Have a Tea Party – Quick Tips for Kids’ Conversation Classes
“Mommy, can we have a tea party?” my daughter asked. I peered at her over my computer, papers strewn across my lap and on the couch. I hesitated and looked into her big brown eyes. Before I could respond, she begged, “PLEEEEEASE!”
I replied with, “Of course, honey.” I knew that I would be up late working, but I also knew that what I would be getting in return was much more valuable than a completed work project.To her it was a tea party, but to me it was time with my child. I was able to just sit down and have a conversation with her. We talked about her favorite movie, drama with her friends, and that her favorite color recently switched from pink to a light blue. I learned even more about her than I already knew. Our relationship grew that day and it was worth being sleep deprived the next day. Having conversations with our own children and with our students opens the door for language development and relationship building.
That tea party allowed me to reflect on how I interact with children. I realized I didn’t have to talk to my daughter, or tell her stories. Instead, I talked with her and engaged her in conversation. That back and forth exchange with my daughter allowed for a meaningful conversation to take place.
With education being so content driven, it is hard for teachers to make time for relationship building and conversation, yet it is one of the most important factors in a child’s development. According to John Hattie’s Effect Sizes (2015), teacher-student relationships has an effect size of 0.52. If we look at other effect sizes listed in Hattie’s study (2015) impacted by conversations and relationships, such as classroom discussions (0.82) and classroom behavior (0.63), we can see that our time spent talking with kids is just as important, if not more important, than effective direct instruction (0.59).
Building positive relationships with students has a positive correlation to increased student achievement. When we take the time to build relationships with students, the amount of positive behavior increases (Boynton, & Boynton, 2005). An increased amount of positive behavior allows for better classroom management and an increased amount of learning time (Marzano, Marzano, & Pickering, 2003).
Conversations also have a high impact on language development, especially language learners. In a study done by the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) (2009), researchers found that conversations between adults and children significantly improved language scores. The study also encouraged two-sided conversations, where the child is equally engaged in speaking.
Lauren Lowry, a speech pathologist at the Hanen Centre, used UCLA’s study to develop her recommendations in increasing conversations with children (2017):
- Encourage children to initiate conversation.
- Keep the conversation going: Encourage children to take turns during conversation
Make story time interactive
- Don’t rely on the television to teach language
What we have to remember as parents and educators is to just make time. We often view time as a luxury we don’t have. However, it is a necessity in the development of all children. Make time to have tea parties, dinnertime conversations, playground interactions, lunch dates, classroom discussions, and storytelling. A wise person once told me, “You will never reflect back on your life and wish that you hadn’t spent time with a child.” So when my daughter wants a tea party, or my son wants to build Legos, I often find myself stopping what I am doing to participate. In the classroom, if a student wants to talk about their day or tell me about their favorite movie, I try to find time to have a conversation with them.
Boynton, M., & Boynton, C. (2005). Educator’s Guide to Preventing and Solving Discipline
Problems. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Lowry, L. (n.d.). Study Reports That Conversations Are Key to Language Development.
Retrieved March 14, 2017, from
Marzano, R. J., Marzano, J. S., & Pickering, D. J. (2003). Classroom management that works:
research-based strategies for every teacher. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision
and Curriculum Development.
University of California – Los Angeles. (2009, July 17). Conversing Helps Language
Development More Than Reading Alone. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 14, 2017 from