What are the main skills the employers of the 21st century are looking for? Are they only good knowledge of various school subjects? Definitely, not. Most of the hiring companies also mention such requirements as “soft skills”. But what are they and how to develop these skills when teaching your teens?
What are soft skills?
Soft skills include communicative skills, decision making, teamwork, creative thinking, problem-solving, conflict resolution, motivation, etc. Unlike hard skills, soft skills cannot be gained through higher education, training and certifications. They play a crucial part in customer-based jobs. It is due to these skills that the service of a waiter, an immigrant officer, a check-in clerk or a receptionist is defined as of high quality. However, back-office positions are not exceptions either. Whether you are a front or a back officer, you will need soft skills at least for communication with your colleagues. If you want to find out what soft skills our students will need in the future, and what job applications will be like, read our previous article on IATEFL talks.
How to teach soft skills?
If you want to engage your teens in the learning procedure, you should pique their curiosity in the material. Many language learners, especially teenagers, may lose interest and motivation to study a language when they do not realise why they need this or that topic, and how it can be useful for them. Hence, the very first thing to do is to explain why we need this information, why we are learning this or that topic, and what can be taken from it. We should teach them taking into consideration the necessity and the usefulness of the material in their lives and for their work in the future.
Boost confidence: Teaching teens is very often overwhelming because of the low level of their confidence. In one of our articles, we have already touched upon the problem of how to set a safe atmosphere with your teens to make them feel confident. Apart from that, we as teachers can give them some ‘special’ tasks to boost their confidence.
First of all, make a list of those students who lack self-confidence. Every day, give one task to one of them. For example, give out sheets of paper, make sure that there is a marker for the whiteboard.
Another thing to be done is to give them a part of a teacher’s role to play. They can become a teacher for 15 minutes and explain this or that topic to their peers. Thus they will feel responsible for the task and gradually raise self-confidence.
Social skills: These are the skills that help students become more self-aware, show empathy towards others, control emotions and resolve conflicts. Getting your students to sit next to each other in the classroom is not enough to develop social (interpersonal) skills and teamwork among them. They sometimes do not know how to interact with their peers properly. Hence, first of all, you should explain the necessity and the importance of these skills to your teens. Introduce the main problems that may occur because of poor interpersonal skills. Teamwork may turn out to be a failure, because the participants lack the ability to listen to each other or because they do not want not to wait for their turn. Apart from representing the need for social skills, you can use the following activities with your teens:
- Play social skills board games. They model good social skills and behaviour.
- Watch a video based on emotions and then discuss in a group.
- Hold discussions about appropriate interpersonal skills.
- Assign group activities.
- Practise volunteering.
Here you can find some more ideas on how to teach social skills using games.
Thinking skills: Thinking skills are the mental activities which we use to get and maintain information, to analyse, to make decisions and create new ideas. However, not everybody uses them effectively. Therefore, we should be sure to teach these skills to our teens in the ESL classroom. While teaching these skills the following tasks will come in handy:
- K -W – L charts with assigned activities.
- Board games (Cashflow, Taboo, Apples to Apples)
- Analogies, mysteries, puzzles
Communication skills: Being able to communicate is one of the major life skills that each of us really needs. Communication is defined as transferring information to produce greater understanding. It can be carried out verbally, through written form, visually (using charts, presentations, etc) and non – verbally (through body language, gestures, etc).
- Watch and analyse films. Watching films in English does not only develop your students’ listening skills and enlarge vocabulary, but it also helps them understand the body language and eye contact the actors use. Watch short episodes from films, pause and discuss them with your teens.
- Assign group presentations. That will help them to boost visual communication skills.
- Ask open-ended questions and avoid yes/no questions. The latter doesn’t allow them to speak and communicate. That’s why you should ask questions which will develop further discussions. Or just add “why” after a yes/no question.
- Discuss different types of communication a person might use in different environments, such as with friends, in the classroom, at work, etc. Here role-plays will turn out to be really useful.
So, we should bear in our minds that being teen’s teachers we are the educators of future job candidates. Thus we should do our best to boost soft skills in our teens and get them ready for future challenges in their lives and at work.