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Following DirectionsFollowing Directions:
A Skill Worth Teaching

As teachers, sometimes we give our students directions but then are surprised (or disappointed) that they don't follow them.

No names on papers? No titles on compositions? No answers rounded to the nearest tenth? We all face these problems in our students but we can correct some of these behaviors by teaching the skills required for students to be able to follow directions.

If you find yourself confronting such problems while grading papers, your students may not be paying attention to directions. Although most successful students recognize the importance of reading instructions thoroughly and following them, some students may master the skill slowly. Education World provides five intriguing lessons to help your students read, write, follow, and even evaluate directions. Included: Lessons that make following directions fruitful and fun!

Surprised to see a number of students suddenly leave the room only halfway through an exam, the professor followed them into the corridor. He discovered the students completing the balance of the questions while leaning against the walls. When he asked for an explanation, one student pointed to the third question, which asked "Describe Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. You may supply a drawing but please leave room to answer."

Sadly, this joke may not ring very true for many teachers today. Unfortunately, in the rush to complete assignments, students often race past directions to get to the "meat" of their work. In desperation, some teachers have hidden the answer to a simple question, or a hint to a tougher one, within the directions of an exam, just to encourage students to read the directions!

There are ways to help students recognize the value of reading instructions before beginning an assignment and following them throughout. Elementary teachers may hold a "bear hunt." Students bring in teddy bears, hide them within the classroom or school, and then create lists of directions for others to follow to locate the bears. Teachers of older students may craft a page of instructions that students must read in their entirety before beginning to work and include as the last one, "Ignore all of the directions above and turn in your paper." The Internet provides even more opportunities to emphasize directions with lesson plans, how-to's, and recipes!

LESSONS FOR TEACHING STUDENTS TO FOLLOW DIRECTIONS

This week, Education World provides lessons about following directions. Click on each of the lesson headlines below for a complete teaching resource. Approximate grade levels are in parentheses.

How Well Do You Follow Directions?
This easy-to-use activity teaches valuable lessons about the importance of listening and following directions. (Grades K-12)

Phil's Fish Shop
Taking on the roles of new employees in a pet shop, students offer advice to customers, answer questions, and create a handbook of instructions for new fish owners. (Grades 3-8)

Critics of Cuisine
As food critics, students follow directions to create culinary delights and then critique the recipes and the flavor of their products. (Grades 3-12)

The Magician's Apprentice
Teaching the skill of following directions requires a little hocus-pocus in this lesson. Students re-create magic tricks, evaluate the clarity of the instructions, and teach an apprentice how to perform a trick. (Grades 3-8)

George Washington Teaches Map Directions
If students follow "directions," they'll have a picture of George Washington. (Grades 3-8)

Parachute Drop
Students experiment with gravity as they follow directions to create parachutes that will carry paperclip passengers safely to the ground. (Grades 1-3)

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Monster Exchange
In this project, classes of students draw monsters of their own creation and then describe them in writing. The compositions are exchanged, and students attempt to re-create the monsters, using the descriptions as their guides. Then they share the drawings and compare them to the originals.

How Well Can You Follow Directions?
This test is an example of an assessment designed to illustrate the value of following instructions to students. They are told to read the entire test first; those who do not read end up doing extra work.

Free Following Directions Worksheets
For young students, Teach-nology provides several adorable coloring sheets with simple instructions to follow.

Updated 6/7/11

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