Following instructions is something all teachers expect of their students. However, being able to give clear instructions is also important. Academic and workplace communication depends on the ability to clearly and sequentially provide information and teach others how to reach a desired objective, or explain how an objective was reached. Additionally, asking students to synthesize the skills needed for following instructions by creating their own instructions helps create and utilize higher order thinking skills.
Sample Classroom Procedure / Teacher Instruction
- Before beginning the activity, you need to draw a monster picture with pencil on a white piece of paper. Follow these instructions to create it:
Draw the monster on the left side of the page.
Start with an oval which goes almost from the top to bottom of the left hand side.
Give it two horns, one on each side of its head.
Give it a triangle nose in the center of its face.
Draw a straight line as the mouth, centered under the nose.
Give it two round eyes near the top of its head, above the nose.
Give it three large spots down the center of its belly, starting under the mouth.
Give it a long skinny tail.
Give it small round feet at the bottom of its body.
Give all students a piece of white paper and ask them to sit at their desk. Ensure each student has a pencil. Say, “I want you to draw a monster for me. You have five minutes to draw a monster.” After students start drawing, say, “The monster must have spots.” Wait another minute and then say, “The monster should have two horns.” Just as the five minutes are up, say, “Make sure the monster is on the left side of the page!”
2. When the five minutes are up, have students come to the front with their pictures. Ask students to share their pictures by putting them in front of them, face up on the carpet so everyone can see. Ask, “Was it hard to draw the monster? Did anything I said make it more difficult?” Allow students to share their thoughts. They may say it was upsetting or difficult that they kept getting new instructions as they were working. Show the picture you made to students and say, “I wanted all of your monsters to look just like this. What could I have done to make sure you could do that?” Call on student volunteers. They may say that you could have shown the example first. Provided all the things you called out on a list, or told them in advance.
3. Say, “I could have made this much easier by giving you my instructions first, then asking you to draw. Giving a visual example would have helped as well. Today, we’re going to learn about how important it is to be able to write instructions that are clear and easy for everyone to follow. Let’s create an anchor chart of what steps you need to take to write instructions that anyone can follow.”
4. Make the following anchor chart, encouraging students to participate with suggestions.
5. For the first activity, work as an entire class to complete the monster drawing challenge again. Provide the class with the written instructions on the activity page and then have them return to the carpet again to compare pictures. The results should be much more uniform, proving that having clear written descriptions has a positive impact on the outcome.
6. For the practice page, have students cut out the instruction list and work with a partner to sequence them correctly in a way that makes sense. Check work in pairs as you move around the room.
7. Assign Activity Page 2- Students write instructions for a task of their own choosing.
8. Assign homework. Students work with parents or on their own to write instructions on a simple activity that another student can follow in the classroom. Suggestions: How to build a specific pattern or shape with blocks or legos, how to tie shoes, how to draw a specific, simple picture (like the warm up exercise), how o make a friendship bracelet, how to make a plate of cheese and crackers, how to make another simple snack or sandwich (nut free if you have allergy needs in your classroom).
9.Students share their homework assignment. Students must bring in their own materials and provide them, with instructions, to a peer. The peer must be able to follow the instructions their peer provided in order to complete the task.
10. Students complete quiz.
Common Core State Standards:
Class Sessions (45 minutes): At least 2 class sessions.
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