Learning Life Skills

This has been the first year in a very long time that I have not taught a student with autism. Life skills are an important part of the classroom program for students with autism. Life skills provide lots of opportunities for socialization, independence, and responsibility. As I’ve looked closer at our Grade 1 Social Studies expectations linked to roles and responsibility, I can’t help but wonder if these skills are important ones to teach all students … not just those with alternative expectations on an IEP. 

This year, I’ve made a concerted effort to help the children in my class develop important life skills.

  • This might be sweeping up the mess on the floor after lunch.
  • This might be wiping down the tables after eating, gluing, or painting on them.
  • This might be washing the towels each week that we use for our snacks and lunchtime.
  • This might be learning how to make a sandwich or chopping up vegetables for a snack.
  • This might be writing me reminder notes about my responsibilities (e.g., to bring home something to wash or something to remember to bring in).
  • This might be handing out leftover snacks, to ensure that everybody has something to eat.
  • This might be learning to tie shoelaces, tie bows, or wrap presents. 
  • This might be learning to do up zippers, put on running shoes, or pack up backpacks.

These skills do not need to be taught in isolation. For example, I noticed the other day that many students now have running shoes with laces, but they don’t know how to tie them up. Some parents have tried using lacing books at home, which help, but it’s very different doing up a real shoe on the ground versus a lacing book on the table. Many students were still struggling with perfecting this skill, even though they were eager to learn it. It was with this in mind, that I set up this provocation.


Yes, students spent time this morning learning to tie. They also,

  • lined up ropes to measure them, and ensure that they were the same size (non-standard measurement).
  • wrote down steps for how to tie shoes, make bows, or create rope dog toys (numerous writing expectations).
  • read directions for various tying activities using different decoding strategies, including the use of picture cues (reading expectations).
  • worked collaboratively to tie the bows and help out struggling students (Learning Skills connected to collaboration, independent work, and responsibility).

I told the students this morning that learning to tie laces would be a challenge. I also explained that it is an important life skill. As an adult, nobody ties up my shoes when I want to wear them out. Learning this skill might be hard, but it was something they could all learn to do! 

It was about half-an-hour later that I observed a student tying the bows on the hats. She also shared shared some important words that show the power in perseverance.

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I know that not all learning has to happen in the classroom. I know that students could learn these skills at home, and I often suggest to parents that they practice these skills there. But I think that it’s when we teach students life skills that learning becomes meaningful to them and they see the value behind the expectations.

How do you give students the opportunity to develop life skills in the classroom? What value do you see in doing so? How do you address curriculum expectations as part of these learning experiences? I’d love to hear your ideas!


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