9 Awesome Classroom Activities That Teach Job Readiness Skills

Students need these skills to succeed in the workplace.

Human Knot

When it’s time to go to college or take a job, in addition to academic knowledge and vocational skills, students also need those “soft skills,” otherwise known as job readiness skills.

Soft skills are those characteristics that help you function as an individual (motivation, self-confidence, and flexibility) as well as within a group (teamwork, negotiation, and respect). When it comes to workplace success, these skills are key. After all, if you can’t show up on time, speak up for yourself, or get along with your peers, chances are you’re not going to have a very smooth go of it.

Explicitly teaching students these skills is the best way to give them valuable insight into their strengths and weaknesses. We’ve found nine engaging lessons that are not only just right for teaching the job readiness skills student need but also a lot of fun!

For each activity below, be sure to make time for students to talk (or write) about what they learned—what went right, how they felt while they were participating, and what they would do differently next time.

1. Right Way/Wrong Way Skits

20 Job Readiness Skills

Sometimes, a bad example is an even better teacher than a good one! Share the 20 Soft Skills Chart with your class. Divide your class into small groups. Have each group choose one or more skills from the infographic. Give each group 20+ minutes to talk and think about their assigned skills. They can look up the word in the dictionary, talk about personal experiences, or even go online for examples. Once they feel they have a clear understanding of their skill as a group, have them come up with a good way to explain it to their classmates as well as two ways to model the skill—once the “wrong” way and once the “right” way.

What they’ll practice:

Creativity, communication, critical thinking

2. The Blindfold Game

Play the Blindfold Game
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Teens leading one another around in blindfolds? Are we sure this is a good idea? The answer is yes when it’s part of a structured, purposeful activity like this one.

You will need a large space for this game (maybe the cafeteria after lunch or the gym during an off-period), enough blindfolds for half of the participants, and furniture and other items that you can use as obstacles (cardboard boxes, pillows, chairs, tables). Scatter furniture and objects around the room before the activity begins. Your course should be challenging but safe to navigate.

Pair students and have them line up at one end of the room. One person from each pair should put on the blindfold. The sighted person must guide their partner across the room and give them clear oral instructions (without touching them) to help them avoid the obstacles. When each team reaches the far side of the room, partners can switch roles and repeat the exercise. Have just a few pairs tackle the course at a time so that the others can observe. Take some time between rounds to process what went well, what didn’t, and what could make the challenge easier.

What they’ll practice:

Communication, listening skills, respect (taking the task and their partner’s safety seriously), flexibility

3. No-Hands Cup Stacking Challenge

cup-stacking
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This hands-on group challenge is an exercise in patience and perseverance, not to mention a total blast!

Decide how many students you want in each group, and tie that number strings to a single rubber band. Each person in the group holds on to one of the strings attached to the rubber band, and as a group, they use this device to pick up the cups (by pulling the rubber band apart and then bringing it back together over the cups) and place them on top of each other in order to build a pyramid. See more detailed instructions here.

What they’ll practice:

Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, teamwork, patience

4. Time-Management Challenge

Blindfold Game

We all have days when our list of tasks is huge and the amount of time we have to complete them just isn’t. When time is tight and your agenda is packed, you’ve got to prioritize tasks and work efficiently! This activity gives students the opportunity to practice just that by presenting them with a long list of tasks to complete in a limited time frame.

Make a list of tasks on chart paper, assigning a point value for each job. For example: Do 25 jumping jacks (5 points); make up a nickname for each member of the group (5 points); get every person in the class to sign a piece of paper (15 points); form a conga line and conga from one end of the room to the other (5 points, 10 bonus points if anyone joins you); etc. Make sure you list enough tasks to take up more than 10 minutes. Divide your students into groups of five or six and give them 10 minutes to collect as many points as they can by deciding which tasks to perform. A debriefing session is essential with this game. Guide your students to think about how they made decisions, which group dynamics came into play, and how they determined the value of each task.

What they’ll practice:

Negotiation, critical thinking, communication, time management

5. Listen and Recap

listen-and-recap
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There are so many things competing for kids’ attention in today’s overstimulating world, so learning the simple art of listening can be a difficult task. This one-on-one communication activity will help students practice taking the time to clear their minds, focus, and really listen to what their partner is saying in a way that they can clearly and accurately repeat.

Divide students into pairs. Partner one draws a topic card from a prepared deck and talks about that topic while partner two listens without speaking. The listener must really focus on simply receiving their partner’s words—not letting their mind wander or think about how they are going to respond. Then, without a rebuttal, partner two recaps what partner one said. Then, they switch roles.

What they’ll practice:

Listening, respect, interpersonal skills, communication

6. Team Survival Challenge

team-survival

What would happen if your class went out on a pleasure cruise only to end up being shipwrecked on a desert island? What materials would be essential for survival? If you’re a fan of the TV series Lost, you know that making these decisions as a group can get ugly fast. This activity is a great lesson in group decision-making, as students will undoubtedly have different ideas about what materials to add to a limited list in a limited amount of time.

Download this PDF from Realityworks for the entire lesson, including the brainstorming graphic organizer “Benefits of Teamwork,” a Teamwork Skill Self-Inventory, and the complete Team Survival Scenario.

What they’ll practice:

Critical thinking skills, negotiation, communication, teamwork

7. Four Card Negotiation

4 Card Negotiation

Sometimes to get ahead in life, you have to know how to wheel and deal. This is entirely what this lesson is all about. The objective is for teams to trade and barter for pieces of cards to match up with the pieces they already have and ultimately end up with four complete playing cards.

Start with a pile of playing cards (four cards per team of four or five students). Cut each card diagonally into four pieces and mix all of the pieces together. Now divide the mixed-up pieces evenly among the teams. Give teams a couple of minutes to sort out their card pieces and figure out which pieces they have and which pieces are missing. Set a timer for 10 minutes. The goal of the game is for the students to use their negotiation skills with the other teams in order to gain as many complete cards as possible for their team. At the end of 10 minutes, the team with the most cards wins.

What they’ll practice:

Negotiation, communication, interpersonal skills

8. The Human Knot

human-knot
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Nothing promotes cooperation like getting all tangled up with your classmatesliterally!

Players stand in a circle and reach out to shake hands with other players, with each hand holding that of a different person, creating a “human knot.” Then the players have to figure out how to untangle their bodies without letting go of each other’s hands. This activity lends itself to a vibrant debriefing session as students observe their communication and cooperation skills.

What they’ll practice:

Teamwork, communication, problem-solving

9. Problem-Solving Scenarios Challenge

Awesome Activities That Teach Job Readiness Skills

Teach students the steps of successful problem-solving and then watch them apply their new skills with real-life scenarios. Begin by downloading this PDF. You’ll get resources for Seven Steps to Solving a Problem Effectively, a problem-solving organizer, and six different workplace problem-solving scenarios for your students to try.

What they’ll practice:

Problem solving, communication, critical thinking, respect

 

What are your favorite activities to help develop soft or job readiness skills? Please share in the comments—we’d love to add to this list.

Elizabeth Mulvahill

Posted by Elizabeth Mulvahill

Elizabeth Mulvahill is a Writer/ Editor for WeAreTeachers and a certified Elementary Teacher.