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The Magician's Apprentice



Following Directions

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  • Arts & Humanities
    Language Arts


3-5, 6-8

Brief Description

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.



  • follow directions to perform a magic trick
  • assess the quality of the instructions with a rubric
  • teach a partner how to perform the magic trick.


following directions, magic, trick, rubric

Materials Needed

  • index cards
  • paper
  • pencils
  • Internet access (optional)

If using the online magic tricks cited, the following materials will be needed:

  • coins
  • handkerchiefs
  • straws
  • decks of cards
  • clear plastic tumblers
  • construction paper
  • pencils
  • scissors
  • glue
  • carrots
  • toothpicks

Lesson Plan

Magic is a topic that naturally interests and amazes students. In this lesson, students follow instructions to perform a magic trick, critique its directions, and teach another student what they have learned.

To begin, ask your students to define magic. What kinds of tricks do magicians perform? How do the students believe that magicians get their training? Explain that in this activity, the students will pretend to be the apprentices of Melmoe the Magnificent, an experienced, but aging, entertainer who is looking for new material. Read the following scenario to set the stage for the activity.


"I know that you are hoping to appear on stage with me, whippersnapper, but there is plenty of time," Melmoe said as he threw his cape over his shoulder. "I'm getting older, but I have lots of magic left in me!" With that, he threw up his hands, and a flash came from each, followed by puffs of smoke that rose in the air. "I want you to prove that you are an able apprentice who is willing to learn before I share my secrets," he said.

"My wife gave me this doggone contraption months ago," Melmoe continued, pointing to a computer in the corner of the room. "But I prefer my library of books over there. Find a new and amazing trick, practice it, evaluate it, bring it back to me with some cue cards, and I'll give it a go. If you do well, I'll put the illusion in my act, and I'll make you my assistant!"

With that, Melmoe laughed and then coughed loudly. He took a deep breath, wrapped himself with his cape and, in the blink of an eye, disappeared.

Display the following rubric on a chalkboard or chart paper, or print it for students. Discuss the rubric and how it rates the directions provided within a magic trick. What other measures or aspects might be added to evaluate the quality of the directions for a magic trick? Add any categories you choose. Tell the students that they are to use the following rubric as a guide to assess the instructions given for a magic trick.


  Poor Average Excellent
Order Instructions are not in an appropriate order and are confusing. Instructions are in good order, with only minor changes required. Instructions are in perfect order and make trick easy to perform.
Effectiveness Instructions describe a trick that is not appealing. Instructions create an effective and somewhat appealing trick. Directions lead to the execution of an amazing and captivating trick.

Click here for a printable version of this rubric.

Now direct your students to MysteryNet's Kids Mysteries or other resources of your choice that contain magic tricks. The materials noted in the Materials Needed section of this lesson are required for MysteryNet tricks numbered 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, and 28. Students may work individually, in pairs, or in groups.

Instruct the students to read and follow the directions given to perform one magic trick. On a sheet of paper, the students should use the rubric above to assess the quality of the trick's directions. They must give the directions a poor, an average, or an excellent rating in each category and list ways that the directions could be improved.

Distribute index cards to the students or groups. As a culminating activity and practice, students should create cue cards for the trick. That cue cards should include a few steps as well as dialogue prompts. Students should use the cue cards as they teach one other student to perform the trick. Remind the students to select a learner who is new to the trick.

Extension Activities
MysteryNet Kids Mysteries offers three Magician's Rules:

  • Keep the secret a secret.
  • Do the trick only once.
  • Practice before you perform.

Based on their experience, ask the students to explain why magicians often follow these rules.

Assume the role of Melmoe the Magnificent and choose three outstanding sets of instructions created by students. Use the instructions and cue cards to perform the magic tricks for your class. Afterward, explain each trick with the students' directions, and have the students tell why these directions work so well.


Collect the students' sheets and index cards for evaluation. Acceptable responses will include the name of the student, title of the trick, the resource from which it comes, ratings of the directions based on the rubric, and suggested improvements to the directions. Cue cards should contain pertinent notes and quotes to be used in teaching or performing the magic trick. Lesson Plan Source

Education World

Submitted By

Cara Bafile

National Standards


Click to return to the Following Directions lesson plan page.


Originally published 8/16/2002
Links last updated 01/19/2015