College and career readiness skills are arguably some of the most important things high school teachers can teach their students. When students learn how to research information, communicate orally and in writing, work independently, and manage their time wisely, they develop habits that will help them in all areas of life after high school, not just in college or a future career.
You don’t have to change your curriculum or purchase expensive materials to ensure that teachers incorporate career readiness skills in their classrooms. Here are some strategies your teachers may already use, as well as some concrete examples of activities to help their students practice, hone, and master their skills:
1. Teach Study Skills and Research Techniques
When students engage with meaningful research projects about topics and issues they care about, they exhibit tremendous enthusiasm for learning. However, teachers must first give them the tools they need to succeed in independent research. Students should know how to tell “fake” news from actual news. They must read complicated texts and break them down into language that is easier to understand. In the “real” world, we see a variety of perspectives and opinions around us, so students should be able to interpret and evaluate views dissimilar to their own.
One activity to get students thinking about the credibility of potential sources is to create stations with examples of different websites or articles about the same topic. Then, students must evaluate each source using a checklist, like the one that uses the acronym “CRAP.” “CRAP” stands for currency, reliability, authority, and purpose. Students can use a checklist to justify whether they find the source reliable enough to use in an academic essay.
2. Teach Written and Oral Communication Skills
Some students excel at speaking their minds, but others may prefer to write their thoughts instead of vocalizing them. Both skills are essential in college and most jobs, so students should know how to do both effectively. They should also understand when to speak formally or informally and how their writing “voice” may sound different from their speaking “voice.”
Teachers can practice sending emails back and forth with their students, using various writing prompts that imitate real-life scenarios, such as missing a class meeting or asking for an extension on a project. They should discuss proper discourse in both written and oral communication. They can also model email formatting when communicating with students outside of class and stress the need for clarity and conciseness.
3. Teach “Soft” Skills Like Critical Thinking and Collaboration
“Soft skills” relate to how you work, and therefore are some of the most desirable skills to employers. Anyone who works with others or who serves the public must have well-developed soft skills.
Teachers can give their students opportunities to develop their soft skills by assigning group projects that encourage group members to collaborate and negotiate. Good group projects also encourage critical thinking and problem-solving. Try allowing students to choose an issue or problem in their community and propose some potential solutions in small groups.
4. Encourage Independent Learning
Group work may be necessary, but so is the ability to keep yourself motivated and meet deadlines. Many students struggle with time management in college because they’re not used to scheduling their own time. Others may find themselves overwhelmed with choosing a major or future career field. They may have to do a lot of independent research to figure out in which areas of study they are interested.
Students can practice these skills in high school through practical independent learning activities, such as researching a potential career, writing a paper about their topic, and meeting deadlines for rough drafts, revisions, and final copies. Another option is to offer a “genius hour” each week. By providing a “genius hour,” teachers allow students to explore their passions and use their creativity to complete independently designed projects.
5. Teach Time Management and Organizational Skills Like Keeping a Planner
Many of the previously mentioned skills depend on good time management and organizational techniques. If you do not teach students how to make lists, keep track of important documents, or use their time wisely, you can’t expect them to show up to a group meeting on time or meet deadlines for assignments. One of the most effective ways to teach time management is to provide students with a study hall or independent work time in class and ensure that they are using it. Also, encourage them to develop their organizational strategies, like keeping folders for each class or writing their assignments in a planner.
Planners are a beneficial tool in developing good habits in your students. Set aside time in class for students to write their homework in their planners and use a whiteboard to reinforce important due dates. Show students how to use different planner sections and help them discover their personal preferences about using the calendar, pages, etc. Model how to make to-do lists based on their upcoming assignments and use a planner yourself!
The Importance of Physical Planners
Teachers already include college and career readiness skills in many activities but often forget about teaching time management and organizational techniques. However, doing so can only enhance students’ ability to use college and career readiness skills in the future. Although some students resist writing in a physical planner, studies show that students’ ability to remember something increases when they write by hand. A planner can support students as they prepare for college or a career by giving them fewer things to remember and more time to engage in meaningful learning activities.