chose their own!

I have created a new product that is available at my TpT store!  It is called Conversation BINGO!

Conversation BINGO - Speech Time Fun

This file includes 5 BINGO boards and calling cards.  Skills addressed: topic initiation, emotions, role playing, using complete sentences, and more!  All you need to do is print, laminate, cut out the calling cards and grab your BINGO chips!  As you draw the calling cards, students must complete the task in order to put a BINGO chip on that space on their board.

I have also provided this freebie for you!!

I made it using Boardmaker.  It allow students to ask each other about their favorite things.  It provides a social script for asking and answering the questions.  All you have to do is download, print, and cut each card apart and place them on a binder ring for easy use!

What Is Your Favorite - Social Skills Topic Initiation Freebie

Click Here to Get Freebie!

Another freebie I have for you is a visual you can display to help students with carrier phrases to start appropriate conversations.  I teach my students to:
1. approach their conversation partner
2. get their attention by calling their name or lightly tapping their shoulder
3. use one of these carrier phrases to start the conversation!

Ways to start a conversation freebie - Speech Time Fun

Click here to grab this freebie

There are some commercially available products that encourage initiation of conversation in various
scenarios.  One such product is:

Socially Speaking Game


-Board game to work on emotions, manners, turn taking, conversation, and responding to various social situations

-Deals with situations at home and school

-Encourages role playing and talking amongst players


Social Inferences Fun Deck

Another product that lets students hear about various social situations is the Social Inferences Fun Deck. Students can practice inferring social situations. This can elicit conversation about the scenarios. They can then role play the appropriate ways to handle the situations.

-Respond to inferring questions based on short stories read about social situations

-Motivating stories

Section I – (cards #1–21) asks the student to make an inference about the character’s personality based on his/her behavior in the scene.

Section II – (cards #22–43) asks the student to infer how the character in the scene is feeling.

Section III – (cards #44–63) asks the student to identify the appropriate/inappropriate behavior the character is displaying in the scene.

Conversation Starters Bundle

Another product I use in my speech room are these conversation starters from Natural Learning Concepts.  These cards use two stages for teaching. The first stage teaches children to spontaneously answer questions.  The second stage teaches children to inquire about other people and to initiate conversations. Each set includes six different topics with a yellow card representing the start of each new topic.

You may have seen my “Pirate Pragmatic Pack” available in my TpTstore.

Pirate Pragmatic Pack - Speech Time Fun

One feature of this pack is my role playing cards and conversation starters.

This is an easy to prepare activity for a low cost.

How do you work with students to encourage social interaction and initiation?  In my school, I have to do
lunch duty several times a month by supervising on the playground.  I like to use that time to encourage my
students to start a catch or start a conversation with peers with similar interests.  It is nice to see my students in their element!