Do your students always seem to be asking, ‘What are we meant to be doing?’ One of the biggest issues teachers have is how to get students to listen and follow directions, without having to repeat themselves.
The secret lies in giving clear directions the first time. It can mean the difference between effective learning and time wasting confusion!
When you give clear directions there is a higher likelihood that tasks will be completed accurately. It means students will experience success more frequently, and it means less frustration for you, the teacher!
How to get students to listen to you and follow your directions:
1. PREPARE IN ADVANCE. This might sound silly, but when you try to break an activity down into actionable parts it can be tricky to do on the spot. Being prepared is especially important when you are giving instructions for an activity or process for the first time. Prepare what you want to say in advance (write it down if you have to). Keep sentences short and to the point. Avoid unnecessary waffle. Give one instruction, stop speaking and then wait for students to comply.
2. ONE AT A TIME. Christine Richmond (A Balanced Approach) recommends keeping instructions to a maximum of 3, and I believe that teachers have more success when they give one instruction at a time and wait for compliance. Even adults feel more secure when only given one instruction at a time.
3. BEGIN WITH A VERB. Many people only hear the first word or first few words so if you begin an instruction with a verb (e.g. stand, sit, pick up, move etc.) you are providing your students greater opportunity for success as you will be giving effective clues about what you want them to do.
4. CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING. Scan the class and make eye contact with some students while you are giving instructions, ensuring students are listening and following the directions.
5. USE VISUALS. Visual learners make up approximately 65 percent of the population. This type of learner is best at collecting information with their eyes. This includes looking at visual images or reading text. Visual learners usually prefer graphics, illustrations and charts. We all benefit from visuals so write pertinent points on the board for students to reference.
Giving students a visual reminder of the task and the instructions for the task increases the likelihood that they will complete it correctly, and reduces the number of times you have to repeat the instructions.
You can simply direct them to the written or pictorial instructions.
If you make it a habit your students will become accustomed to your use of visuals and stop asking you to repeat yourself!
‘You will be more effective at getting your students to listen to you and follow your directions if what you say is meaningful, to the point and you resist waffling on…’