• Heather

How To Teach: Doing The Dishes

Importance of Doing the Dishes

If you eat, you create dirty dishes. Since we all eat, about 3 times a day, we are bound to create at least 10 dirty dishes. Washing dishes comes with enjoying the meal, it is a part of the process.

Teaching your students how to ‘do the dishes’ (wash, rinse, dry, put away, and load/unload a dishwasher) can show them that dishes is a part of the cooking process and that clean dishes don’t just appear magically in the cabinet!

Focus Skills

-Supplies needed to clean dishes

-Purpose of the supplies

-Order of steps when cleaning dishes in a sink

-How to fill a dishwasher

-How to hold dishes when drying them with a towel

-How to clean dishes that are dirty

-How to rinse a dish after it has been scrubbed

Why Focus On These Skills

Regardless of age and ability level, every student will create a dirty dish. Regardless of if they live at home with family or in the community, every student will create a dirty dish. Since dirty dishes come with eating, it is natural to focus time in your teaching schedule to explicitly cover this skill.

When To Teach

Teach dishwashing skills whenever it fits into your teaching schedule. There is no rush, but be sure to inform families when you have covered the content so they know to start encouraging their student to help wash dishes or load/unload the dishwasher in the home setting. It is important to transfer the skills they have learned in the school setting to the home setting and this is a skill that families will be happy to have help with!

I’ve created a complete lesson unit of materials for teaching this topic. The materials are comprehensive (5 full lessons) and most appropriate for life skill lessons at the middle school, high school and transition level students. Below are some lesson unit highlights!

Lesson Objective

Students will hand wash dishes by soaking, scrubbing, cleaning and rinsing.

Students will hand dry dishes using a towel.

Students will load and unload a dishwasher by placing dishes in the machine for maximum


Lesson Vocabulary

Cleaning tab, detergent, dish soap, dishwasher, dry, drying rack, facing, rinse, scrub, sponge

Resource Perks

  • Pre and Post assessment

  • 1 page narrative explaining the skill with and without visual text supports (to incorporate functional reading)

  • 5 skill practice activities to learn and/or reinforce the focus skills

  • Game for students to practice their skills (because learning is fun)

  • Boom Cards for practice or assessment

  • Student learning reflection worksheet (thumbs up or down)

  • Encouraging on-topic quotes (use as a classroom poster or starter for each class period)

  • 5 strategies for success (tips for being successful with the focus skills)

  • Coloring page with on-topic graphics

  • Skill mastery certificate

  • Data collection sheet on specific focus skills

  • Homework sheet to encourage students to practice the skill outside of the school setting

  • Word search of key vocabulary terms

  • Visuals for focus skills with age appropriate colors and graphics

Ultimate Goal

Similar to cleaning and laundry, doing the dishes is a buildable skill. There are so many layers that every student can contribute in some way. The ultimate goal for one student might be to take the dishes out of the dishwasher and another student it might be to hand wash all the dishes from a family meal. Start with where your students are and try to build in the next logical skill that would help them contribute to their home while safely increasing their independence.

Link to Curriculum

Doing the Dishes Lesson Unit

Cleaning Lesson Unit

Cleaning A Room Mini Lesson Unit

Independent Living Lesson Unit Bundle

Life Skills Curriculum Bundle

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