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Giving (Good) Instructions

How many times has it happened to you to read something and understand it just fine, but when it comes to explain it to someone, you get all mixed up and have to pause, go back and forth and end up saying you need to have another look?

Imagine what goes on a student's mind when they try to understand and remember a set of instructions when they read rubrics or when they listen to the teacher say "Put the correct verbs in the gaps using Past Simple. Then check with your partner and see if you have the same answers."

Doesn't this task comprise of 3 separate steps?

Break It Down

Especially when you are teaching young learners, it is essential to stage your tasks appropriately and remember that a great way to scaffold is to break down exercises into smaller manageable tasks. The previous task could look like this:

Teacher: We need to do 3 things to finish this task.

One: turn all the verbs into the Past Simple.

Students do the task

Two: Read the sentences and find the correct sentence for each verb.

Students do the task

Three: Check your answers with your partner. Are they the same or different?

Students do the task

In this way, not only do you help them perform better by focusing at one point each time, but they also learn valuable strategies to work on tasks so that they can be more independent in their learning in the future.

Less Is More

Cut down unnecessary words that might make you sound like a very nice teacher, but confuse the students!

Don't say: "Would you like to please open your books and do exercise 1?"

Say: "Open your books. Do exercise 1."

Simple and effective.

Making Associations

It's important for students to make associations and link words with actions. Every time you give instructions, use finger and hand gestures, your whole body even! This adds theatricality to your teaching, and it certainly helps students understand what they need to do in each task.

Board Your Instructions

If you have students with short attention span or learners who don't understand your accent, it might prove very useful to board your instructions, as well. Sometimes people understand better by reading, not listening.

Although this is a good emergency approach, try not to let this grow into a habit. As time passes by, encourage your students to rely less and less on the boarded instructions.

Preparation Is Key

Most of the times we are too preoccupied with planning what we are going to teach and how and selecting appropriate tasks. How often do we plan our instructions, though?

It's certainly worth planning your instructions when you teach little ones, especially if you are still getting to know them.

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