Social Skills to Initiate Conversation

Watson students conversing

It can be intimidating to some students to initiate conversations with their peers. It may be social anxiety that holds them back, or fear of not knowing what to say or how to keep a conversation going. 

Prepare your students with the social skills to help them initiate conversations and read social situations to determine if conversation is appropriate in a given scenario. 

In our social skills lesson module, we outline a few key questions a student can ask themselves before approaching someone to start a conversation. 

  1.  Is it a good time to engage that person in a conversation? 

If it looks like they are busy or in a hurry, you may want to wait to start a conversation so you don’t disrupt their concentration. 

  1. Does the person appear to be approachable? 

You can tell if someone seems open to a conversation based on a few variables. Does their body language make it seem like they are open to conversation? If they appear distracted, avoid eye contact with you, or have their arms crossed, they may not be open to a conversation. Are they in the middle of a private conversation with someone else? If so, you may want to wait until another time to chat with the person. 

Once you’ve determined that the person is available and approachable, remember these few tips to start a conversation: 

  • Greet them with a friendly hello, a wave, or ask them how they are doing
  • Ask them a question using the Past, Present, or Future strategy
  • Listen to their response! Be sure to pay attention so you can respond appropriately 
  • Show interest by looking at the other person when they are speaking and participate in the conversation by nodding along or reacting to what they say
  • If the person is engaged in the conversation, keep it going by asking them other questions. 

Use these tips to teach your students the social skills to initiate conversations and read social situations!

The special education resources on this page were authored by Watson Institute’s special education consultant, Andee Morris, M.Ed.

Powerpoint Presentation:

Conversation Skills: Getting Started

Resource Materials:

Conversation Skills: Getting Started Teacher Alert

Conversation Skills: Getting Started Social Power Point Card

Conversation Skills: Getting Started Parent Note

Conversation Skills: Getting Started Outline and Materials

Conversation Skills: Getting Started Mini Schedule

Conversation Skills: Getting Started Activity Sheet 1

Pre/Post Assessment

A pre and post lesson assessment is included in each lesson. Use of the assessment is an instructor preference.  Many of the ‘homework’ pages for a lesson can be used as a pre/post assessment device alone or as part of the provided assessment.  Each homework page can be checked by the instructor as well as the student.

Review all included pages of the lesson to determine what ‘assessment’ method will meet your needs.  If the student is able to achieve a + in the majority of items of the pre-assessment, or if the student has been observed to display the skill topic of the lesson often, then the lesson may not be introduced or can be taught with a group as review and/or reinforcement.

Conversation Skills: Getting Started Pre/Post Assessment

If you have questions or concerns about the Watson Institute’s use of this information, please contact us.