Monday, February 19, 2007

Teaching students to read and follow written instructions

By Janet Kaback, Newark, NJ

Students need to be trained to follow instructions. When I attended elementary school, the teacher had the same problem. I learned from her remedy. She prepared a "TEST" with specific directions for us to follow.

The first task was to read all instructions before doing anything. The second was to write our names/dates on the top of the page in the space provided. The following tasks were a combination of language and mathematics problems...however, the tasks MUST continue onto the reverse side of the page.

When I've administered this task-based assessment, I've usually included about 25 items, interspersing real classroom tasks with strange instructions, such as dropping a book on the floor. When the students get to number 15 or so, they have to untie one shoe, number 18 would be get up and walk around your desk...number 20 would be to write the numbers from 80-60 backwards...until number 25 says "Only complete items #1 and #2.

You will usually have 2 students out of 30 who will follow the instructions immediately. Another group will begin to read the rest of the instructions as the tasks get stranger and stranger to their usual classwork protocol.

The most difficult part of this is to maintain your 'teacher face' without laughing as the students perform the most outlandish tasks because they wanted to 'save time' by completing their tasks without reading through to the end.

This is very effective in teaching students to READ and FOLLOW Instructions!!

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