Integrating Traditional Subjects With Practical Life Skills

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Educators face pressure from every direction on what and how they should be teaching their students. Some commentators demand a return to the syllabi of old, others a curriculum embracing the future. Some say the current education system favors substance over quality, while others say it lacks substance altogether.

The truth is there aren’t enough hours in the day to teach everything that needs to be taught. Every hour set aside for a new class must be taken from an existing subject. How are teachers to balance the needs of students with the demands of packed timetables? Integration is key: by grounding your current lessons in real-world scenarios, you can teach students academic content alongside practical life skills that will serve them well post-graduation.

Life Skill: Tax and Financial Management

Subject: Mathematics

How do I set up a household budget? When should I use a credit card and what’s a credit rating? Which mortgage should I choose and how should I repay it? How do I file a tax return? What happens to my tax dollars? These are issues that the vast majority of students will face at some point – all of which can be addressed, at a basic level, by existing school subjects.

Money management classes have been offered in English schools since 2013, with a focus on personal finance, tax and public spending and financial mathematics. These topics have been integrated into existing Mathematics classes, focusing on finance-based problems like percentage change and simple interest.


Life Skill: Fitness and Nutrition

Subject: Physical Education

The Center for Disease Control identifies schools as crucial in fighting the obesity epidemic currently facing the USA. Education is key when it comes to healthy eating and physical exercise. Simply instructing students to exercise isn’t enough: it’s important that they understand why exercise is important and how nutrition works.

Physical Education already lends itself well to health education, but it can be worked into many subjects, especially Science and Mathematics. A good argument can be made for breaking up practically every class with a short burst of physical activity: it can help relieve stress, clear the mind and boost academic performance.


Life Skill: News Literacy

Subject: English

It’s common knowledge that all media is biased in some way. After all, media outlets are run by humans, and humans are inherently biased – even when they’re trying not to be. Even armed with this knowledge, bias can sometimes be difficult to detect. For the three-quarters of Americans who get their news daily, the ability to critically interpret the information provided by media outlets is essential for developing a comprehensive view of current events and the forces that influence them.

For students, who are more likely to “graze” on snippets of news throughout the day via social media and smart devices, news literacy is especially important. Who wrote that article and why? Who shared it on social media? What do other news sources say? Does the headline accurately reflect the content? These kinds of questions can easily be raised in English class, where analysis of texts and media is already encouraged.


Life Skill: Philosophy

Subject: History

Philosophy has a reputation as an airy subject without much grounding in reality, perhaps because of its history as a leisurely pursuit for intellectuals in ancient times. But at its core, philosophy is really just a way of thinking about thinking and has been demonstrated to improve cognitive and academic abilities across a range of subjects, at all levels of education.

Bring a touch of philosophy into your History class by exploring the teachings of the great philosophers like Plato and Aristotle. How was their thinking influenced by their society and era? How do those philosophies affect us now? Studying philosophy will encourage your students to think critically – an important skill through the entirety of their education and beyond.


Life Skill: Cybersecurity

Subject: Computer Science

Increasingly, people are entrusting their personal information to the internet: photos, conversations, resumes, finances. Many of us believe (or hope) that the organizations to which we’ve handed this sensitive data are trustworthy and secure, and more often than not this turns out to be the case. But on the rare occasions when that security is breached, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Cybersecurity education introduces students to the basic principles of online safety, as well as providing an ethical framework for online interaction. It goes hand in hand with Computer

Science, though it’s worthwhile reinforcing the essentials of cybersecurity in any class incorporating online activities.


Nick Nedeljkovic is a freelance writer and blogger from Sydney. With a love of learning and more degrees than he can afford, he’s a passionate advocate for education in all its forms.