5 Ways English Teachers Can Incorporate Career Education into a Curriculum

I know what you're thinking. You're stumped for ideas on how you can incorporate Career Education material into your English Language Arts curriculum. When I was given the task to teach Career Education courses for grades 9-12, I was hesitant and unsure of where to look for resources or how to go about planning. Through my personal experience and research, I have discovered that it is not only EASY to incorporate Career Education into an ELA classroom, but it's also never too early to start either. 

The implementation of Career Education looks different at various grade levels, yet this exposure helps to prepare and expose students to a variety of different jobs and careers available.

At the elementary level, career education could be as simple as a tour to a work site (usually to police stations, firehouses, hospitals, etc). Where the ELA connection comes in would be the reflection of that site visit. What did you see? Who did you meet? What did you learn?

At the middle school level, career education could be implemented via guest speakers in the classroom. Students at this age may not be thinking about their career, (as it is likely to change numerous times), but it is at this time when career exploration can begin. Guest speakers are easier to come by (than you might think) all you have to do is ask! I have had a variety of guest speakers from numerous jobs and trades come to speak with my students, such as carpenters, veterinarians, optometrists, business owners, entrepreneurs, musicians, you name it! I have students use this A Day in the Life of...Career Day Guest Speaker Questionnaire anytime that I have had someone come into my class. So, not only are they reading and writing down the responses, they are also taking turns asking the questions.
A Day in the Life of...Career Day Guest Speaker Questionnaire
At the high school level, the most obvious way to implement career education into a classroom is through work experience. This is the best way to expose students to what types of careers and jobs are out there, as well as what is best suited for them. However, not all schools are able to offer such programming, so here is what English teachers can do with their students:

1. Complete research on a career of interest.
2. Learn the proper format of a resume, then write one.
3. Learn the proper format of a cover letter, then write one. 

This way, when those job opportunities open up, all they have to do it hit "print" and they're on their way!

Another simple way to implement career exploration-type activities would be to hold a mock interview with your students. Believe it or not, students actually take this activity quite seriously. After reviewing what a "good" and a "bad" interview might look like with my students using this Mock Interview Preparation & Questions Activity, I can begin completing interviews.

Mock Interview Preparation & Questions Activit

Three methods I have used in the past:

1. Whole-class interview: To get students comfortable with the interview process, I have orally asked questions aloud, then when students are ready to respond (trust me, the students who love to talk will have their hands up before the question is over) they raise their hand, and I call upon them to provide their response. Not every student will necessarily provide a response (unless you want to go around the class and ask each student), but if anything, even if each student does not individually answer a question aloud, it gives everyone an idea as to what types of questions might be asked. I usually throw in a curveball question or two - it is surprising how well students can answer these!

Sample question: If you could be any McDonald's hamburger, what would you be and why? I tell them to try to connect the qualities of what's being asked to strengths that they might have, as well as what qualities would be desirable for an employer looking to hire someone.

Sample response: I would select a Big Mac if I could be any McDonald's hamburger. I think a Big Mac is an excellent selection because it not only stands above all of the hamburgers on the menu, it has a variety of layers (qualities), which are desirable to anyone wanting to eat one. The larger number of layers making up the various strengths I would have should I be hired for this job. Employees should bring a variety of layers (strengths) to their position, so that all tasks can be done in the most efficient manner possible.

2. Student Mock Interviews: This activity can be either a formative or summative assessment, depending on what you are looking for. You can have students volunteer to present "good" (on time, professional attired, handshake, eye contact, detailed responses) and "bad" (late, poor hygiene, dirty clothes, lack of interest, short responses)  interviews in front of the class. Again, great practice for actual interviews, but also fun to watch for students who may have to prepare the "bad" interviews. Recording and then showing the video to the class (or just the teacher) of the interviews is an option you might like to give students, especially those who are particularly shy.

3. Graded Mock Interviews: I have luckily had the opportunity to have my class covered by another teacher/admin while completing mock interviews with my students for a grade. In addition to myself, I always tried to have someone else present in the room (and you don't necessarily have to tell your students this!) before the interview. This is a great confidence builder for reluctant learners. It was easy to find something positive in their interview that I was able to share with them (even though they may not have realized it was noticeable).

Nobody understands time like a teacher. There's only so much time we have to spend on certain units, so in the teacheing world, time is money! You don't necessarily need to dedicate an entire unit to Career Education, you can incorporate Career Exploration into a daily routine for a few weeks. If you're already using bell-ringer writing prompts to start your class, then your students might like the refreshing change of these prompts to their existing routine.

In the cases where I was limited for time, I used these 25 Career Exploration Writing Prompts with my students. You can either project the prompts on a SmartBoard for students, print out the prompts in a journal-style format, or use the prompts in stations (if you need to get your students moving) in a task card-style format. They are a win-win for students (making them think critically about careers and their future) and English teachers (they are practicing their writing skills and you can pick and choose which prompts you might like to use and grade!)
Career Exploration Writing Prompts
I have created a FREE Dream Job Worksheet, so that you can begin exploring careers in your classroom TODAY! The one-page worksheet is a simple, yet effective way to begin some preliminary research on a job or career of interest.

The 14 questions provided on the worksheet will prompt your students to select ANY job/career to research, so that they can begin formulate whether or not that job is a suitable fit for them or not.

This is an easy way to incorporate into your classroom, as it does take a lot of time to complete, yet it covers all of the necessary questions! Click HERE to grab your free copy of the worksheet.

Dream Job Worksheet
Finally, the easiest way to get your students talking about what types of jobs or careers are both best-suited to them and readily available, are to hold classroom discussions. You can prompt your students by writing these 10 questions on a whiteboard and see where the discussion takes you!

1) What would be the WORST type of job?
2) What would be the BEST type of job?
3) What's one job you know you could never do?
4) Identify your ideal place to work.
5) What are your strengths?
6) What are your weaknesses?
7) What is your most valuable skill or talent?
8) What are your short-term job/career goals?
9) What are your long-term job/career goals?
10) If you could have any job in the world, what would it be and why?

I would love to hear from you! How have you incorporated Career Education resources into your classroom? How has it worked with your students?


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