Pragmatic Language: What To Say

Pragmatic language, or the rules of who to say what to and when, can make the process of getting to know others tricky.

The way a child approaches and engages with a new teacher will look and sound differently than an introduction on the ball field to another player. And while the most important steps of meeting new people begin with a brief greeting and exchanging names, knowing what to say next can be challenging.

This fun lesson below will give your students a chance to practice pragmatic language together with a variety of greetings across different social settings.

It includes two differentiated worksheets so they can continue to improve their understanding of social cues as well.

pragmatic languague

Recommended Grade Level: Elementary and Middle

SEL Skill(s): Communication, Social Initiation

Duration: 30 minutes


Pragmatic Language Lesson Instructions


Print and cut out a set of What Do You Say cards. Review the differentiated printable worksheets, select the one that best suits your students, and print copies for your group.


Gather students. Ask students to raise their hand if they enjoy meeting new people. Follow up by allowing them to share what they enjoy about meeting others. Ask those who did not raise their hand how they feel when they meet new people. 

Say: “Meeting new people is a wonderful experience because it gives us a chance to get to know other people, but it can make us feel different ways. Sometimes it’s exciting, but sometimes it can make us feel a bit nervous, too.”

Tell students you will make a poster that will help them remember the types of things they might say when they meet someone new. Ask for suggestions and record them on the chart. Phrases might include:

  • Hi, nice to meet you.
    • Hello, my name is…
    • Hi, how are you?

Say: “There are many different ways to greet new people, and it’s not always going to sound the same. Once we say hello, we continue the conversation in a way that makes sense for who we are meeting. For example, how you speak to a new teacher sounds a lot different than how you might talk to a new teammate!”


Tell students they will play a game that allows them to practice what to say when they meet new people in different places. Suggest that they begin with one of the phrases from the poster, but that they follow up with a question or comment that fits the situation.

Say: “If I met a new student on the first day, I might say, ‘Hi, it’s so great to meet you! Are you excited about your first day of school?’ but if I met a new person at my gym, I would say, “Hi, how are you? What’s your favorite exercise?’ There are different ways to talk with different people that we meet!”

Make a face down pile each of locations cards and people cards from the What Do You Say cards. Have students pick one card from each pile and practice an appropriate greeting and follow up question (see the What Do You Say printable worksheet for more examples of what follow up statements might sound like). Continue play until all cards have been drawn.


Tell students they will have a chance to practice more on their own. Distribute the What Do You Say worksheet that best fits your students’ social initiation abilities. Once students have completed the page, regroup to share and compare answers. Ask students if there is anything else they would add to the introductions.

Say: “You all have great ideas for what to say to new people when you meet them! It’s okay to have big feelings about introductions. Greeting others gets easier when you think about where you are and who you are meeting and remember to listen, take turns talking, and be yourself.”

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