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Soft Skills in the Workplace: Communication Using the U.S. Dept. of Labor: Soft Skills to Pay the Bills


Tech Product/Equipment:
Computer and projector, Mobile devices for students

Activity Description

Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success
Source: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success (License: Protected by Copyright (c) [i.e. screenshot])

"Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success," is a curriculum focused on teaching "soft" or workforce readiness skills to youth (and can be useful for anyone seeking employment). Created for teachers as an introduction to workplace interpersonal and professional skills, the curriculum is targeted for youth ages 14 to 21 in both in-school and out-of-school environments. The basic structure of the program is comprised of modular, hands-on, engaging activities that focus on six key skill areas: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism. Accompanying videos [www] help with material presentation.

Communication Skills is the focus of this activity.

Screenshot of the U.S. Dept of Labor's Soft Skills to Pay the Bills

Developed by the Office of Disability Employment Policy, U.S. Dept of Labor


  1. Read through the two introductory PDF documents, "Introduction and Activity Layout," and "Through the Lens of Universal Design for Learning." If you have students with known learning disabilities, the third document "Tips for Improving Access for Youth with Disabilities" may also be helpful.
  2. The first topic in the series is Communication, so this activity will focus there. (Feel free to visit the other topics also as time allows.)
  3. Make copies of the role plays in Activity 1 as necessary.
  4. For Activity 3, download the Soft Skills Emotions word list document (above) and cut them out for the first part of the activity.
  5. For Activity 4 you will need a sheet of 8.5 x 11" paper for each student.
  6. For Activity 5 you will need to make a copy for each student.
  7. If you decide to show the accompanying video, be sure to preview it, since it may or may not be relevant to your population.


  1. The "How to's" for this curriculum are presented in the pdf document on Communication. Read through it for instructions.
  2. Show the 2:15 minute video if you think it is applicable. It deals with communication issues that are more likely a problem among teenagers and young adults since it is about speaking in "text" language.

Teacher Tips

Communication skills are necessary for the development of self-advocacy and self-determination, important skills for lifelong success. To that end, the activities in this section offer many opportunities for students to practice communicating their strengths and assets while learning how to minimize any perceived barriers to employment. Please take the opportunity to add to or tweak any of the activities to better focus on the needs of your particular group.

For example, if working with students with disabilities, create opportunities to practice communicating how, when, and to whom to disclose a disability on the job or in post-secondary education and/or different ways to communicate a request for a reasonable accommodation. If you support students with a poor work history, you may want to include this section’s extension activities to practice how to communicate the proactive changes they are making in their lives, what they have learned from previous experiences, and how any mistakes of the past have helped them to become more focused and dedicated adults.

More Ways

The other topics contained in this series include: Enthusiasm & Attitude, Teamwork, Networking, Problem Solving & Critical Thinking, and Professionalism.

Program Areas

  • ABE: Adult Basic Education
  • ESL: English as a Second Language
  • ASE: High School Diploma
  • CTE: Career Technical Education
  • AwD: Adults with Disabilities


  • Intermediate
  • High
  • Low
  • Intermediate Low
  • Intermediate High
  • Advanced

Lesson Plan


Introduce the topic of communication by asking, what are ways we communicate with each other. Are there ways we communicate non-verbally? What does that mean? Give examples. Students turn to each other and discuss for two minutes then the class gathers and shares.

Engagement Enhancement

Go over the vocabulary terms bolded below.

For ten minutes students work in pairs students discussing the following: 

  • How does effective communication contribute to a positive work place?
  • How can non-verbal communication convey messages in the workplace?
  • What is active listening? How can that improve teamwork in the workplace?
  • Share personal experiences, positive and negative examples of communication in the workplace.

Gather the class together and discuss what was shared.


Using the pdf Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success: Communication   Student pairs go to the site. Students take turns reading the paragraphs on page 1. Ask students to discuss together what struck them as most important. Join back together and share ideas. Write those items on the board. 

Engagement Enhancement

As pairs have students go through Role Play #2 What's Your Point? (pg 6) This is an example of how active listening skills can help a conversation between the boss, Ms T and her student employee Will. After listening, discuss how Will handled the situation. (this role play is found in the document Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success: Communication Activity 1. What's Your Point-this is on page 22 of the handout or page 6 on the pdf)

ROLE PLAY #2 Scenario:  Will works in a large dental office and winds up rushing to get to work every day after school.  His job tasks include filing, making photocopies, stuffing envelopes, and answering the telephone.   Ms. T, the office manager, has asked to speak with Will about his time sheet.

Ms. T.:  Hello, Will. I would like to talk with you.

Will:  Yes, Ms. T.?

Ms. T.: Will, I’ve been watching your time this week, and I’m quite concerned.

Will:  Ms. T., I see that you’re not happy, but will you please be more specific?

Ms. T.: You’re not getting here on time.

Will: I know I’ve been arriving to work late, and I am sorry.

Ms. T.: Well, look at your time today. You were supposed to be here at 3:15 this afternoon and it’s now 3:30 and you just walked in.  We need to be able to depend on you to be here at the time you’re scheduled to work.

Will:  I understand that you expect me to be here on time. I’m getting here as quickly as I can after school. Would it be possible to change my start time to 3:30? I can put in the extra 15 minutes at the end of the workday instead.

Ms. T.: Well, I suppose we can try that. Are you absolutely sure that you can make it here every day by 3:30?

Will:  I’m sorry that I’ve been getting here late and upsetting you. I really do think that I can be here every day by 3:30, but if for some reason I can’t make it here by that time, I will be sure to call to let you know.

Ms. T.: That would be very helpful. Thank you, Will. 

Gather the class to share conclusions.

Engagement Enhancement

Students return to the pdf on Communication, page 10 pdf or page 26 of the handout, Activity: 3. Oh, Puh-leeeeze!  Student pairs read through the first three paragraphs of the Directions. Give time to allow them to consider examples of non-verbal communication cues specific to their culture. 

Gather as a group to share their ideas.

Engagement Enhancement

Page 11 of the Communication pdf has a list of seven types of non-verbal signals and cues often used when we communicate. As pairs read through the seven. Then each pair creates a list of Do's and Don'ts for avoiding common body language mistakes on the job.

The Seven Types of Non-Verbal Signals and Cues 

  1. Facial expression
  2. Body movements and posture
  3. Gestures
  4. Eye  contact
  5. Touch
  6. Space
  7. Voice
Engagement Enhancement

Using Google Docs or Microsoft Word, students write a summary of what they learned today and a conclusion paragraph of ways to improve workplace communication. Stufdents share their assignment with their partners.  Students make suggestions to each other. Was anything missing in the summary? How successful will you be using the suggestions? Using the suggestions, students can make edits to improve their summaries. Finally, each student adds a paragraph to the bottom of their partner's assignment noting their partner's best idea, and adding their name as the contributing partner. Share assignments with the teacher.

Engagement Enhancement Extension

Take the ideas from the lesson on Communication in the Workplace home. Discuss the ideas with friends and family members. Bring back new ideas and situations to discuss, applying what was learned about Communication in the Workplace.


  • Basic Communication
    • Communicate in interpersonal interactions
  • Electives
    • Career Exploration
  • Employment
    • Communicate effectively in the workplace
  • Language Arts - Reading
    • Comprehension
  • Learning and Thinking Skills
    • Demonstrate ability to use critical thinking skills
    • Demonstrate ability to use problem-solving skills
  • Reading
    • Critical Thinking/Decision Making
    • Employability

CTE Anchor Standards

  • Anchor Standard 2: Communications - Language Standard: Acquire and accurately use general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the (career and college) readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression.
  • Anchor Standard 7: Responsibility and Flexibility - Speaking and Listening Standard: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


enthusiasm, job skills, networking, problem solving, professionalism, role play, soft skills, teamwork, workplace, workplace skills, attitude, communication, critical thinking


Materials created by the federal government are generally part of the public domain and may be used, reproduced and distributed without permission. Therefore, content on this website which is in the public domain may be used without the prior permission of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). However, such materials may not be used in a manner that implies any affiliation or endorsement by the DOL of your company, website or publication. You may properly credit public domain materials obtained from a DOL website to the U.S. Department of Labor and/or

AI Reference

Use of ChatGPT
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OTAN activities are funded by contract CN220124 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.