School-Based Vocational Experiences

  • Situation

    My older middle school Life Skills students need some community-based work experiences, but our school is located in a rural area without many opportunities nearby.  What can I do to help them learn some beneficial work skills?

  • Summary

    Try thinking of your school building as a “job site” and seek out work opportunities within the building, like shredding documents, collecting recycled paper bins, filing, watering plants, wiping tables and stocking pop machines in the cafeteria, etc.

  • Definition

    In-School Community-Based Instruction utilizes work opportunities within the school environment to teach students valuable job skills such as following a schedule, taking direction, sequencing a task, and interacting with others.

  • Quick Facts

    • Child's Age: 11-13, 14-17
    • Planning Effort: Moderate
    • Difficulty Level: Moderate
  • Pre-requisites

    • ability to follow visual schedule and visual prompts

    • ability to follow one-step or multi-step directions, depending on task

  • Process

    1.  Talk with various school personnel to arrange different tasks.  Explain that students will be supervised and supported according to ability:

    • ask office staff if students can shred/recycle papers, file documents, make copies, water plants, deliver materials, etc.
    • ask librarian if students can collect books from book return bin, shelve books, etc.
    • ask custodial staff if students can help wipe mirrors, wipe tables, stock bathrooms, etc.
    • ask physical education staff if students can help inventory sports equipment, etc.
    • ask the cafeteria staff if students can help wipe tables, refill napkin/utensil bins, restock pop machines, etc.

    2.  Task analyze the steps involved in each job and create a visual task sequence (either pictures or words, or both picture and written word depending on student ability) for the student to follow.  Place boxes after each step on the sequence chart, then laminate it for reuse.  Check the example Work To Do document in Related Resources.


    3.  Teach the student the steps in each task, using the visual supports to clarify verbal instructions.  Assist and demonstrate as necessary and reinforce the student for his effort as you work through the steps.


    4.  Teach the student to check off each step as completed in the box provided.  (Use a dry-erase marker)


    5.  Collect data to determine student’s progress.


    6.  Gradually fade visual and verbal support as student masters each task.


    Other ideas:

    1.  Another possibility would be to set up simulated work tasks using a structured work system.  These could be in a Vocational Center(s) within the classroom and could include packaging, sorting, collating, mailings, activities of daily living, classroom tasks, dishwashing, groceries, leisure activities, etc.  A good resource for ideas for these types of tasks is Tasks Galore (find the link in Related Resources).


    2.  Some students need to practice work related skills such as appropriate attire and grooming.  If you decide on a certain day of the week for your In-School Community-Based Instruction, you may want to require that students practice grooming skills prior to work and wear an apron or other appropriate work attire.


  • Documents and Related Resources

    Work To Do word document

  (Tasks Galore for the Real World)


    CBI data sheet


    Consultant/Author: Lynne Ireland-Knight


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