Creating Career Smarts

Screen Shot 2012-07-26 at 6.08.26 PMOne of the things I am most proud of from last school year is CareerSmarts, a new unit I developed for fourth grade, which I’d love to share with you.  CareerSmarts is a student-driven, technology-based unit in which students learn about and connect their multiple intelligences and interests with future education and career possibilities. There’s even a fun gamification aspect – students challenge themselves to move to different levels by exploring multiple careers. While on the CareerSmarts journey, students learn about their own “smarts,” and explore and analyze a variety of careers by watching videos, using a search engine, playing games, and interviewing guests at Career Day. To demonstrate their learning, they create career trading cards featuring the Career Day guests and avatars of themselves in their future careers. To see an example of how knowledgeable the kids become, check out the biomedical engineer below. (You can learn more about the avatar project and see all the avatars the kids created at Avatars at the Virtual Career Fair.)

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And guess what! The unit addresses Common Core State Standards in Writing and Speaking & Listening, as well as ASCA National Standards in the Academic and Career domains.   

I had several goals for this unit:

  • to address some of the academic and career standards  
  • to integrate technology in a way that would create an environment in which most of the learning would be student-driven 
  • to get kids excited about future possibilities and therefore more engaged in their current learning 
  • to clearly illustrate how school counseling classroom lessons can address Common Core State Standards    

I have to say, developing this unit was a LOT of work, but most of that had to do with all the time I spent gathering resources, developing lessons, and integrating the technology, which I will not have to do again. (Yay!) Coordinating Career Day (17 guests x 44 kids x 3 interviews each!) was no harder than managing any other big school event, but did take some time. But it was SO worth all the work and the number of lessons it took!  The kids were incredibly engaged, excited, and transformed by this unit. It so far exceeded my expectations, I could barely believe it!    


The kids asked such good questions – they really made the veterinarian think!

Hopefully, CareerSmarts will get you thinking about how you can add some career lessons into your program, integrate technology into your lessons, begin to think about the Common Core in relation to your school counseling practice, and/or develop units of your own. It could also be a starting place for you to approach a friendly teacher and propose a collaborative project! In upcoming posts I’ll share the details so that you can teach or adapt the lessons yourself. I developed the unit for fourth grade, but it is very appropriate for 5th grade too, and could easily be adapted for 6th.


One of the trading cards kids made about the Career Day guests. This is a great way for kids to show what they’ve learned, and it’s a writing activity! Tell THAT to your principal!

Foundation and Framework for Developing the Unit    

I started the process of developing CareerSmarts by thinking about what I wanted the kids to know. I came up with these essential questions based on the most relevant ASCA standards (in parentheses), which would focus the students’ learning and our discussions: 

  • What are the different ways I am smart? (C:A1.3)    
  • How can I learn about different careers? (C:A1.1, C:B1.5, C:B1.6)    
  • How does what I’m interested in now relate to my future career? (C:A1.9, C:B1.2, C:C2.1)    
  • What kind of education and abilities do I need in order to have the kinds of careers I’m interested in? (C:B2.1, C:C1.1, C:C2.1)    
  • How can I share what I have learned about careers and multiple intelligences? (A:A3.5)    

(You can find the full text of the ASCA standards addressed inCareerSmarts at the end of the post).

I always want to make my lessons interesting and meaningful to my students, and what could be more interesting to a kid than him/herself???!!!  Egocentricity: if you’ve got to deal with it, you might as well harness it! I decided to have the kids start by learning about themselves, build from there to explore new information of their choice, and then circle back and have them apply that new learning to themselves.

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It’s all about him! To show what he had learned about multiple intelligences and careers, this student made an avatar of himself as a professional dancer with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

 Here are the activities I chose:

  1. Learn about multiple intelligences, then identify how their own “smarts” are related
  2. Explore a variety of careers     
  3. Interview real workers at Career Day    
  4. Use what they have learned through all the above activities to create trading cards of the Career Day guests     
  5. Write scripts and create avatars of themselves in a future career    

These learning activities addressed a whole range of Common Core standards (see below.) When you start to incorporate the Common Core into your lessons, don’t be afraid to consult with your colleagues who are most knowledgeable about them. Our literacy teacher-leader happened to come into the computer lab when I was giving the directions for writing the avatar scripts. She was so excited that I was addressing the CCSS in my lessons! After the unit was over, she helped me confirm which standards we had covered – she even identified some that I was uncertain about.

Developing the Lessons      

How did I figure out how to create lessons out of these ideas? Well, I spent a LOT of time last summer researching what kind of career resources were out there for elementary students. I found some good stuff (thank you Virginia Career View!), but not exactly everything I wanted, so I set out to put something new together. Simultaneously I was taking a “Techsploration” class, so I put what I was discovering there to use on creating this unit! One assignment was to create an infographic, so I killed two birds with one stone and made this “map” of the unit, using     

Screen Shot 2012-07-26 at 6.08.26 PMAnother “Techsploration” assignment required me to explore some different website development tools and create a little something. I’m not sure what actually happened (was it the humidity? All that kale I ate last summer?), but I got so excited about the possibilities that my “little something” turned into a 4th Grade Class Councils website, which I created with Google Sites. (I know, I know. Somehow the combination of school counseling and tech brings out the extreme dork in me!) I’m not able to share the website right now because a lot of identifying student work is embedded in it, but my goal is to find a way that other school counselors can use the CareerSmarts pages to teach the unit themselves. For now I’ll share pictures of it so that you can get the idea, and all the links so that you can use any of the pieces you like.

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Ta-da! The Lessons     

I’ve worked long and hard over the years to get to the place where our school’s class council (classroom counseling) lessons happen weekly. You might not have the luxury (yet!) of having time to teach all the lessons in this unit, but you could certainly shorten it up or use pieces of it. Or propose a collaborative writing project to a friendly teacher!

(Common Core standards addressed are in parenthesesFull text of the CCSS are at the end of the post.)    

Stay tuned! Upcoming posts include:

But first, I’m taking a little much-needed un-plugged vacation from screens and devices.  My multiple intelligences will be much sharper when I share how to teach about them in about a week or so. See you on the other side!     

Here is the full text of the ASCA and Common Core Standards addressed in CareerSmarts:

ASCA National Standards   

Academic Domain    

  • A:A3.5  share knowledge    
  • A:B1.5 organize and apply academic information from a variety of sources      
  • A:B1.6 use knowledge of learning styles to positively influence school performance     
  • A:C1.3  understand the relationship between learning and work       

Career Domain   

  • C:A1.1  develop skills to locate, evaluate, and interpret career information   
  • C:A1.3  develop an awareness of personal abilities, skills, interests, and motivations     
  • C:A1.9  develop hobbies and vocational interests    
  • C:B1.2  identify personal skills, interests, and abilities and relate them to current career choice    
  • C:B1.5  use research and information resources to obtain career information    
  • C:B1.6  learn to use the internet to access career planning information      
  • C:B2.1  demonstrate awareness of the education and training needed to achieve career goals    
  • C:C1.1  understand the relationship between educational achievement and career success     
  • C:C2.1  demonstrate how interests, abilities and achievement relate to achieving personal, social, educational, and career goals    

Common Core State Standards    


  • 4W.2 Write informative, explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly
  • 4W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development and organization are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.   
  • 4W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.   
  • 4W.6 With some guidance and support from adults, use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing as well as to interact and collaborate with others, demonstrate sufficient command of keyboarding skills to type a minimum of one page in a single sitting.     
  • 4W.7 Conduct short research projects that build knowledge through investigation of different aspects of a topic.  
  • 4W.8 Recall relevant information from experiences or gather relevant information from print and digital sources; take notes and categorize information, and provide a list of sources.   
  • 4W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.    

Speaking and Listening  

  • 4SL.1 Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions )one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 4 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.    
  • 4SL.3 Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points.    
  • 4SL.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.     
  • 4SL.5 Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas of themes.

You might also be interested in . . .    

Brave, Bold First Graders   

Goodbye Bully Machine, Hello Integrated Learning   

Treasure Boxes, Treasured Friends   

When a Staff Member Dies  

F is for Success, Not Failure


  1. Do you know how AMAZING your work is? 4th grade is such a perfect developmental age for this level of “introduction to careers”. Techy is good! I love your degree of planning, thorough research, and connection with ASCA benchmarks and Common Core Standards. I have a couple elementary school NBPTS candidates. May I share your post with them? THANKS in advance! -Jane

    • Thanks, Jane! Of course you can share! I’m hoping that this can be helpful to anyone who is interested.

  2. Rebecca, This was absolutely incredible!! Very well researched, thought out and developmentally appropriate!!! Great job getting the students to totally buy in using the technology!!! And last but not least thank you for taking the time to create this unit and the time spent to share it on here!!!! Well Done!!!!

  3. This sounds amazing and I look forward to learning about your multiple intelligence resources – and all your upcoming posts! I hope that I can learn to use the technology, too…I bet creating avatars would be so much fun for the kids!
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Okay so I am blown away … in a very good way at this post! Between brain overload and some computer issues I am having right at this moment I am hoping this post comes through and that I’m just maybe missing something but is this a lesson/curriculum that you made to sell or how would I be able to get this “Creating Careers” as well? I am not as technologically savy as I’d like to be so I would much rather buy than give myself a migraine and not be able to do a quarter of as nice of a job as you have here! Any info would be great! Thanks

    • Thanks everyone for your kind comments!

      Amy, I will be sharing all the aspects of CareerSmarts so you’ll be able to replicate it. You don’t need to be especially computer savvy – I certainly wasn’t a couple of years ago! (But I certainly encourage you to start exploring and having some fun – just pick one tool, maybe one from CareerSmarts, and start goofing around with it. I promise you, nothing will blow up!)

  5. This is so amazing! I’m a first year counselor and I teach weekly lessons, which has me a little bit nervous. But my 3rd-5th graders also get tested on career readiness as part of my evaluation. So this is totally amazing! It has ideas for multiple lessons at once while covering content that my kiddies need to learn. Thank you. You rock!

    • Mary, first of all, congratulations on your first job! I’m so glad that you will be able to use CareerSmarts! I think weekly lessons are the best way to go, because your kids will really be able to learn, understand, and share what they know. I know it’s a bit daunting to come up with lessons at first, but if you think about units, and then build the lessons within those units it will be much easier, and more educationally sound, too! I’ve got other lessons and unit outlines posted here, and you should check other blogs too. I suggest you check out the Steps to Respect curriculum from GLSEN and the resources at Teaching Tolerance. They both have wonderful lessons on accepting differences and bullying prevention. Also, Books that Heal Kids has great, in-depth reviews of books and how you can use them in your lessons. Good luck!

  6. Rebecca,
    It was exciting to read your lesson and I can’t wait to try it out on my 6th grade guidance classes. Would you be willing to share the pre-test/post-test you used in this lesson?

    • Hi Karin,

      Yes! I’ll be sharing the pre/post-test in an upcoming post. So excited to hear that you’ll be using it! More details coming soon in new blog posts. Please let me know how it goes.

      • What an amazing lesson!!! Did you give your pre/post test after each lesson or before/after the entire unit?

        • I gave the pre-test on the first day we began the unit (and then started the first multiple intelligences lesson). I gave the post-test on the last day of the unit. after everyone finished, we had our virtual career fair where we watched everyone’s Voki’s.



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