Creating Real and Relevant Conversations with Students

The sharing of content can many times be confused with the sharing of knowledge. Content can live outside of context, meaning that content is not always relevant. Conversely, knowledge is something that often lives within a contextual setting. How can we help our students, our colleagues, and ourselves gain more contextual knowledge?

Authentic knowledge is gained through meaningful conversations with others and with our own self.

So the real question is:

How do we create relevant conversations?

Here is how I do it:


The use of the human body in conversations is in play at all times. We simply are not aware of it, or we forget about this powerful tool to convey meaning, subtext, emotion, and intent.

Facial Gesture

Our eyebrows, mouth, and every other small and large gesture coming from our face, says everything we’re about to “mean.” That’s right… you can say “up”, but if your face is saying “down”, the listener senses down, and not up. Here’s a simple game you can play with students of any age and with your colleagues. There are a never ending amount of variations on this game, so please make it your own.

The Subtext Game

Usually in partners facing each other:

  • With elementary school age and above, have each student write down the intended subtext of a sentence, phrase, question or statement they are about to say, without letting the other student see it.

  • Each student then takes their turn of saying their phrase, while showing a facial gesture that represents the subtext.

  • The other student then has to guess what the subtext was.

The next step is actually where the magic happens. Have the students discuss whether the subtext was clear? If not, how could body language have been used to create more clarity regarding the subtext.

With younger children, this can be accomplished with a simpler starting point of having the students state an emotion and showing the opposite of that emotion.


I love to model the use of the pace of my speaking and hand position to create either more clarity or confusion of my subtext. Remember, the goal is not the game, its using the game as a bridge to creating a space for relevant and fun dialogue.

Enjoy this first step in creating relevant conversations!