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Teaching Strategies for Important Life Skills

Janelle Cox

Throughout every student’s academic career, he or she will learn a variety of life skills. Some of these skills will be learned in school, while some of them they may be learned outside of school. No matter where they learn these skills, these are abilities that will help them not only throughout their academic career, but also through their entire lives. Sometimes students don’t even realize that they are developing important life skills:

  • Learning to be on time
  • Ability to work with others
  • Self-motivation
  • Flexibility
  • Communicate well

Here we’ll take a closer look at each of these life skills, and give tips and teaching strategies on how students can develop them.

Time Management Teaching Strategies

Having the ability to effectively manage time is an essential life skill that every individual must have. Beginning in elementary school, students need to learn when to study and when to complete their homework. They need to learn how to get to class on time, or show up for school events. Time efficiency is not only important in school, but it’s important in life as well. As we get older, our schedule becomes more hectic. Students need to learn at a young age how to efficiently and effectively manage their time so they’ll be able to meet deadlines.

The first step to helping students develop this skill is to use teaching strategies that evaluate how they spend their time. Use teaching strategies that challenge them to write down their daily routine for one week, then look it over to see if they managed their time wisely. They’ll need to look to see if they spent too much time on technology or social media when they could’ve been studying or doing their homework. After they’ve identified their bad habits, they can move to create new ones, like keeping a daily planner, or waking up earlier to get things done. Learning time management at an early age will help students be able to navigate not only their school life, but their career, and then their family, much easier.

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Teamwork/Collaboration

The ability to collaborate with others and work in a team is another essential life skill that students must have. Today’s classrooms use cooperative and collaborative learning techniques as part of their everyday approach to learning. The idea is that students work together to play off one another’s strengths. Learning then flourishes as students engage with their classmates and listen to their peers’ perspectives. Companies look for employees that are able to work with others seamlessly. Having the ability to work together with your colleagues can essentially affect if you get (or keep) your job.

In order to set students up for success, you must develop their collaboration skills. As mentioned, having students partake in cooperative learning groups is one effective way to do so. Students need to learn how to get along and work with everyone. When they are in college or the workplace, they’ll have to learn to work with others, regardless if they like them or not. Varying your groups throughout the year is one way that you can effectively develop students’ collaboration skills.

Self-Motivation

When students are young and in elementary school, teachers often motivate them through external rewards, but as they get older, they push for intrinsic motivation, because they know how important it is to be self-motivated in life. Having the ability to be self-motivated is essential, because when you’re in the real world, your employer is not going to hold your hand every step of the way. Students need to develop this life skill way before they leave high school in order to succeed in college and beyond.

Intrinsic motivation has to come from within, and students need to learn to do something for the inherent satisfaction of just doing it. To help students develop this important skill, give them some control over their learning. Allow them to choose between assignments, or let them negotiate their learning contract or how you’ll grade an assignment. The more opportunities you give students to have some control over themselves and how they learn, the more it will motivate them to do well. You can also encourage self-sufficiency. The more a student learns to do something on their own (and learns that they can do it on their own), the more they will understand the correlation of hard work paying off. While we can’t force intrinsic motivation on our students, we can provide strategies and activities that can encourage and persuade them.

Flexibility

Life is unpredictable, and the sooner students realize they don’t have much control over what happens, the easier it will be for them to learn to be flexible. For example, if a student is a procrastinator and they wait until the day before a project is due to get started, then they get the flu, their project will not be completed due to the unforeseen circumstance of getting sick. Students need to learn the life skill of being flexible because life happens, and they need to have the ability to go with the flow and adjust.

In order to help students become more flexible (to be able to improvise and see what they can do in a given situation), you’ll have to put them in unforeseen circumstances, like taking them out of their comfort zone. For example, try switching up your schedule to see how the students react. By breaking up your students’ daily habits and trying something new, you’re showing them how to adapt to new situations.

Communication

Having outstanding communication skills will get you very far in life. Companies look for people that can communicate their product well or who have exemplary people skills. Developing a students’ communication skills when they are young is a great way to get them ready for their future.

Just because a student can text fast or is good at writing doesn’t mean that they can communicate effectively. To help students develop the way they interact with people in person, you can do a few things in the classroom. First, you can practice face-to-face conversations and having students role play. Second, you can have students practice active and reflective listening. Active listening is giving the speaker their full attention by using their body language like a head nod to ensure to the speaker they understand what they are saying. Reflective listening requires the listener to mirror or paraphrase what the speaker has said without judgment. Communication is the key to navigating our way through life. It’s also an important life skill that we can teach students to ensure that they become better communicators.

All five of these life skills are not necessarily taught in the classroom, but as you can see, they can be. These abilities are all essential skills that college professors and employers look for in every individual. By taking the time to develop these skills when students are young, you can help to make a great impact on their future.

What life skills do you think are essential for high school students?


Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a Master's of Science in Education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is also the Elementary Education Expert for About.com, as well as a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com and TeachHUB Magazine. You can follow her at Twitter @Empoweringk6ed, or on Facebook at Empowering K6 Educators.