Ideas for Teaching Life Skills in and out of the Classroom

Add Functional Life Skills to Your Curriculum

Children learning to plant and care for plants
Children learning to plant and care for plants. (Getty Images/Christopher Futcher/E+)

Functional life skills are skills that we acquire in order to live a better, more fulfilling life. They enable us to exist happily in our families, and in the societies in which we are born. For more typical learners, functional life skills are often directed at the goal of finding and keeping a job. Examples of typical functional life skills topics for curricula are preparing for job interviews, learning how to dress professionally, and how to determine living expenses. But occupational skills are not the only area of life skills that can be taught in schools.

Kinds of Life Skills

The three major life skills areas are daily living, personal and social skills, and occupational skills. Daily living skills range from cooking and cleaning to managing a personal budget. They are the skills necessary for supporting a family and running a household. Personal and social skills help nurture the relationships that students will have outside of school: in the workplace, in the community, and the relationships they will have with themselves. Occupational skills, as discussed, are focused on finding and keeping employment.

Why Are Life Skills Important?

The key element in most of these curricula is a transition, preparing students to eventually become responsible young adults. For the special ed student, transition goals may be more modest, but these students also benefit from a life skills curriculum—perhaps even more so than typical learners. 70-80% of disabled adults are unemployed after graduating from high school when with a head start, many can join the mainstream of society.

The list below is intended to provide teachers with great programming ideas to support responsibility and life skills training for all students.

In the Classroom

  • Help with taking down or putting up bulletin boards.
  • Care for plants or pets.
  • Organize materials such as pencils, books, crayons, etc.
  • Hand out completed assignments.
  • Distribute newsletters or other materials.
  • Help with checklists for money for trips, food, or permissions forms.
  • Clean chalk- or whiteboards and brushes.

In the Gym

  • Help with any setup.
  • Prepare the gym space for assemblies.
  • Help to keep the gym's storage room organized.

Throughout the School

  • Pick up and deliver audio/visual equipment to classrooms.
  • Help in the library by returning books to shelves and repairing damaged books.
  • Wipe down computer monitors and shut them down each day.
  • Clean the computer keyboards with slightly damp paintbrushes.
  • Distribute the attendance records back to classes for the morning.
  • Help keep the teacher's lounge tidy.

Help in the Office

  • Bring mail and newsletters to the staff mailboxes or deliver to each of the classrooms.
  • Help photocopy materials and count them into their piles as per need.
  • Collate photocopied materials.
  • Alphabetize any files that need sorting.

Supporting the Custodian

  • Help with regular school maintenance: sweeping, floor polishing, shoveling, window cleaning, dusting, and any outdoor maintenance.

For the Teacher

Everyone needs life skills for daily, personal functioning. However, some students will require repetition, redundancy, review and regular reinforcement to become successful.

  1. Don't take anything for granted.
  2. Teach, model, let the student try, support and reinforce the skill.
  3. Reinforcing may be required on each new day the child performs the skill required.
  4. Be patient, understanding and persevere.
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Your Citation
Watson, Sue. "Ideas for Teaching Life Skills in and out of the Classroom." ThoughtCo, Aug. 25, 2020, Watson, Sue. (2020, August 25). Ideas for Teaching Life Skills in and out of the Classroom. Retrieved from Watson, Sue. "Ideas for Teaching Life Skills in and out of the Classroom." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 11, 2023).