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  • Mrs G

Teach Vocational Problem Solving in Sped

Updated: Mar 2, 2023

I spend a ton of time teaching vocational skills to my special education social skills groups. It is one of my favorites! I have learned that teaching the concrete job skills required to complete tasks in the workplace is a tiny piece of the workplace readiness puzzle.


Oftentimes, the thing my students need more is the other piece. The “non-concrete, depends on the situation, the customer is always right, what else was happening at the time” piece… The vocational problem-solving.



Where do you Start?

Teaching students to think critically through difficulties they will encounter in the workplace is vital to their success outside of the classroom. In fact, I would guess that teaching vocational problem-solving is just as important as teaching concrete job skills, especially in special education classrooms. When I think about how many unspoken rules there are in any job it makes me cringe. Where do you even start?


I started with my older students in a simple and organic way. I casually told my social skills groups about things that commonly happen in the workplace. For example, “one time my alarm clock did not go off and I knew I was going to be at least 30 minutes late for work.” Then we would spend ten minutes talking through it.

I asked the students what they thought I should do and we problem-solved as a group. The ten minutes grew to twenty, and then thirty. My students were so engrossed in the conversation that I knew I needed to expand the way we tackled it.

Teaching Vocational Problem Solving

This Vocational Problem-Solving product is what our ten-minute talks have evolved into. Now, our workplace discussions look more like this: I read a prompt, and the students take notes in their corresponding workbooks.


We talk through the guided questions as a whole group. Then, we break into partners to tackle problem-solving. There is another whole group discussion and finally, students connect what they have learned to their own lives using a writing prompt. You can try it with your students for FREE here



I infuse our listening comprehension, our writing, and our group work with vocational problem-solving. We spend an hour, sometimes two or three unpacking it over multiple group sessions.


There are not enough prompts in the world to tackle every “what if.” But, my hope is to start building the problem-solving skill set. I want my students to have tools to fall back on when they are confronted with life outside of my classroom.


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