Life Skills Instruction
Life skills instruction combines academic, occupational, daily living, and interpersonal skills to teach students how to thrive in the community. Many students learn life skills incidentally, but these skills must be explicitly taught to special education students. Today, I have four center ideas that will target a variety of life skills for your students. These centers are flexible, easy to prep, and effective!
Task analysis is the process of breaking complex activities down into steps. Sequencing activities take concrete tasks, like making a sandwich, and make them more abstract for long term learning. Use sequencing activities to target any age or skill. Daily living, occupational, and interpersonal skills can be targeted through sequencing activities. Simply take pictures of the process you want to teach, or make icons using your communication program. Begin with the first and last step of a task. After that, layer in more steps as students master the order. In addition, for added engagement, pair sequencing cards with the actual activity!
Role-playing gives students with special needs an opportunity to practice complex and sometimes difficult procedures. Like sequencing, role-playing is applicable for all areas of Life Skills instruction. Students have the opportunity to act out different scenarios to practice and master actions, communication, or more skilled tasks. This is especially valuable for occupational tasks (like greeting customers or bagging groceries) and interpersonal skills, which require the back and forth of communication. Role-playing activities are low-prep and fit into any classroom schedule easily. Add in everyday items such as uniforms, menus, and household items to boost engagement!
Similarly, technology can provide great support in the self-contained classroom. However, you want to use videos, games, and tasks for small group and independent practice. Videos on specific topics, like this one about inside thoughts vs. outside thoughts, can target specific skills while also providing variety in the classroom. Sequencing and Role-Playing activities are easily paired with videos!
Task boxes are easy because they are a one-time prep activity. Therefore, they are effective because they provide a structure that students learn over time, and can then practice independently. Use task boxes to work on IEP goals or theme-related activities. For example, if you are teaching a unit on personal hygiene your task boxes might include activities related to showering, brushing teeth, and getting dressed. When it is time in your day to do task boxes, students complete their activities, clean up, and replace task boxes in their proper location.
Above all, teaching life skills can seem overwhelming. Between academic, social, and occupational skills, there is a lot to cover. The center ideas above illustrate how you can integrate life skills into teaching other skills and topics. Even better, I have created this year-long bundle for teaching life skills that takes the guesswork out of planning effective life skills centers!