Although I am a boy mom, I still enjoy girly things, so I was drawn to this cute little butterfly wand when I was wandering through the Dollar Store not too long ago. I bought it not knowing what exactly I would use it for, but I was fairly certain that I not only wanted it, I needed it. Fast forward a few weeks and bibbidy-bobiddy-boo, an idea! Lots of my students work on turn taking, topic maintenance, comment/questions, and all the social intricacies of conversations. It can feel a bit mechanical at times when you are working on these skills, but once the foundations are there, it can be a lot of fun!
Visuals are important, so I like using color squares with the student’s initial on them for each part of the conversation (green for responses to questions, blue for connecting comments, yellow for questions, red for topic changes). It’s an easy way to see if one person is hogging the conversation, someone is not participating or the group hasn’t figured out how to use connecting comments. I got this idea from Michelle Garcia Winner’s conversation tree lesson and modified it just a bit. Bonus, you can count the cards for each student at the end of each session as an easy way to collect data 🙂
The wand comes in once they are more consistent in these conversational skills. I have included some topic cards HERE for you to print and use. As we have a conversation, I hold the wand up at random times and the conversation has to change to whatever topic is on the next card we turn over. It’s tricky to shift to a new topic, but we work on ways to segue the conversation appropriately. Sometimes I will do this right when someone asks a question. It’s a great opportunity to talk about abrupt topic shifts and the timing of when and when not to do this. After a few rounds of me holding the wand, I can pass it off to the kids.
If your kids are adverse to the idea of a butterfly wand, that’s okay, just make your own! Dollar Store pirate swords (careful there mates), covering the butterfly up by gluing on wiggly, squiggly plastic bugs, or making a Minecraft themed cover are other options. For younger students, it is a good idea to go over the rules of the wand (expected/unexpected behaviors and hidden rules anyone?). For example, hitting, poking or whacking of anyone, including yourself. is NOT permitted when holding the wand (I am amazed at some of the things that actually come out of my mouth in this job).
You can also use the wand as a story stick, where each person adds to a story about the topic card ( you can use the blank cards included in the printable link) as you go around the table. Topic maintenance is critical, as is listening to what other people have said before you and predicting what might happen next!
The wand unfortunately will not make the pile of IEPs on your desk disappear, but here’s wishing you a magical therapy session!