5 Transition Activities for Better Student Outcomes

One male and one female high-school student engaged in a classroom activity.
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Transition coordinators and special education teachers are painfully aware of the lack of engaging, age-appropriate activities in transition curricula. When browsing through online resources, you instantly notice the almost complete lack of transition activities suitable to classroom settings. 

This is no surprise, considering topics such as developing a positive attitude, communication skills, self-determination and self-esteem are rarely given the time and attention they deserve in the classroom. 

With access to a range of fun hands-on activities that help students with disabilities better understand the importance of nonacademic skills and connect them to real-world settings, transition coordinators and teachers can markedly improve instruction in these areas. 

In this article, we will explore recent data and research that illustrate the gaps in transition instruction before exploring 5 examples of ready-made activities you can start using right away to stimulate the teaching of essential skills. 

The Role of Transition Activities in Fostering College and Career Readiness 

While there are growing trends that suggest post-secondary outcomes for people with disabilities have improved over the past few years, transition results remain unsatisfactory in key areas such as employment and further education. 

The graphs below indicate a steady increase in the % of people with disabilities who hold a higher education degree or are in active employment. 

Graph showing growing number of people with disabilities have bachelor's degrees or higher.
Source: Annual Report on People with Disabilities in America (2023)
Graph showing the increase in the percentage of people with disabilities in employment.
Source: Annual Report on People with Disabilities in America (2023)

While these are positive developments, the data continues to highlight the gaping disparities between people with disabilities and those without when it comes to accessing employment and further education. Digging deeper into the Annual Report on People with Disabilities in America, it is also evident people with disabilities continue to earn less than their non-disabled peers, are more likely to experience poverty and are far less likely to have access to benefits such as private health care. 

These statistics have prompted a number of researchers to call for schools and districts to start addressing nonacademic skills areas that have been historically underemphasized. 

For example, a meta-analysis of secondary transition literature by McConnell et al. sought to identify ‘student nonacademic behaviors associated with post–high school employment and education.’ Their analysis suggested that more attention should be paid to 10 key areas of instruction including knowledge of strengths and limitations, goal setting and attainment, persistence, and self-advocacy.  

Moreover, numerous studies cited by June E. Gothberg et al. 2015, point to the benefits of developing competencies such as self-esteem and a positive attitude for academic performance as well as their effects on employability, earning power and well-being in adulthood. 

However, teachers remain unconvinced. A widely cited national survey by Wehmeyer et al. indicates that many educators don’t see the value or benefit of instruction in this area. Others, feel unprepared to provide such instruction or claim they lack the necessary resources. 

Transition coordinators can address these issues by:

  1. clearly outlining the immense need for teaching nonacademic skills (as illustrated in this section) and
  2. providing the necessary resources to facilitate instruction.

This is where transition activities come in. 

Graphic organizers, role-playing games and connect-to-home activities are all quick and easy ways to stimulate the teaching of transition skills. They help secondary students reflect on the importance of what they are learning and connect particular skills to real-world situations and emotional states. 

So, let’s explore 5 engaging classroom activities for high school students to practice key transition skills. These activities are designed by professional instructional designers at Ori Learning and can be adapted to a wide variety of learning styles and needs.

5 Classroom Activities to Enhance Your Transition Curriculum

Below are our 5 suggested activities complete with freely downloadable resources you can print and use in the classroom. You can utilize these as ready-made templates or adapt them to your unique curriculum needs. They are organized into categories that correspond to the most widely recognized skills needed for achieving and maintaining employment for individuals with mild to mild-moderate disabilities. 

Setting Personal Goals 

Create an action plan for a transition goal involving independent living, education, work or health. 

Step 1: Answer these questions.

What is your goal?
When do you expect to meet this goal (date)?
Is your goal S.M.A.R.T?

  • Specific
  • Attainable
  • Measurable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

Remember the 5 golden rules: 

  1. Set goals that motivate you.
  2. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals.
  3. Set goals in writing.
  4. Set an action plan in place.
  5. Set time to re-evaluate and track your progress toward meeting goals.

Step 2: Use the graphic organizer to break down your goal.


Step 3: Get feedback from your teacher, the class, your family or friends. 

When giving feedback remember to:  

  • Be honest but kind.
  • Take turns and help each other.
  • Give a compliment and a suggestion.
  • Make eye contact.

Developing Interpersonal Skills

In this role-playing activity, you will analyze a problem and develop a solution that works for both sides. 

Scenario 1: Your coworker is texting instead of helping customers.
Scenario 2: You are doing a group project and one of the members of the group is unwilling to do their part of the project.

Step 1: Pick one of the conflicts then, decide if you should resolve the conflict. 

  • Is there a solution? 
  • Is it a big deal?
  • Can you change the person’s mind? 

Step 2: Using the scenario you chose, prepare for the conversation you will have with the other person by looking at your own assumptions about their actions.

  • Action: What did the other person actually say or do? 
  • Impact: How did this impact me?
  • Assumption: Based on this impact, what assumption am I making about what the other person intended? 

Step 3: Use an “I feel…” statement to name your own feelings.

  • “I feel (name your feeling) when you (name the situation) because (name the reason for your feelings).”

Step 4: Imagine how the other person feels. Recognize the other person’s feelings and invite them to share their side of the story.

  • “I think that you feel (name what you believe to be the other person’s feelings) when (describe the situation and add an invitation to talk).”

Step 5: Imagine what the other person might say. Listen actively to understand the other person’s side of the story, share your own viewpoint, and then acknowledge the other person’s feelings.

  • What is their side of the story?
  • How can you acknowledge their feelings?

Step 6: Once you both understand that there is a problem, agree on an end goal. 

  • What do you both ultimately want? 

Step 7: List any obstacles stopping you from solving your problem. 

  • What are some possible things stopping you both from getting what you want? 

Step 8: Work together to come up with two or three possible solutions to help you solve your problem. 

  • Who? Is there anyone that can help you solve this problem?
  • What? What is causing this problem? Can you fix it or change it?
  • Where? Where is the problem happening? Is the location causing the problem?
  • When? When is the problem happening? Will changing the time help?
  • Why? Why is the problem happening? What can you do about it?
  • How? How did the problem start? Did something change?

Step 9: List out the pros and cons of the solutions that you came up with. Once you’ve done that, pick one to try. 

Step 10: Once you’ve tried out your solution, evaluate it. Did it work? Why or why not?

Identifying Personal Strengths 

Write a speech to a potential employer answering the question “Why would you be a good addition to our team?”. Use the template below to structure your speech and practice giving it to others. 

Here’s an example: 

I would be a great addition to your day care center because I have a lot of creativity. This means that I am always thinking of new and interesting ideas. This character strength helped me to work with my high school’s mural committee to paint murals on the walls of my high school. These murals made my school beautiful and were also educational. Having creativity will also help me in your day care center because I will use my creativity to help make many beautiful and educational art projects with the children. If I am given the chance to join your organization, this is just one of the many character strengths of mine you will see.

Step 1: Introduction

  • One of the challenges that I was able to overcome was (insert challenge). This means that (explain what your challenge was). 

Remember to: 

  • Restate the question.
  • Use transition words.
  • List a character strength. 
  • Give an example. 

Step 2: Supporting Details/Evidence

I realized that my (insert the challenge) stopped me from (explain the situation at the school, home, or elsewhere when the challenge stopped you from living up to your potential). 

Make sure your evidence is: 

  • Specific 
  • Clear
  • A reasonable length (not too long)
  • Able to prove the point 

Step 3: Conclusion

Overcoming (insert the challenge) taught me that (insert your conclusion). If I am given the chance to join your organization, this is just one of the many character strengths of mine that you will see. 

In your conclusion, avoid: 

  • Too much details. 
  • Adding new details. 

Step 4: Present Your Speech

Use the checklists below to evaluate your own presentation and that of your classmates. 

 1: Did Not Meet2: Meets Some3: Meets All
Eye Contact   
Body Language   
Staying Focused   
Taking Turns   

Career Exploration 

Write a job description for your ideal future job. Use the template below.

Describe the Ideal Company. 
What is the Job Title? 
Describe the Job Duties and Responsibilities. 
What are the Education or Skill Requirements? 
What are the Salary and Benefits for this Job? 
Write a Brief Summary About the Position for a Newspaper or Online Advertisement. 
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