Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Color My Conversation {Homeschool Review Crew}

Northern Speech Services

Recently we were introduces to Color My Conversation, an amazing speech and communication product designed by Northern Speech Services. Many of the products from NSS are designed for professional speech-language pathologists, but Color My Conversation can be used by parents or teachers without any specific speech therapy training.

The Color My Conversation program includes an Instruction Manual (on CD), online training videos, and all the supplies needed to put the program into practice.

Northern Speech Services Color My Conversation
Lauren was thrilled to open our large box of supplies and see everything that we'd be working with. Everything I could think of was included -- game tokens, dry erase markers to write on the conversation stones, an inflatable yellow bouncy ball, and much more.
After digging into the Instructional Manual and watching the first training videos, I started pulling out the supplies for the first lesson. Lauren was a bit disappointed because I had initially described the product as "a game" that would help practice having good conversations with friends and aquaintances. In actuality, the game board isn't used until lesson 10 (out of 12 total lessons). She quickly realized that the lessons would be fun even if we didn't get to use the board game yet.
Color My Conversation starts at the very beginning when it comes to communication and conversation skills. The program uses conversation stones to help students visualize the path that a conversation will take. We started by talking about the two yellow conversation stones -- the hello and goodbye parts of a conversation. Lauren helped me brainstorm phrases to use when first greeting someone. (I think someone remembers reading Charlotte's Web.)
The yellow "hello" stone and the yellow "goodbye" stone can be used as parts of a longer conversation or just combined with each other to make a yellow conversation. Although very short in duration, we talked about how a yellow conversation is useful in everyday situations such as spotting someone you know in a busy room, etc. We also discussed the importance of nonverbal communication and how a yellow conversation may be entirely nonverbal (as in the case of waving or nodding to someone you know when you're walking into church after services have begun).
Later, we talked about a short conversation which is slightly longer than a yellow conversation. I think of a short conversation as the type of conversation or chit chat that I'd have with an acquaintance or even a stranger when we just had a few minutes to talk. In Lauren's world, it's the type of conversation she has with the medical assistants or nurses that do the initial check-in for appointments.
We set out our conversation stones and walked through a few short conversations.
You can see the yellow conversation stones at the beginning and end, the green conversation starter stone, and the red conversation stopper stone. I like the way that the stones show socially acceptable ways to form a conversation -- start with a hello, ask a conversation opener question such as "How are you doing?", wrap up with conversation with a conversation stopper phrase "Nice talking to you!", and then say goodbye.
When we get to the lessons about having a long conversation, Lauren and I will add blue conversation stones to the path. These stones each represent a topic of interest that can be discussed. I look forward to delving into this part of a conversation in greater depth. For instance, we will discuss how different people have different topics on their blue stones. I will also point out that listeners don't always know as much about a topic as the speaker and sometimes the speaker needs to explain more about a topic to some people.
I like the way the Color My Conversation program outlines a particular path that most conversations take, but doesn't prescribe an exact conversation recipe. For each of the stones, Lauren and I brainstormed words and phrases that she would choose in each of the circumstances. It becomes a natural conversation, not forced. The stepping stones are heavy rubber with a slick laminated surface. It was easy to write examples on each stone, and it would have been safe for Lauren to walk directly on the stones. (We generally walked beside the stones, mostly because I thought my sock feet would have erased the writing on them.)
Lauren's favorite part of the program is the yellow ball, even though I don't think she realizes it's actually serving an important purpose. The ball marks the way a conversation passes between two people. For instance, I hold the ball, say hello to Lauren, and toss the ball to her. Since I have to look at Lauren in order to accurately toss the ball, I'm automatically developing good eye contact with the other person. Furthermore, only the person holding the ball can talk. We both practice taking turns because obviously only one of us is holding the ball at a time. (I should point out that the large yellow inflatable ball can be a bit distracting because it bounces well and screams to be kicked like a soccer ball in my house. I am considering replacing it with a less-fun foam ball in future lessons.)
I am also very impressed with the thought that has gone into making a program that meets the needs of students with different learning styles and strengths. Obviously, walking along the path works well for students who learn best by moving. Visual learners will benefit from using the suggested sign language signs to correspond to the parts of a conversation, auditory learners will appreciate the songs included to reinforce the concepts, etc.
Many children naturally pick up good conversation skills, but other students need direct instruction to help them develop the skills they need to be a good communicator. Color My Conversation from Northern Speech Services is perfect for situations where conversation skills need to be taught. The complete set costs $149 and is appropriate for students starting as young as preschoolers. Each lesson takes about 45 minutes and would be appropriate for a weekly session either at school, in therapy, or at home.
Color My Conversation {Northern Speech Services Reviews}

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