Have you ever struck up a conversation with a young person and it quickly flatlined or you were sorry you did considering their garrulous response? 

having a bad conversation

Apologies to our students, younger siblings and neighbors, but - We hear you! 

For some time we’ve noticed that kids struggle with the nuance, intricacies, and overall mechanics of engaging in a back and forth conversation largely in part because, well, they’ve had very little practice. Plus, reading body language and knowing when to jump in the conversation are critical pieces of the pie and no easy task, either. Think of the game double dutch. It’s easy to get tripped up.  

Engaging kids in conversation or having them pull the reins back can be a painstaking process akin to pulling teeth. We’ve noticed these extremes. Have you?

Being educators for a combined 20 years, we’ve held steadfast that the secret sauce to generating more quality talk from our youth stems from comfort level. 

What makes kids more comfortable to engage in conversation? 

What’s a strong conduit for increasing face time that leads to personal connection? 

Our experiences tell us analog games like tabletop board games and card games. 

educanle llc card games

Obvious observation? Perhaps, yes.

Subjective claim? Still, yes. 

To my fellow American educators out there: Before you aggressively cite the TIMMS Video Study stating that teachers in the United States talk less than our counterparts in countries with higher performance and that American students actually have more opportunities to engage in conversations - because we all know you were about to - admit it, I called your move - it appears that how much students thrive depends more on the quality than the quantity of talk. 

Plain and simple: We rarely train our children in conversational skills aside from common niceties and widely accepted social graces often referred to as manners. In fact, we often just expect them to magically come prepackaged with conversational competence year in and year out; a misguided ideology, in our opinion. 

It’s strange…

In our schools, we explicitly train kids how to solve mathematical problems and write extended essays, but very rarely do we have systems to practice building conversational skills even in a world seeking to cultivate empathy and promote the development of emotional intelligence.

The fateful night of July 9th helped me focus my doctoral studies on increasing the level or quality of students’ classroom participation in elementary schools. The following questions became the aim:

What is the effectiveness of game-based interventions on the level or quality of students’ classroom participation?

What role does connectedness and wellbeing play in the development of social skills in elementary and middle school students?

To what extent do game-based methodologies in the classroom setting affect student engagement?

What does the research say about the value of gameplay in developing students’ social competence? 

Figuring out the answers to these questions using research meant we could create games that would achieve our target of helping young people become better conversationalists.

So, who cares? 

My experiences as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and school building leader have formed my belief that preparing children for life success in the 21st century and beyond is predicated on their development of soft skills such as critical thinking, creativity, collaboration, and the ability to communicate. In order to develop these skills, it is also my belief that students must feel a sense of connectedness and wellbeing in order to willingly engage in discourse. I became interested in closely focusing on the effectiveness of game-based pedagogies as a means of developing these 21st century skills and sensibilities to garner increased student participation and performance overall. 

In upcoming blog posts I argue there is a strong link between game-based pedagogy and the development of these skills such as student talk and social competence. I’m also excited to begin showing you the game-based interventions we have in development. 

I humbly ask for your continued readership as this journey to develop games that help enhance conversational competence and foster personal connection continues. Be sure to follow our Instagram! Talk soon!

Andrew Canlé