initiate a conversation

This activity will help students initiate a conversation by giving them common conversation topics for kids to connect with their classmates.

It can be so hard to initiate a conversation with someone we don’t know. It might even be harder with people we’ve met before but we’re not sure where we stand socially! Some kids are much better initiators than adults, but others really struggle. 

It’s not just initiating with strangers or acquaintances to try to make friends that can be challenging. I had a few students, as I’m sure you do, too, that wouldn’t even tell me when they needed help because initiating made them so anxious.

As I’m sure you know, initiating is a lifelong skill that will ensure student success. Without it, kids will have trouble making new friends, going to TA office hours in college, networking in their careers, etc. And beyond lifelong success, it can just feel isolating if you don’t know how to strike up a conversation with other people. 

I’m not usually one to initiate a conversation with strangers myself, but I’ve realized something that helps me talk to others in public is having a dog around.

conversation topics for kidsI once took a friend’s dog with me to the flea market Had I been alone, I would have spent some time looking at the items, most likely not speaking to anyone else unless it was to negotiate a price. But Nala, a beautiful white dog with one blue eye and one brown eye, drew people to me that day. I can’t tell you how many conversations I had that only started because people were complimenting Nala. She was the perfect ice-breaker.

Since every kid can’t bring their dog to school, we need to give them tools like conversation topics for kids and help them practice initiating conversations with peers and adults.

Our “Tango Bingo,” featuring Tango the Gorilla from Zoo U’s Social Initiation scenes, is a fun way to get started. Students will use the questions or topics on the bingo card to initiate a conversation or continue a conversation with someone. 

Go over the bingo sheet with students and challenge them to initiate or continue as many conversations as possible using the prompts on the bingo card. You can have students try to get five in a row in a certain amount of time, like two weeks. Or for a real challenge, have them try to get them all! Be sure to check in with the kids on their progress, what has been hard about initiating, what has been fun, which conversation starters worked the best, etc. It would be great to have students report on specific conversations they had using the prompts, too!

Download the Worksheet