5 Quick Ways to Get Career Exploration Lesson Plans Blog Feature
Sarah Layton

By: Sarah Layton on June 15th, 2017

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5 Quick Ways to Get Career Exploration Lesson Plans

Career Exploration | Career Readiness

With an increasing focus on career preparation as part of elective courses, finding career exploration lesson plans and activities can be tough. How do you go about creating or finding these lessons and ideas? And then how can you build them into your existing career readiness curriculum?

Jim Schultz recently shared this LinkedIn comment from a former teacher who has not been in the classroom for a number of years:

"Teachers can incorporate career exploration lessons into their classroom without much effort by having students work together in groups on projects (collaboration/teamwork), finding solutions to problems (problem-solving), sharing results to the class (communication), and rotating leadership within groups (leadership)."

Is it really that simple? I'm not so sure. There are real challenges in approaching the creation and implementation of career exploration lessons and activities for middle school and early high school audiences.

Today's teachers have more options than ever in regards to resources and tools for teaching, including:

  • What the above comment suggests
  • "Free resources" from the internet
  • Textbooks or eBooks
  • eLearning curriculum


With all of these options, how can you decide where to start? It's important to understand the pros and cons of each, and it depends how much time you want to dedicate to extra lesson planning!

Make Your Own "Home Grown" Career Exploration Activities

Homegrown Career Exploration Lesson Plans.jpg

Can you effectively teach career exploration by simply incorporating group work and problem solving?

While this can certainly work for teachers who just need to quickly skip over career exploration, for most teachers this might not be quite enough. If you are trying to meet specific standards, it seems that checking your career exploration outcomes boxes through this method could be a little shaky.

I'm sure you would rather spend your weeknights and weekends doing something other than developing and refining those lesson plans to make sure you are getting enough career exploration activities into them.

So, if you do decide to go this route, once you've perfected the lessons and activities, how do you grade them? Don't forget you'll have to spend time creating rubrics and then grading student work based on those rubrics!

Now that you've established your lesson plans and fine-tuned your rubrics for grading the group work and presentations...it seems the standards have changed once again. Time to make the updates!

Free Career Preparation Lesson Plans: You Get What You Pay For

What about making use of all that free stuff from the Internet? You absolutely can! There are some really great options out there. You just have to spend time finding them and then evaluating them. And therein lies the rub... you may spend just as much time finding and evaluating free lesson plans and activities as you would developing them yourself!

And, if you've acquired materials from many sources, you'll have to fit them together in a way that makes sense and creates some sort of order.

Even if you find the perfect resources, there's always that here-today-gone-tomorrow aspect of free online resources. Your perfect career exploration lesson plans could disappear without any notice.

Conclusion: When it comes to free, you can definitely find some great resources for career exploration. However, as with most cases, too often you get what you pay for.

That being said, here are a few good resources that I found while doing some research:

  • Learningforlife.org has this series of lessons.
  • Kids.gov also has as few relevant activities and uses the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook as a starting point.
  • CareerOneStop has an “Explore Careers” section that includes self-assessment and learning about and planning careers.
  • For not quite free resources, Teachers Pay Teachers has a hearty menu of career exploration lessons and activities to choose from. The prices are reasonable.

Career Exploration Middle School Textbooks


Of course, there's always the good old textbook. They certainly have their uses. I'm just not so sure that career explorations lesson plans is one of them.

First, let's talk textbook generalities. Textbooks can be summed up in these statements:

  • Textbooks are physical objects, and not tiny ones at that.
  • Textbooks are static.
  • Paper textbooks do not make use of media such as animation, video and narration that aid learning.
  • Textbooks aren’t very modular.

Second, let's talk career exploration textbooks specifically. Career content is fluid. Nailing that content down to a printed and published textbook means your curriculum will very quickly expire. There are better resources out there that can keep pace with the changing subject of career exploration.

And lastly, consider the engagement factor of a textbook. For a dynamic subject such as career exploration, you need some dynamic resources for your career exploration lesson plans!

Career Exploration Lesson Plans: Perfectly Blended

I'm not saying you can't use any of these methods, but why would you use them exclusively? There are upsides and downsides to all of these options. However, a solution is closer than you think.

While any of the resources discussed alone might not suffice, compiling the best parts of each is a win on several levels. Changing up your resources and delivery provides an engaging blended learning environment that can keep students excited and interested in their learning.

In a recent post, we shared 5 benefits of blended learning that you and your students could be enjoying by combining all of these options for career exploration. Those benefits being:

  • Increased student engagement
  • Fun!
  • Better teacher flexibility and time management
  • Cost savings
  • Variety of performance assessments and data

A typical classroom teacher involved in career exploration might pull together various resources to deliver and have the students involved in lessons, activities and projects.

A classroom where students work together on group projects to solve problems and share the with the class can benefit from the wide range of free career exploration lessons, activities, and projects found online. And textbooks that are kept updated can provide relevant background reading material for those activities and projects.

But what about the drawbacks of each of those options? The development of lesson plans, the grading and assessing of all of those items, the outdated content and, literally and figuratively, heavy textbooks? An option you may not have considered or even encountered is eLearning curriculum.

Using Digital Career Readiness Curriculum

eLearning curriculum can be an incredibly useful tool to add to your classroom. Online resources can be an important part of creating that desired blended learning atmosphere. Additionally, it can keep you and your students on top of the latest and greatest curriculum related to career exploration because the digital curriculum is easily updated and seamlessly released. Online systems typically provide automated assessments and feedback that helps you and your students focus on what each of them needs most.

These digital career readiness curriculum options are designed to help students by keeping them engaged and allowing theem to learn at their own paces. They help teachers by providing up-to-date content and time-saving features like automated assessments, pre-made lesson plans and activities, and many other tools.

College and Career Readiness Skills for Students[Editors Note: This article was originally published in October 2015, and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.]


About Sarah Layton

Sarah has been with AES since 1998, first serving as a curriculum developer, and now as a customer support analyst and content creator. She is committed to helping instructors gain experience and confidence using our solutions and to providing excellent customer care.