Giving clear instructions is a challenge.
Whether you teach children or adults, you know how important clear instructions are. No matter what the subject or what the audience is, you’ve learned that the success of any activity is all in the instructions. Without clear instructions, at best, there's a lot of confusion as students figure out what they are supposed to do. At worst, chaos begins to brew, and not a lot of learning is happening. This is not ideal, especially if you spent time preparing a labor intensive activity.
Here are 7 key steps that any instructor can follow to minimize classroom confusion and maximize student success......
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Giving Clear Instructions is more than just telling students what you want them to do. We have, as educators, all seen the results of when students understand what to do and when students do not understand what to do.
Making sure that students are prepared for an activity is more than scaffolding their language learning. Instructions need to be scaffolded as well. As you read this scaffolded process, notice how the students/participants are being step-by-step from “huh?” to “ahh!”
7 Steps to Clear Instructions
- Break things down. If the activity has several parts, give the instructions part by part. Once students complete one segment, stop the class and get them going on the second part. This helps students focus on each section piece by piece. Key Question: How do I break the activity down into chunks?
- Explain the activity. Telling students what they are doing and why helps students connect with the task. We don’t need to go into great detail; an overview is fine. Providing students with the purpose behind the activity, invites them into the activity. Key Question: How do I tell them succinctly what they should do and why?
- Create a step by step outline. Having the instructions clearly and succinctly written on the board not only keeps the teacher focused when explaining the activity, but also gives students an anchor when they are doing the activity. At any point, they can refer to the steps and redirect themselves. Key Question: How do I simply the instructions?
- Let students see what the activity looks like. Modeling for the class first shows students what it will look like. Showing and telling is an effective way to reach all types of students. It’s also the first step in scaffolding students into being successful. Key Question: How can I show them what it should look like?
- Experiment with a student. Modeling the activity with a student is the next step in scaffolding. They have just see the teacher do the activity; doing a piece of the activity with a student, increases confidence and understanding how to complete the task. Key Question: How do I model this with a student to boost success?
- Assess their understanding. Having the students tell and show you what they are supposed to do is the best way to take the pulse of the class. When two students model the activity without the support of the instructor, the entire class gets a chance to clarify their understanding. Key Question: How do get the audience to show me they are ready?
- Repair misunderstandings. If the students seem confused, stop the class, repair the confusion, and restart the activity. Students will get more out of the activity that you have prepared. You’ll work less by not having to go from group to group retelling the instructions. Key Question: How do I redirect the class effectively and efficiently?
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