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Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Conversations
Ages: 6-10   Grades: 1-5

Simplify the many aspects of conversational skills and help your students fit in socially with these lessons designed for those with autism spectrum disorders and language-learning disabilities.


  • Develop age-appropriate social language and interaction skills
  • Improve self-esteem and learn to make friends
  • Interact successfully in the classroom
  • Improve conversational skills
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The activity pages are filled with graphic organizers and interesting photos and art.  The lessons give students specific, clear directions that teach them to: 

  • use appropriate listening and speaking behaviors
  • begin and end a conversation
  • reciprocate in conversations
  • avoid hogging conversations and interrupting during conversations
  • choose interesting topics
  • show  interest in a conversation
  • evaluate their conversation performance

The activities teach explicit conversation skills with these learning strategies:  

  • direct instruction
  • modeling
  • observation
  • discussion
  • role-playing
  • other guided practice

Extra helps include:

  • pretest/posttest
  • conversation skills checklist
  • answer key

You may purchase Conversations individually or as a 6-book set.  The 6-book set consists of:

Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Conversations
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Emotions
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Making Friends
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Making Social Inferences
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Nonverbal Language
Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Predicting Consequences


Copyright © 2009

40 pages, pretest/posttest, skills checklist, answer key
  • Children with language difficulties, particularly those with pragmatic impairments, need specific teaching to help social understanding (Taylor-Goh, 2005).
  • Research has established the reciprocal relationship between language skill and social acceptability among peers (Gallagher, 1993).
  • The abilities to adjust messages to listeners' needs, initiate conversation successfully, ask appropriate questions, contribute well to ongoing conversations, communicate intentions clearly, address everyone when joining a group, and make more positive than negative comments are related to peer acceptance and sociometric status (Putallaz & Gottman, 1981; Rubin, LeMare, & Lollis, 1990; Gallagher, 1993).
  • Conversation partners require skills in both verbal and nonverbal interactive behaviors (Sillars, 1991).
  • Social skills intervention can improve children's social cognitive skills (Timler, Olswang, & Coggins, 2005).
  • Targeted language intervention with at-risk students may result in more cautionary, socially acceptable behaviors (Moore-Brown, Sanger, Montgomery, & Nishida, 2002).
  • Only 7% of the information we communicate to others depends upon the words we say; 93% depends on nonverbal communication (Mehrabian, 1971).
  • Students with language disorders often perform much like younger, typically-developing students on measures of pragmatic development (Lapadat, 1991).
  • Social and emotional development lay the foundation for later success in school, work, and life.  Addressing students' social and emotional needs also increases their capacity to learn (Franklin, 2008).
  • Language facility is a key component of social competence (Gallagher, 1991; Guralnick, 1992).

Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Conversations incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Franklin, J. (2008, January 29). Social and emotional learning: Educating the whole child. Southern Illinoisan. Retrieved February 7, 2008, from 

Gallagher, T. (1991). Language and social skills: Implications for clinical assessment and intervention with school-age children. In T. Gallagher (Ed.), Pragmatics of language: Clinical practice issues. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group.

Gallagher, T. (1993). Language skill and the development of social competence in school-age children. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 24, 199-205.

Guralnick, M. (1992). A hierarchical model for understanding children's peer-related social competence. In S. Odom, S. McConnell, & M. McEvoy (Eds.), Social competence of young children with disabilities. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Lapadat, J.D. (1991). Pragmatic language skills of students with language and/or learning disabilities: A quantitative synthesis. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 24, 147-158.

Mehrabian, A. (1971). Silent messages. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Moore-Brown, B., Sanger, D., Montgomery, J., & Nishida, B. (2002, April 30). Communication and violence: New roles for speech-language pathologists. The ASHA Leader, 7, 4-14.

Putallaz, M., & Gottman, J. (1981). An interactional model of children's entry into peer groups. Child Development, 52,

Rubin, K., LeMare, L., & Lollis, S. (1990). Social withdrawal in childhood: Developmental pathways to peer rejection. In S. Asher & J. Coie (Eds.), Peer rejection in childhood. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.

Sillars, A.L. (1991). Behavior observation. In B.M. Montgomery & S. Duck (Eds.), Studying interpersonal interaction. New York: Guilford Press.

Taylor-Goh, S. (2005). Royal college of speech & language therapists: Clinical guidelines. United Kingdom: Speechmark.

Timler, G., Olswang, L., & Coggins, T. (2005). "Do I know what I need to do?" Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 73-85.


Carolyn LoGiudice, Paul F. Johnson


Carolyn LoGiudice, M.A., CCC-SLP, wrote and edited products and tests for LinguiSystems for 25 years, incorporating her previous experience as an SLP in school and clinic settings.  She is now retired and savoring time with her family, friends, and hobbies.

Paul F. Johnson, B.A., is a writer and editor at LinguiSystems.  He has a special interest in developing thinking and communication skills in students of all ages.  He also enjoys music, cooking, gardening, traveling, and spending time with his family.

Carolyn and Paul have collaborated to develop several publications, including Story Comprehension To Go, No-Glamour Sequencing Cards, and Spotlight on Reading & Listening Comprehension.


Age-appropriate social skills are essential for students to get along well with their peers and to foster strong self-esteem.  Social skills are rarely taught directly as a school subject, and most students gradually master social skills without formal instruction.  Those who fail to infer expectations and "rules" from personal interactions with others are at risk for being criticized by their peers or, worse, ignored.  Students on the autism spectrum are particularly at risk for poor social skills due to the nature of the disorder; many students with language and/or learning disabilities are also at risk.

The activities in Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary highlight specific aspects of social skills and include strategies of direct instruction, modeling, observation, discussion, role-playing, and other guided practice in contexts of everyday interaction.  These activities can be presented to individual students or small groups of students.  Small groups are preferred because they expose students to their peers' perspectives and offer a safe setting for practicing social skills.

For an overview of a student's social skills functioning, administer the Social Language Development Test Elementary (Bowers, Huisingh, & LoGiudice, 2008).  Use the pretest/posttest to check the student's awareness and functioning in the appropriate area addressed by one of the six books in Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary:

  • Conversations          
  • Emotions
  • Making Friends
  • Making Social Inferences                         
  • Nonverbal Language 
  • Predicting Consequences

These are the student objectives for the activities in this book:

  • learn relevant vocabulary
  • understand the reciprocal nature of a conversation
  • demonstrate appropriate behaviors for listening and speaking during a conversation (body language, eye contact)
  • begin conversations
  • respond to or expand on a partner's conversation turn
  • avoid interrupting during conversations
  • choose topics about which the student has something interesting to say
  • avoid hogging conversations
  • ask appropriate questions to gain information, show interest, or check a partner's understanding
  • close conversations
  • role-play conversations
  • evaluate conversation performance

The art of conversation is too broad for this book to cover entirely.  You will need to supplement some of the activities with pertinent instruction about additional conversation skills your students need to know about and manage.  For example, look for "teachable moments" to point out the effect of speaking too rapidly/slowly or pausing too long before taking a conversation turn.  Teach your students that turn-taking, speaking well, etc., are just as important during phone conversations as they are during face-to-face conversations.

Here are some other tips to help you improve students' conversation skills:

  • Some students may think there is no need to have a conversation unless you need to tell someone something.  Show them that every conversation is a chance to enjoy someone's company – to be a friend.  Even the shortest conversation can make us feel connected to each other.
  • Teach your students that a conversation has much more to do with the way the partners relate to each other than what is said.  Does each partner feel listened to?  Do they both show their interest in each other as well as in the topic?  Do they respect each other by taking appropriate turns speaking and listening?  Throughout the lessons in this book, help your students broaden their thinking about conversation types and their impact on getting along with others.
  • Before presenting a worksheet to your students, prepare them for the lesson by reviewing critical vocabulary and encourage students to suggest their own definitions or examples.  If these definitions or examples suggest a limited grasp of a word, help your students deepen their understanding by giving your own examples.  Demonstrate and paraphrase conversation concepts and help students relate them to their own experiences to enrich your lessons and increase the likelihood your students will master them.
  • Demonstrate the value of repairing conversation mistakes.  Show your students how to rephrase and explain to make sure your listeners understand you.
  • If your students talk too much about a certain topic, teach them the "Rule of Three" – "You may only say three things about (topic).  Then you need to talk about a different topic."  If necessary, hold up one finger for each comment on the topic and "cut it off" after the third comment.  Remind the student to give the partner a chance to talk about something else.*
  • As your students gain conversation confidence, introduce the concept of switching topics smoothly by linking the next remark with the previous topic.  (This skill is included in Spotlight on Social Skills Adolescent Conversations.)

We hope you and your students enjoy Spotlight on Social Skills Elementary Conversations!

Carolyn and Paul