Career Exploration in First Grade

By Debbie Osborn


How do you get first graders excited about career exploration? What activities will encourage them to their potential careers that are years away? What are some strategies that would engage their different learning styles and keep the energy flowing? These were questions I struggled with as I prepared for the "Great American Teach-in," a one day state-sponsored event where community members share their knowledge with kids ranging from K-12. I have not had a great deal of experience with career development at the elementary level. However, when a former student of mine asked me to do some career-focused workshops for her first graders, I could not say no.

However, I had many questions about how to do this, and how I should focus the 30 minutes allotted to me. Should I have a PowerPoint presentation planned? Should I review the Holland types briefly and have them choose their primary type? Should I show them some information that's on the Internet? Should I base my presentation on the hope that there will be an active discussion? Is this a safe move, and what will I do if no one participates?

Despite my questions and reservations, I did in fact, provide a 30 minute career guidance lesson for several first grade classes. I had several possible activities and tried many of them with the various groups, making adjustments when necessary. The following ideas are based on what worked well on that day.

Getting started:
After introducing myself, I asked the students some general questions. In each class, there was a flurry of hands each time I asked. Questions included:

Other activities:
After getting started, I filled the middle time of my presentation with one of the following activities:



Lessons learned:

While I was working with the students, I was excited to see that the children were very interested in learning and participating. They had questions before I had even said the first word. They were very curious and eager to explore. They also were very motivated to help, when asked for their opinion about my daughter's possible career paths. I found that it helped to be constantly moving around, and to have exaggerated poses and reactions. The use of a brief story or case example seemed to keep them engaged.

Even at this young of an age, most of the students had clear ideas about what their career might be. There were many doctors, teachers and athletes, but there were also scientists, an owner of a candy shop, artists, and reporters. I also learned that children at this age do have some knowledge about what they like and don't like, what they are good at naturally and not so good at. They are able to generate options that make sense, based on interests, skills and hobbies. All in all, it was a fantastic day, where I learned as much or more from them as I am sure they learned from me.



Debbie Osborn, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at the University of South Florida. Individuals wishing to share additional creative strategies for using career information are encouraged to write. Correspondence regarding this article should be directed to her at osborn@coedu.usf.edu

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