July 21, 2016

Six Creative Ways to Get Kids Talking

It can be challenging to get students to open up to you. It takes time and patience. For us School Counselors, patience is plentiful, time however, is not. Here are six creative games I came up with that are sure to get kids to open up much quicker than a standard conversation. Kids don’t want to sit and talk about potentially deep issues they don’t know how to explain. They do however love to play a game while enjoying the one on one attention that come with talking to the School Counselor.  

You can download your own copy of this six resource bundle here.

Some kids open up slowly, you have to help them work up to it. Sometimes the well-intended questions we ask, push a kid further away from us. Due to this, I like giving kids a way to momentarily avoid talking about something difficult. I like to give them time to think about how they want to approach the subject without feeling the pressure. If they are allowed time to warm up to the idea of sharing something with me slowly, I feel like they are more likely to eventually open up and share instead of shutting me out and avoiding the subject all together.

Although I love to give students the right to some privacy, having a reserved student who isn’t saying much can make it really hard for school counselors to figure out what the heck is going on. 

This is why I love this “Rank These Statements” game and the concept of a flower patch. 

 Flower statements is a game comprised of statements that students rate on a scale of five from strongly disagree to strongly agree. Students pick up a statement, such as, I like school.

Then they rank the statement based on how much it applies to them. 

There is a sixth option called the flower patch. If a student doesn’t want to rank the statement just then, they can send it to the flower patch. This area is reserved for statement flowers the student isn’t quite ready to deal with. We send those statement flowers back to the flower patch so they can have time to grow a bit more. If we’re lucky, sometime soon the flower patch flowers will be ready to be ranked.

The flower patch allows a student to put a subject aside, to deal with it later if they choose. What they put in the flower patch is very telling. It gives me as the School Counselor a hint as to what is really going on in this kid’s world. 

There are 204 statements included, making it easy to customize the game to the child by allowing you to sort and pick statements that apply to your situation. I usually pick 20-30 statement flowers max.

They are relatively easy to make. After I printed, laminated and cut apart all of the flowers, I then got to hot gluing the flowers to the Popsicle sticks. It made for a fun Saturday afternoon. 

I had two different kinds of Popsicle sticks. One were plain and one had little mini people. The kids thought that the mini people were hilarious and were blown away that from the front the feet looked like leaves.

What a happy resourceful little accident.

I created little flower buckets for the various ranking areas using mini flower pots, Velcro and the included labels that came with the download.

It is a really easy way to get kids talking!

I love this game for students that need a laugh, students that need to calm down a bit, students I want to know better or with my small groups as an icebreaker activity.

It is hilarious how seriously they contemplate their two decisions; laughing at the absurd decisions they have to make and contemplating the real life consequences of fulfilling their choices.  

If I’m playing one on one with a student, I like to couple it with some kind of board game. For the most part, students don’t sit down and play games with their parents anymore, they miss out on the skills that are developed when they play a game in real life with adults.

I think playing games helps us bond.

My go-to add on games are Connect 4 or Jenga. With this game, after you pick a Would You Rather card and answer the question, you can than take your turn in Connect 4. It definitely gets and keeps the conversation going!

This game is much like the flower statements game. The premise is that students “feed” the banana statements to the correct monkey ranking strongly disagree to strongly agree depending on how the student feels. 

There is also a banana box that holds banana statements that aren’t quite ripe enough to be talked about yet. Students put the banana statements in this box that need a bit more time before they are ready to be talked about.

I used paper bags to create six different ranking areas. I printed and laminated the ranking labels and then hot glued them to the bags. You could use just about anything you want to create the ranking spots.

Here are the rules for this “Rank These Statements” Game:
1. Chose from the 198 Banana Statements to find the specific statements you want to utilize with the student. Choices depend on the reasoning behind your time together and time restrictions.

 2. Explain the system of ranking to the student. Make sure they understand the words agree and disagree and understand the differences between the six ranking areas. Show students how they can “feed” the monkeys the Banana Statements by putting statements in the appropriate bags/containers. Talk through a few choices together to make sure the student fully understands the ranking systems.

3. Explain the concept of the “Banana Box” to the student. This area is reserved for Banana Statements the student isn’t quite ready to deal with. These bananas need a little longer to ripen, they aren’t quite ready to be ranked and fed to the monkeys. We put those Banana Statements in the Banana Box for safe keeping. If we’re lucky, sometime soon the Banana Box statements will be ready to be picked up and ranked. Be prepared to explain words written on the Banana Statements to students if necessary.

4. Once the student fully understands, have them pick a Banana Statement, one at a time, and read the statement out loud. Have them think about how much they agree or disagree with the statement. Have them drop their statement into the appropriate monkey boxes that matches their level of agreement.

In the end you will know a whole lot more about what the child thinks and feels. When appropriate, revisit anything that surprised or worried you.

This game is too stinkin’ cute. It’s just like a regular pick a card, answer the question game, only there is a competitive edge added to this game. The whole point is to pick the correct amount of each card to earn points!

To earn a point, you need to pick and answer:

Two graham cracker cards,

one chocolate card,

and one marshmallow card. 

You need all four cards in order to build a full s’more and earn a point!

If they pick a “Tell Me S’more Free Pass” they get a bonus point!

In the end, the person with the highest S’more Score (the most points) wins!

Watch out, students get competitive during this game! They try to cheat and look at the upside down cards from just the right angel to find their needed symbol to stack up more s’more points.

Just a suggestion, keep the cards inside something the kids can’t see through!

Much like flowers and banana statements, the car statement games require students to rank various statements. The idea is that students “park the cars” into the labeled “garages” depending on how much they agree or disagree with the statement.

Just like the other games, there are five ranking stations, or garages, and a parking lot of cars that aren’t quite ready to be sent to a garage yet. They hang out in the parking lot until the student is ready to decide which garage they should park in. 

They are really easy to make.

 Print, laminate and cut apart the car statements and then hot glue to Popsicle sticks to create a handle for students.

I liked to glue the stick sideways so that it could look like the car was actually driving.

It is super easy and the kids think it is super cute! They love to make engine revving sounds as they drive their cars to their ranking spots. 

The ranking spots are just brown paper bags with the labels included in the download hot glued to the front of the bags.

Place all the cards upside down in a pile or spread them out face down across a table. One at a time, students “fish” for a card. Once they land their “creature”, they read the question written on their catch out loud and provide an answer. 

If they choose a Take the Bait Card (worm on the card with no written question), they get to tell the group a fun fact about themselves or make up a question to answer.

For a twist, after picking a card, have students ask the person to their right to answer the question. If they choose a Take the Bait Card with no written question, they get to make up and ask a question of their choice.

When I am playing with a single student, I like to couple the game with Jenga. Asking a ton of questions one on one, especially with a student you don’t know very well, can make some students uncomfortable. I find having a game of Jenga going on takes some of the pressure off. It makes it seem like you’re just chatting over a friendly game.

It really gets students to open up. 

 There you have it, six creative ways to get students talking. You can download your own copy of the six resource bundle here.

What do you do to get students to open up? How do you conquer the super shy and inhibited students? Ever had a student talk so much you wish they were a bit shyer? I’d love to hear about your experiences, let’s connect!! I look forward to hearing from! J

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