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Giving great instructions

Giving great instructions



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Published by: snowpiece on May 31, 2008
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Coralyn Bradshaw
reminds us that telling children what to do needs careful thoughtand planning.
Teachers often think that they can´t give young learners instructions for activities inEnglish because they are too long and complicated for them to follow. However, learning to giveeffective instructions in the target language is well worth the effort. It provides an opportunity for children to acquire language naturally in an authentic, purposeful context, and at the same timeit gives them the satisfaction on being able to show understanding through their responses.
What sort of instructions?
There are two types of instructions which a teacher needs in the young learneclassroom:
Instructions between activities
Instructions to organise an activityThe first type basically forms part of everyday teacher classroom language. Here aresome examples:
Take out your books! Write it in your notebooks. Give this out. Stop talkingnow, please! 
Nearly all teachers use this type of instruction from the very first English class. In thisway, they gradually build up quite a large bank of instructions in English, which are easilyunderstood through the context in which they are given. This type of instruction rarely causesproblems.The second type is used to set up and prepare children to carry out a specific activity,such as pari- or groupwork, a team game, a board or card game, or perhaps a Total PhysicalResponse (TPR) activity. (A typical TPR activity would be when the teacher gives a command,eg Touch your nose! The children carry out the instruction, showing that they have understoodthe language). With this type of instruction teachers may encounter some difficulties.
All successful teachers of youn learners have gone through trial and error, when learninghow to give effective instructions. Listed below are some tips on planning, which you might findhelpful:
1.Only include essential information that the children need to carry out theactivity.
Children already have a lot of information to process when listening to this type of instruction. Therefore it´s important to make sure that the instructions contain only theessential information required for them to be able to do the task. Telling children thelinguistic ami of the activity or what they will do after it has finished, for example, will onlyserve to distract them.
2.Use simple vocabulary and structures that the children will be familiar with.
Your aim is to give simple instructions which the children can carry out. Therefore thelevel of the languaged in which the instructions are fiven should match that which they have
already been exposed to. Using complicated structures will confuse the children and youwill lose their attention.
Break the instructions into short sentences, each containing a key step.
As children mature, they are developing their attention span so that they canconcentrate for increasingly longer periods of time. It is implortant to keep sentences short.The instructions should be broken down into easily manageable steps, and each sentenceshould contain a “bite.sized” step for the children to work with.
4.Make sure that the steps are in a logical order, and that no steps aremissing.
Perhaps one of the most essential aspects of planning is to list the instructions in alogical order for the children to carry out. Think about when you want them to move their chairs, get into groups or teams, etc. When do you want them to look after theiworksheets? Remeber that once the children are askd to move places or look at materials,thir attention will no longer be on you!As a rule of thumb, organise the children into the seating or grouping positions yourequire early in the instructions.Only hand out materials at the moment you want the children to look at them. If youforget one step in teh instructions and have to go back, they will get confused.Make a note of the steps to refer to until you get used to instruion giving.
5.Don´t include information about what you are doing.
It´s important to control your clasroom language. For emaple, if you are handing outmaterials, it isn´t necessary to tell the children what you are doing – it will be clear from your actions. While it´s good to have natural exposure to English, when giving a series of instructions, teachers should keep to the essentials of what the children need to do. Thishelps to focus their attention.
6.Plan which gestures you can use to accompany steps.
Teachers of young learners are used to being good actors! The art of givnig effectiveinstructions relies heavily on the use of clear gestures to accompany the steps. Language isalways more easily understood in context. Holding up and showing children the materialswith which they will work, or demonstrating how they must do something, will alwaysprodcue good results. Make sure that you always exagtgerate your gestures and makethem larger than life!
7.Plan the actions you want the children to perform.
One of the problems with delivering a series of instructions is maintaining the attentionspan of the children. Thje age of the children will determine how many steps of theinstructions they will be able to hold in their memory. The best solution is to organise thesteps as far as possible in lock-steps so that you can demostrate and the children can carryout taht part of the instruction.
Once you have carefully planned the instructions, it´s worth giving some thought to how youare going deliver them. Here are some guidelines:
1.When you are ready to begin the activity, make it obvious that you areabout to give instructions.

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A professional text should not contain any spelling mistakes. If you are an author then please learn to proofread your own text, spell check really isn't hard to do!
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Very informative, despite your many spelling mistakes. Thank you.
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