Life skills are something of a buzz word not only in education, it is also the focus of discussion across a range of industries around the world. Life skills have been defined by the World Health Organization as “abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life”.
Through this site Youthapedia will be providing tools and tips for developing life skills with your class. We will also have a free monthly article (providing discussion opportunities), activities, games, videos, webinars and much more.
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Emotional intelligence and character development
Development of emotional intelligence and the development of character virtues are very closely linked. An advantage for educators of the haracter educational approach over the emotional intelligence approach to life skills is that the character virtues are concrete and specific and more easily translated into teachable, learnable curricula. It is much easier to deal with “empathy”, “cooperation”, or “fairness” as discrete, teachable values.
Rather than teaching lessons on virtues a teacher can choose instructional strategies that include virtues as an embedded curriculum topic, so no time is taken from academic content; the virtues are acquired as the teacher delivers regular academic content.
Helping students to gain life skills therefore isn’t about developing a new curriculum, it’s about teaching the same content but structuring and incorporating opportunities for students to develop life skills into the organization of the class.
How do I include life skills in my class?
For younger students the teacher has a much greater influence on the classroom environment.
Often there will be an agreed set of class rules’ Clean up you work space’; ‘Put up your hand to answer a question’ etc. There are also many opportunities where life skills can be included as part of a group activity, for example if students are working on a floor puzzle, they can be guided to take turns and to understand that as a group they all need to share their pieces and all finish for the group to be successful. They’ll need to communicate and give other students an opportunity to put their pieces into the puzzle to complete it. For this activity, how long it takes is not as important as how well the group work together.
From secondary level onwards it becomes harder for the teacher to enforce rules in the same way, especially if the students don’t understand the reasons or implications for ‘the rules’. Often we have lesson aims, but we can get students involved in thinking about what they want to achieve in the week/term/year; or take responsibility for how much they get out of this lesson/term/school. This gives students an opportunity to think about prioritizing, goal setting and possibly time management. Some of the key life skills students can develop at this age include learner autonomy, critical thinking, time management and social development.
No matter whether they are going on to higher education, taking a gap year and travelling or into the workplace, these skills will help them advance beyond the school environment and may be the last opportunity some have to acquire these skills.