Giving Students Effective Instructions

Trying to get a set of instructions across to a room full of elementary school students can be…trying. Learning differences or not, students need clear, concise, to the point directions from their teachers. I’ve put together a few key points to keep in mind when communicating with your students to help maximize the chances of each student hearing your directive.

New teachers spend quite a bit of time building classroom management skill building. One of the most important parts of minimizing poor classroom behavior is to deliver expectations directly, clearly and authoritatively to students. All while maintaining a calm voice, empathy and understanding. It’s a skill that takes time to develop. Here are some foundational tools to get you started:

1.       Encourage listening body language – Request this from students, listening bodies look like quiet mouths, calm bodies, eyes on me

2.       Be clear and specific – Use works that convey exactly what you are expecting “Please go sit down at your desk”, “Please stand in line with your arms folded”

3.       Avoid AND THEN – Kids get lost in the AND THEN, especially students with learning differences like ADHD. Avoid it when giving an instruction, giving only one expectation at a time. “

4.       Keep it simple – Again, this is to avoid a student’s tendency to get lost in your words when there are too many. While rationale can improve the chances of a student following an instruction, you’ll want to keep it simple. “Is this a safe choice you’re making? Please keep your feet on the floor”, “Is this a respectful way to get my attention? Please raise your hand”.

5.       Dole out praise like there’s no tomorrow – Praise ‘em for following directions, no matter how small! “I am so proud that you remembered to raise your hand” “Thank you for standing in line so quietly”.

These techniques can help new teachers build strong relationships with students, it establishes solid expectations for behavior in the classroom. So how can you, a new teacher, begin to use these strategies in their classroom?

Identify one student in your room that often doesn’t follow directions.

Be mindful of the way you give directives to the class as a whole and this individual student when required. What words are you using? How is the student responding in that moment?

Do your directives line up with the suggestions above? How can you switch up your words to be more direct, specific and clear?

Increase the number of times you call this students name for positive reasons, even for the smallest ray of good behavior.