Emily Bryson ELT

A short intro to Life Skills


What are life skills? 

While ‘hard skills’, such as engineering, product design, teaching and computer coding are technical and vocation-focused, life skills are beneficial in any environment. Often referred to as ‘soft skills’, ’21st century skills’, or ‘transferable skills’, life skills equip students for their future, help them to find work, support their educational journey, and give them confidence to grow.

There are literally hundreds of life skills, many of which fall under the broader categories of social, academic, work, digital, and critical thinking.  These include skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, organisation, and decision-making.  In a recent LinkedIn study, time management, adaptability, collaboration, persuasion, and creativity were identified as the most important life skills.

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Why are life skills important?

In a nutshell, life skills are the key to our students’ success. They are exactly what potential employers and education providers look for when selecting candidates.  Universities need their students to have sufficient digital skills to allow them to access the digital platform and submit their assignments online.  Employers need their staff to be able to work alone and in groups, think critically and communicate effectively.

More importantly for us as language teachers, they are essential to students progressing in their language abilities.  As an ESOL Lecturer, I often notice a difference in how quickly students who have been to university, or completed high school learn English compared to my students who have had limited, little or no education.  Of course the student who has learned how to take notes, study at home, be self-directed and juggle their work, study and personal commitments effectively will learn more quickly than the one who arrives in class late, loses their homework, constantly forgets their timetable and never even thinks to bring a pencil.

Thankfully, these skills can be incorporated into our classrooms and in so doing we can support our students to flourish.


How can I find time to teach life skills?

As language teachers, we are under pressure to include speaking, listening, reading, writing, pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary into our lessons, so it can be overwhelming to hear that we also need to fit life skills in too.

Fortuitously, the thing about life skills is that our approaches to teaching lend themselves well to naturally incorporating life skills into our classrooms. Think about the skills involved in delivering a group presentation, for example. Students need to first communicate to select the topic, then plan who researches each section, then collaborate to create the content before using their digital skills to make slides and their presentation skills for the final delivery.

Instead of feeling overwhelmed at how much we need to squeeze into a lesson, we can take an alternative view and see every lesson as an opportunity to teach life skills. Indeed, life skills tend to complement one another, and with any one activity you may find yourself integrating a number of skills. You might set a group task with the aim of enhancing social skills, then realise that the task also promotes critical thinking, academic skills, and work skills.


How can I teach life skills?

There are many ways to teach life skills. My book, 50 Ways to Teach Life Skills is a collection of practical tips and activities to enhance students’ social, academic, critical thinking, digital, and work skills to help students become their best selves.

This guide is simple, supports all levels of learners, and many of the activities require little or no preparation or special materials. Each activity assists students to improve their speaking, reading, writing, listening, grammar, vocabulary, or pronunciation skills while also practising their broader skills for life.

It is available now in print and digital from Wayzgoose Press from just £1.99.

50 ways to teach life skills

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