8 Resources to Teach Staying on Topic

Topic maintenance is an important skill for students of all ages! The ability to stay on topic is needed for social communication, functional communication, academic communication, and workplace communication. Staying on topic is a skill often addressed on IEPs by speech-language pathologists, special education teachers, behavioral specialists, counselors, and more! So, what resources do you need to teach staying on topic?

In my blog post on the importance of staying on topic and how I teach it (here!), I talk about the five steps I generally follow. You should definitely go check out the entire post, but you can read the abbreviated version here:

  • Identify on and off-topic conversations
  • Repair off-topic conversations
  • Complete partial conversations
  • Brainstorm comments and questions on different topics
  • Script conversations

My own staying on topic unit follows this sequence, but it’s designed for older students (upper elementary and above) and it’s also specifically designed to be incredibly streamlined and efficient. You definitely need multiple resources for all stages of this process! So today I wanted to share some of the best resources I’ve seen on Teachers Pay Teachers that incorporate parts of the sequence.

Most of these resources are no prep/no print, which I think is really valuable. My own unit is a print resource, so having no print is great. Click on each photo to go look at the resource on Teachers Pay Teachers and click on the name of the author to view their entire store for more great resources!

resources to teach staying on topic

Identifying On and Off-Topic Conversations

The first step I follow is having students identify whether a conversation stays on topic or goes off topic.

This set of Boom cards from Teaching Sensory Explorers is a simple way for students to practice identifying off topic conversations! It’s no prep and no print, which is a wonderful option to have in your arsenal!

This unit actually moves through a sequence as well, but the first level of these leveled cards tackles identifying on and off topic comments and answers. This unit can be used no print or printed depending on which method you prefer.

Completing Conversations

The third step in my own sequence is completing conversations. Before I move on to completing conversations, I like to have students repair off-topic conversations. I like to include this step because it lets students first experience the off topic comment as a guide for generating on topic comments. Unfortunately, I don’t have any resources explicitly for this step (share below if you know something!). Fortunately, it’s super easy to implement with resources from step one!

Another great no print option that’s great for beginning to work on completing conversations is this set of Boom cards from For Goodness Speech. These cards provide options for completing conversations, and I love that they ask students to choose two possibilities. I think this is great for encouraging students to understand that there are a multitude of ways to continue conversations.

This set of Boom cards is another no prep, no print activity! This unit is perfect for open-ended responses as students are gaining more confidence in the skill.

Scripting Conversations

I love this fun, printable activity! I think this is a great activity for students early in their journey to scripting conversations. Students are given an out-of-order conversation that they will build by placing it in order.

teach staying on topic resource 6: speech time fun
Speech Time Fun 

This activity has a great structure with 20 topics to choose from and guidance for initiating and maintaining a conversation. Like many of these resources, it’s no prep/not print, so it’s really easy to use. And it’s great for older students!

Comprehensive Units

Peachie Speechie’s workbooks are great for a comprehensive look at a skill, and her conversations workbook is no exception! The focus is on topic maintenance, but it’s not limited to it, as she works in body language and listening skills too. This is a print resource, but it’s efficient, with black and white ink, and definitely a great resource to have close at hand.

Data Keeping

social skills resource 8: the speech bubble slp
The Speech Bubble SLP 

Last on my list is a great set of rubrics that topic maintenance. Taking data can be really difficult when you move past the structured tasks mentioned above, so rubrics are a great resource to have for students who are practicing staying on topic during spontaneous conversations or situations.

how do you teach staying on topic?

Now that you know how I teach staying on topic, as well as some of the resources I really enjoy using, I’d love to know how you teach staying on topic!

If you’ve found some great resources, please share them in the comments!

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