How can a school or college make good use of Life-Talk? Many options exist. Click a button shortcut to view the option.
Whole Class Format
To enliven a classroom, create a warmer classroom climate, or to introduce Life-Talk to students, a teacher might announce it’s time for some talk about everyday life. The teacher could say:
I’ll ask some questions about life, one at a time. Each person then will be given a chance to answer the question, or to say, “I pass.” You can pass on any question anytime. When someone is answering a question, all others are to listen quietly. No comments, approval or disapproval. No cross talk. We want each speaker to feel fully respected and fully heard.
Teacher then reads a question from an appropriate list. Pauses to let the question sink in. Then calls on one student to answer or to pass. The process continues until all students are offered a turn, or as long as time is available and group interest remains high.
If there is not enough time to give each student a chance to answer any one question, the teacher makes a note of the person next in line to answer and picks up the process when time is next available. At that time, the same question can be posed or the teacher might start with a new question.
If several questions are asked in one session, it’s best to end with our Review Question:
“Looking back on the experience, can you find anything that stands out? You might say, for example: I was surprised… Or, I learned… Or, I re-discovered… Or, I liked… Or, I’m beginning to wonder…”
Variation: All students write notes about how they might answer the question before anyone is called on for an oral response. (Some notes could later be refined to practice proper writing and composition skills.)
Small Group Format
The small group format is the same as the whole class format but involves only some of the students. Six-to-eight students is usually a good size for this activity. The small group format has an important advantage: Students will be more actively engaged, mainly because no one need wait too long for a turn to talk and be heard.
Students not in the Life-Talk activity could be working at different learning tasks, individually or in small groups or they could of course be engaged in different Life-Talk groups. That’s feasible because, after students are familiar with the rules, they can usually conduct Life-Talk meetings without a teacher, so long as one student has available the day’s question list and volunteers — or is chosen — to be the facilitator of the group.
A class of, say, 24 students can then be divided into three groups of eight; or thirty students could be divided into two groups of seven and two groups of eight. Note: It’s usually best if the same students do not always sit together, so each student has a chance to connect with all the students in the class.
Filler Format, as when free time unexpectedly arrives
Life-Talk can also be used as a filler activity whenever free time shows up. In that situation, there may be only enough time for three or four students to answer a question. If so, the procedure would pick up again when free time is again available, with the next student in line to answer is offered either the same question or, often better, a new question.
Assembly Format, to introduce the activity to a large group
With a very large group, as in an assembly, the leader could ask for a few volunteers who would be willing to answer a series of three to five personal questions in front of the whole assembly, with the option of passing on any question. That demonstration group would then gather on stage, preferably with two portable microphones, one for the leader and one the participants would pass from one to another when it came their turn to speak.
That format is a useful way to introduce Life-Talk to a large group, who might then break up into small groups to experience the activity more directly. The assembly format is especially valuable for students new to the school, to help them feel part of the school community, make friends and get support, and to humanize the school climate.
Temporary Group Format, as in a cafeteria
Once students are familiar with Life-Talk, the school can set aside space in dining rooms, in a study room, or in an after-school room so students who wanted more of that experience could sit together to form temporary Life-Talk groups.
One student in each such group then volunteers to be the facilitator, perhaps reviews the rules and then reads each question – which can be made available on a duplicated sheet, a nearby poster or via a website. In colleges or other residential schools, a “Life-Talk Time” can be posted in dormitories or student centers.
You can expect some such temporary groups to evolve and become on-going, with stable membership, well serving students who need such experiences.
Special Groups, as for those used by the counseling staff
Since Life-Talk inspires students to examine unhealthy assumptions, to vent frustrations and discontents, make new friends and to at least give consideration to developing healthier life habits, it is especially valuable for students feeling lonely, aimless, unproductive or who otherwise could use more supportive social experiences.
It also well-serves students who have been identify as disruptive, depressed, underperforming or in need of preventative mental health experiences. Indeed, Life-Talk can be seen as a high-interest and safe form of group counseling. As such, Life-Talk can readily be used to reduce the pressures on and increase the effectiveness of a student counseling staff.
Note that although Life-Talk is not therapy, it has some of the same benefits as does therapy, and contains benefits beyond those therapy usually provides. It is healthful more like vitamins than medicine, more like a wise old friend than a psychiatrist, more like healthy eating and outdoor exercise than appointments with a physical therapist.
Life-Talk in Pairs
Life-Talk can proceed in pairs, either online or in person. Suggestions:
In pairs, choose who is the bigger talker. Little talker (LT) goes first. Bigger talker (BT) second.
Choose or create, perhaps, four questions. For each question, LT answers first, pausing and taking as much time as she/she likes. Or of course, says, “I pass.” Anyone can pass anytime.
Partner listens empathetically, being sure not to comment, ask questions, or interfere in any way. BT is to practice empathetic listening.
When LT finishes answering the four questions, both partners take a few deep breaths and switch roles.
When BT then finishes answering the same four questions, they take turns reviewing the whole conversation to see if they can find something to take from it. More specifically, they aim to voice endings to sentences like these:
I learned…. I rediscovered…. I’m beginning to wonder…. I promise…. I liked…. I was surprised…
Then both can chat informally as long as they want, or until time runs out, or one person can say something similar to, “I’d like to move on now,” or, of course, they get a divorce.
Conflict Resolution Groups
Since Life-Talk groups elicit the basic goodness of participants, they are also effective in cutting through distrust or animosity between groups, as between racial or economic groups of students, or between two faculty groups, or between students and administrators, or between the college and the surrounding community.
In such cases, composite groups are formed with the express intention of people getting to better know and respect one other so that later discussions of divisive issues can proceed more constructively and solved more easily.