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Elementary Strategies

Note to teachers: It is so important for career development to begin early in life. Please don't leave this all to the high school teacher because by then so many kids are "blinded" and can't see a future, plus students may never get the information. Career development and employment skills are learned behavior and we are in the teaching profession. A career focus can be fun, rewarding, and is imperative if our youngsters are going to become the professionals of tomorrow. Take a look at the shortage of educated folks needed in the workplace now. What about the future?

Contributor, Caye Baxter writes: "I found some great new things that I can incorporate into my own community lessons I've used for years. Community involvement hasn't been as much of a problem for me. I go talk to local business owners... bank managers, grocers, fastfood managers, even the local coffee shop. I got free field trips to their place of business (All in walking distance, so no $$$ involved) except two that actually came to our school. They showed us around, we visited vaults, freezers, and kitchens, worked a little, and learned a lot. A friend manages to get students' parents to come to class and present their profession. (I've tried and not been successful) She offers tickets much as you do [in the Real World classroom decor ideas] for all participants. Good Luck!!!

Career speakers in the classroom – Parents and grandparents are a great source for this activity. Not only do the kids get important information but they also have a sense of pride in sharing their family. It's a different kind of show and tell.

  • Arrange for the speakers to come at a "good" time of the day so the students will be attentive and make sure they know they should plan on speaking about their career as well as the industry they represent.
  • Ask the speaker to bring "tools of their trade" to share with the youngsters.
  • Have the students brainstorm questions prior to the speaker's arrival.
  • Bale the speaker out if need be – they usually are not teachers and kids can be brutal.
  • Make sure there is a question and answer time.
  • Have the students write thank you notes. This is very important as well as a lost art!

Fieldtrips to different places of employment – Neighborhood businesses within walking distance of the school are quite convenient and cheap because no transportation is needed. If each grade level in an elementary school had at least one career-focused trip a year, the students would have a fairly good look at a variety of careers before "graduation".

  • Arrange trips at least two weeks in advance. After the first year, this is usually simple to set up with the same employer year after year.
  • Confirm the trip the day before – schedules can change.
  • Have the students brainstorm and write down questions prior to the excursion.
  • If little hands touching things is a problem, have them take a clipboard and activity sheet (Adobe Acrobat PDF file).
  • Partners are a good idea.
  • Have one adult for every eight to ten students.
  • Point out things at the business that your guide misses such as time clocks, safety posters, and technology in use – they are not teachers either.
  • Provide time to debrief the students on return from the experience.
  • Have the students write thank you notes - the lost art!

Discussions and sharing of people in the news, in history, on TV and in the movies can be excellent ways to put careers in your classroom. By the way, what is Mr. Rogers' career?

Reading books and watching videos are prime times for career awareness activities. What did Charlotte's owner do for his/her livelihood? What would be good careers for Harry Potter? Got the idea?

Workplace skills are taught in the classroom daily. Instead of disguising them as classroom procedures, rules, behaviors and the like, teachers need to dress them up as workplace skills. Following are some examples of easy ways to do this:

Many teachers use weekly job contracts with their students. Why not design these to be "MS Smith's Learning Corporation Weekly Job Duties for Charlie" and award some type of "promotion or commission" for 6 straight weeks of completion. Time management, quality, completeness, dependability, etc. are all a part of this interaction.

Employee evaluations from local business can be used or adapted to use in the classroom. This is a great addition to the "report card" and for parent conferences. Workplace skills such as time management, quality, cooperation, completeness, dependability, etc can be rated in this manner. Make sure the information is presented in the context of workplace skills not just classroom manner.

Many of you creative teachers already have activities and resources nailed down. Many of you will develop some wonderful activities this summer. This is a jumping on place. Career development can be fun, is beneficial to students, and is truly an enhancement to your curriculum. How about sharing with other teachers by using the Teachnet Teacher-2-Teacher mailing list? Together, let's prepare our students for a productive future.


Intro | A Model for Career Development | Elementary | Intermediate | Secondary | Links & Resources