Outside The Box Guest Post

Today I'm welcoming my colleague and friend to share a lesson her little learners in Montana recently enjoyed. You might remember Tanya from 
her Empathy in a (Shoe) Box post or her Vision Boards lesson. 
I appreciate her willingness to share her ideas with us!


Careers: Thinking Outside the Box by Tanya Kirschman

Imagine the reaction you would get from your students if you walked into their classroom wearing a cardboard box! Laughter, confused looks and curious questions are common. It’s a great way to grab attention and get students hooked on the subject of careers!

Find a large cardboard box (cover with plain paper if it has writing on it) and cut holes for your head and arms to go through. Gather six markers and the book Being Wendy by Fran Drescher. Finally, ask the teachers at your school what they wanted to be when they grew up (when they were in elementary school) and make a note of their responses.

Enter the classroom wearing the box. Instruct students to write “the one thing you want to be when you grow up” with their first name on the box. Six students begin the activity and pass on their marker when finished. Anticipate that several students will ask if they can write more than one job/career on the box. Clearly repeat that they may only write “the ONE job or career you want to have when you’re an adult.” When all students have had a turn, remove the box 
and read the responses to the class.

Read Being Wendy aloud and discuss:

1.  Do you think everyone grows up to get the job they wanted when they were a kid? Share responses from the teachers at your school at this time to demonstrate that dreams change as we grow.

2.  If you set a goal to have a specific career someday and you grow up to be something different, does that mean you failed at your goal? 

3.  Wendy said that she felt different from everyone else, but was afraid to tell someone. Why do you think she was afraid? 

4. Is it a bad thing to be different from others? How do you treat people who are different from you?

5.   The author stated, “Wendy tried to take her dad’s advice, but the more she thought about it, the more she hated thinking inside the box.” Have you ever heard the expression, “thinking inside/outside the box”? What does it mean? How does it apply here?

6.  What do you think the town of “Freedomland” is like?

Inform students that they will learn about their own talents and abilities, and different jobs as they mature. These are the considerations they will make as they make choices about colleges and careers. Assure students they do not need to know right now what they want to “be” when they are older, and they will likely change their mind many times, which is to be expected.

Activity extensions:

Allow students to return to the box and write other jobs that interest them.

Suggest that students ask their parent(s) about what they wanted to be when they were younger and how they chose the job or career they have now.

Encourage students to:
      * consider their current capabilities and talents
              -take an interest inventory at Learn More Indiana 

      * draw their vision of “Freedomland”

      * express the things they want to be when they grow up

This worksheet can be downloaded {here}
Cut a square from a paper lunch sack to make the “box” and instruct students to complete the outline to reflect their likeness and dreams for the future.

       * let them work on their first resume {here}
       * explore careers at the Virginia Career VIEW

I surveyed some of our staff and here's the box that my cat puppet
will be wearing in our lessons this week; we'll also do a class sheet to list all of the careers we're thinking about so far.

Thank you, Tanya, for stopping by and sharing this engaging experience for elementary career exploration. Your students are lucky to have you to as a counselor, mentor, guide, and friend!


  1. I just love a great career lesson and this one is so creative! I especially love the tie-n to school staff and their career dreams from childhood. Thanks for sharing, Tanya! Being a school counselor in Virginia, I was happy to see your link to Virginia Career View and I can't recommend it highly enough. Spend some time exploring the professional section and you will find a lot of useful resources! Of course, all the other sections are great, too.

  2. Curious: What grade did you do this lesson with? Thanks for the great ideas :)

    1. Hi Katie - I actually did a variation of the lesson for grades K-3rd ... we made class lists instead of individual papers and I read a different book in grades 2 and 3 (Jeremy's Decision). Basically it was just a great springboard for getting them to think what they want to be when they grow up and talking about it!

    2. And I did my lesson with 3rd & 4th. But now I need to check out Barbara's suggestion: "Jeremy's Decision"!

  3. I just used this lesson for K-2 and they LOVED it!! Thanks!!

  4. Might you have a suggestion of a book to read to 2nd graders before we do an activity on how to write a basic My First Resume?

    1. I think either Izzy Peck Architect or Rosie Revere Engineer would work as they look at specific careers with a certain skill set to get the students thinking.


I really enjoy hearing from my readers; thanks for sharing your reflections with us!

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