Teaching Life Skills in the Classroom

Five Critical Skills That Should Be Part of Your Curriculum

girl with down syndrome playing with classmates
Working in groups helps to reinforce important life skills. Getty/124283161/Fotosearch

Life skills are the skills that children need to be eventually become successful and productive parts of their society. They are the kinds of interpersonal skills that allow them to develop meaningful relationships, as well as more reflective skills that allow them to see their actions and responses critically and become happier adults. For a long time, this kind of skills training was the province of the home or church. But with more and more children — typical as well as special needs learners —showing life skills deficits, it's become more and more a part of school curriculum. The goal is for students to achieve transition: going from children in school to young adults in the world.

Life Skills Vs. Employment Skills

Politicians and administrators often beat the drum for teaching life skills as a pathway to employment. And it's true: Learning how to dress for an interview, answer questions appropriately and be part of a team are useful for professional careers. But life skills can be more general — and fundamental — than that. 

Here's a list of crucial life skills and suggestions for implementing them in the classroom:

Personal Accountability

Teach personal responsibility or accountability by setting up a clear framework for students' work. They should know to complete learning tasks on time, hand in assigned work and to use a calendar or agenda for school and home assignments and longer-term projects. 

Routines

In the classroom, routines include "class rules" such as: follow directions, raise your hand before speaking, remain on task without wandering, work independently, and cooperate by following the rules.

Interactions

Skills to be addressed through a lesson plan include: listening to others in large and small groups, knowing how to take turns, contributing appropriately, sharing, and being polite and respectful during all group and classroom activities.

At Recess

Life skills don't stop during lesson time. At recess, crucial skills can be taught, such as sharing equipment and sports items (balls, jump ropes etc.), understanding the importance of teamwork, avoiding arguments, accepting sports rules, and participating responsibly.

Respecting Property

Students need to be able to care appropriately for both school and personal property. This includes keeping desks tidy; returning materials to their proper storage locations; putting away coats, shoes, hats etc. and keeping all personal items organized and accessible.

While all students benefit from life skills curriculums, it is especially helpful for special needs children. Those with severe learning disabilities, autistic tendencies, or developmental disorders only benefit from day-to-day responsibility. They need strategies in place to help them learn the essential life skills. This list will help you set up tracking systems and work with students to enhance those necessary skills. Eventually, self-tracking or monitoring can be achieved. You may want to devise a tracking sheet for specific areas to keep the student focused and on target.