Giving Instructions: Is less really more? (Part 1)

Teaching requires us to give instructions. We must effectively explain how to do an exercise or how to perform a task. How much detail is too much? Can a student’s native language be used to clarify? These questions were prompted by a message sent by a new teacher. Certainly we’ve all been challenged at one time or another to get a student or group of students to understand what we want them to do. What have you learned over the years? What are some best practices for giving clear instructions?

Let’s try this. I’ll type four sets of instructions below. Think about how you can improve them. We can compare notes in my next posting.

1)      Let’s practice the sound /s/. Listen. Ssssssss. Okay? Now you try. Ssssssss.

2)      Let’s move on to Exercise 2. This is a cloze exercise. That means a word or phrase is missing from each item. See? There are seven gaps in the text, and we need to fill those gaps. If you look below, for gap number one we have four choices. We’ll choose the best answer to fill gap number one. We can circle the answer. Then for gap number two we have three choices. We’ll choose and circle the best answer to fill gap number two.  Okay. For gap number three we have four choices. What do we do? We choose and circle the best answer to fill gap number three. We’ll do the same thing for the other gaps.  We’ll choose and circle the best answers to fill each gap. Then we’ll have a complete text. Are we ready to look at gap number one?

3)      All right. Look at Exercise 4, please. We did a similar exercise yesterday. You change the quoted speech to reported speech. How about I give you about 10 minutes to work on that, and then we’ll correct it together?

4)      Вставьте вместо точек подходящие по смыслу глаголы. (No, that’s not in English!)

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ira says:

    what should we do increase students participation in activity during a lesson when they are passive??

    1. englishwithjennifer says:

      It can be a challenge to make passive students more active. Sometimes it can be a matter of choosing a topic or theme that excites them. Other times it may be how you set up an activity. For example, the format doesn’t have to be overly demanding, yet each student’s contribution will be necessary for the activity to work. Sometimes sharing the perceived burden or fear with a partner or team helps.

      Here are some older postings on engaging and re-engaging students.
      Engaging Students
      Holding Students’ Interest
      Re-engaging Students

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