Wednesday, June 09, 2010

    10 More Ways to Get Teens Talking

    We expect by now you've used up the previous ten ideas we suggested for encouraging teens to talk about their thoughts, so we present ten more ways to make certain the next time you ask a question you aren't met with silence and the chirping of crickets

    1) Container of Inquiry - Better known as a box of questions.  Prior to your next discussion, share the topic with your youth and invite them to write down their anonymous questions and put them in the box. Use these questions to help lead the discussion.

    2) Pyramid Power - Divide into small groups and give each group 10 note cards.  Each note card should have a different statement related to the topic, representing different points of view or ideas. Invite groups to rank the comments in a pyramid shape by putting the statement they think is most important at the top, the next two most important statements under the first one, the next three most important under those, and create the bottom of the pyramid with the remaining four. Invite the whole group to compare and contrast their choices.

    3) Skit - Sometimes it's easier to talk if you are reflecting on someone else's ideas/actions/behavior than your own. Write a simple two person conversation that helps to illustrate your theme or topic. Invite two youth to act out the scene and encourage the group to share their reactions to the characters and situation presented.  For added effect, leave the skit open-ended (cliff-hanger style) and invite youth to provide their own endings.

    4) Take a stand - place statements around the room identifying various positions on the topic (I used this approach once by posting different ideas defining the nature of the bible: history, myth, written by God, written by humans, etc).  Read each statement and then ask youth to stand next to the one that best fits their point of view (or, alternately, the one that least fits their point of view) and discuss with others who made the same choice. Finally, have each group choose a spokesperson to report their thoughts back to the larger group.

    5) Reflective listening - Sometimes teens are reluctant to share their thoughts because they don't think anyone really listens to them. With this technique, two youth sit facing each other. One person shares a thought or opinion on the topic. The other person simply listens, and then responds with "I hear you saying..." and tries to reflect back in their own words what the partner has just said. The partner can then either affirm or correct the "reflection." Then the other person gets to speak and the process continues.

    6) "I" Statements -  Rather than inviting all sorts of unfounded assertions or opinions stated as fact, challenge your youth to own their thoughts using "I" messages. Every time a participant speaks, he or she must begin by using the pronoun "I" and make the statement only from his or her own point of view ("I think this is wrong because" or "I feel differently about that because").

    7) Unfinished Sentences - Sit in a circle and introduce the topic with a series of unfinished statements, allowing each person an opportunity to finish the statement themselves. Examples might include: "I think the biggest challenge for teens today is..." or "The one thing I would change about the Church is...."

    8) Hot seat - Sit in a circle and have two people sit in the middle facing one another. Invite them to begin sharing back and forth their thoughts on the topic.  No one in the outer circle is allowed to speak -- only listen. If someone in the circle does have something to say, he or she must tap one of the center people on the shoulder and take their place in the center. 

    9) Snowball - Begin by inviting teens to sit in pairs to discuss the topic or scripture text. After a few minutes, have each pair join up with another pair and continue the discussion, comparing notes on their original conversations. Next, have groups of four join other groups of four and continue, with each team looking for common ideas or themes in their various conversations.  Potentially, you could continue this pattern until you have two big groups which finally come back together as one big group.

    10) Speech Bubbles - Make copies of a photo or two related to your topic (or not!) from magazines and challenge youth to cut out speech bubbles from white paper, glue them on the image and fill in the bubbles with what the people might be thinking or saying about your topic. Of course, this visual-spatial activity is really just a way to get your own youth reflecting on what they think about the topic!  When finished, have each person share and take note of how differently each student approached the project.

    Any other suggestions?


    scott aughtmon said...

    Really great ideas for getting teens to talk! Have done the "container of inquiry" in the past. I like #7 the unfinished questions one. I'll tweet a link to this.

    Brian said...

    Thanks, Scott. I think the whole "container of inquiry" thing started as a joke in our group because it seemed too pedrestian to just call it a suggestion box! Thanks for the tweet.

    coreyrose said...

    LIVE TEXT messaging from teens' phones to the bigscreen can be helpful and energizing at the right times. You can ask open-ended questions or take live polls at

    Downside for open-ended questions: you'll get messages (the entire group will see them) that say - for example - "bubba's cute," "pastor scott has a nice hair cut," etc...

    I've had success in times of more personal messages like asking the question "How do you resolve conflict when a friend does..?" and so on.

    twitter @coreydrose

    Brian said...

    Corey, great idea about using live texting. I can see where you'd have to be ready for the unexpected, but I can imagine it would be a great way to let youth use a technology that otherwise might actually be a distraction during youth gatherings.