Fitting Life Skills Instruction Into The School Day

Being a special education teacher can be overwhelming when you stop to think about all of the skills and subjects that we need to fit into the schedule. We have a list of skills and standards we need to teach for district and state assessments. We also have the list of functional skills that we know our students need to develop. How in the world are we going to fit them all in?! Here are a few ideas to get you started.

We have a list of skills and standards we need to teach for district and state assessments. We also have the list of functional skills that we know our students need to develop. How in the world are we going to fit them all in?!

In general, our students require a high level of repetition in order to master and generalize skills. This is why I recommend sprinkling life skills instruction and practice throughout the school day. I also try to combine skills into one activity whenever possible.

As I mentioned above, I like to spread practice across the day. When I do larger chunks of instruction, my students have a harder time maintaining their attention. Spreading it out allows me to add in movement between the activities and it also helps with generalization across materials, people and environments. To read about how I sprinkle reading instruction across the day, click the picture below or HERE.



Here are some examples of how I fit it life skills in:

We have a list of skills and standards we need to teach for district and state assessments. We also have the list of functional skills that we know our students need to develop. How in the world are we going to fit them all in?!


During Snack or breakfast, we target the following life skills...

  • Ordering food in person or filling out the breakfast/lunch count
  • Cutting food, spreading cream cheese or butter
  • Opening containers and packages
  • Eating appropriately and not pulling food apart or out of our mouths
  • Cleaning up after ourselves


During reading centers, we choose books that target life skills. Here is an example from our Life Skills Interactive Books Bundle. We use these books ALL. THE. TIME!



We can use these life skills books to increase stamina with book, reading fluently, reading comprehensions, etc. We don't have to only practice reading skills with leveled books.

We also use books that aren't interactive during reading centers. Here is a page from our Hygiene book. Students have black and white copies of the book. There are 2 different levels, so I can use the same materials for my whole class.




At lunch, we target the following life skills:
  • Carrying food or a lunch tray to a table
  • Sitting down at a table in a way that doesn't disturb other people at the table
  • Using a napkin to keep hands and clothes clean
  • Cutting and spreading
  • Putting the appropriate amount of food into their mouth
  • Cleaning up


During science centers, we cover topics about our bodies and how to care for our bodies. Here is an example from our Life Skills Hygiene Unit. Here we sort pictures which helps students learn vocabulary associated with hygiene.



Recess is another great time for targeting life skills. Here are a few of the ones we target at this time:


  • Dressing/undressing with coats, snow gear, etc.
  • Requesting help
  • Initiating and responding to social conversations
  • Stopping a preferred activity (when recess is over)
  • Tolerating "No"


Targeting crucial life skills doesn't have to be separate from all of the wonderful things we are already doing. Instead, look to see what you are already doing and how to add one or do new things a month.

We have a list of skills and standards we need to teach for district and state assessments. We also have the list of functional skills that we know our students need to develop. How in the world are we going to fit them all in?!



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