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There's this invention called the Internet...

In several conversations recently, I have said these words: "If someone sends me one more 'soft skills curriculum resource,' I will kill someone." Of course that's hyperbole, but still, I would caution individuals that if I receive another link to a "soft skills toolkit," I may respond with a fussy email.

The truth is, there's this invention called the Internet. It's pretty revolutionary. I am under the impression that Al Gore invented it back in the 90s, but don't quote me on that. You see, the thing with contextualized instruction (academics taught in a real-life, work-ready context) is that it really only requires you to use authentic materials in a collaborative environment. Did you catch that? It is that simple. No toolkit needed, no expensive workbook required. Mark those emails as Junk and move on with life. (See what I just did for your inbox there? What will you do with all that extra time I just saved you?)

While you definitely need some direction and plans and guiding principles--like a curriculum map, or course outline, or (gasp!) a lesson plan--find yourself an informative article about an employment sector, employer, workplace scenario, etc., and voila! Analyze that baby using the ATOS analyzer and qualitative rubric to make sure your students can digest it, and build your lesson around this free, quick, authentic text.

Math folks have it even easier: There are tons of great resources out there for free that teach standards-based math using workplace tools and tricks of the trade. My favorite is the Math for Manufacturing Workbook that teaches nearly all the CCRS/CCSS in manufacturing-applicable terms and context. Drag out the masking tape and make a coordinate grid on your classroom floor and break out the yard sticks. Pair the loud mouth with the bookworm and ask for a group presentation on "how you got your answer."

So you don't have any money budgeted for curriculum and your assistant took the month off for the holidays? Have no fear! Google never takes the day off. Think of a skill or information your students need to know, and Google it. Pair students to practice, draw attention to building relational skills, and ask students how well they did with their roles. Stir gently, and you'll have a "soft skills toolkit" of your own in no time.

Consider this my little Christmas gift to you. May visions of text-dependent questions and math focus standards dance in your heads this holiday season. Have a blessed 2017!

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