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Giving More Effective Instructions to Young Learners

Giving More Effective Instructions to Young Learners

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Published by: JoelRiveraMora on Apr 21, 2014
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Giving more effective instructions to young learners !
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Aims: • Learn techniques to clarify instructions for tasks or activities • Help learners feel motivated and confident

Materials required: • None

Appropriate for: • Teachers with any level of experience

Applicable to learners: • 7–12 year olds

Young learners are naturally curious and want to explore and discover. They learn from doing and they learn even more when they enjoy an activity and see they can do it well. It is important to make your instructions simple, to repeat them if necessary, to check learners’ understanding of the instructions and to demonstrate tasks or activities in front of the whole class. Before giving instructions, make sure you have everyone’s attention. You can do this by delivering your instructions from a central part of the room. To check that learners understand, consider asking a volunteer to explain the instructions to the rest of the class or ask the class to tell you in their own language. Giving clear instructions also helps with classroom management and discipline because if the learners know what to do and how to do it, it is easier for them to focus on the activity and get enjoyment from it. If someone in the class says they haven’t understood the instructions, repeat the instructions using mime and gesture. If that doesn’t work, try rephrasing them. Don’t ask learners to begin an activity until you are confident they understand what to do.

Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2014




Before your next lesson, include the instructions you are going to give in your lesson plan. Also include different ways to give those instructions. Choose one or more of the suggestions below for each category.

Making yourself visible a. You can stand at the front of the class so everyone can see you. b. You can be somewhere in the middle, amongst the students. c. You can hold your hand up to get your learners’ attention and then sit down in front of the class.

Giving the instructions a. Write them on the board and tell the class to read them. b. Dictate the instructions; then get your learners to read them to you. c. Mime the instructions; then ask the class to tell you what they have to do.

Checking instructions a. Ask a learner to repeat the instructions, either in his or her first language or in English, depending on the learner’s level and whether all learners in the class share the same L1. b. Get one or two of them to demonstrate what they have to do. c. Confirm comprehension with questions such as 'How many people do you have to ask?’ or ‘What do you have to write?’.

Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2014


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After the lesson, consider these questions:

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Did these strategies for giving and checking instructions help your learners complete the task more effectively? Did these strategies help to maintain their motivation?

Try a different strategy the next time you give instructions and note any learner improvements. Use the statements below to help you evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies:

• • •

My learners have a clear understanding of what they need to do. My learners are motivated to do the task. My learners are confident doing the task.

Further reading

Brophy, J. (1997) Motivating students to learn, Guilford, CT: McGraw-Hill.

Moon, J. (2000) Children Learning English, Oxford: Macmillan Heinemann ELT.

Nelsen, J., Lott, L. and Glenn, H.S. (2000) Positive Discipline in the Classroom, Three Rivers, MI: Three Rivers Press.

Stipek, D. (1998) Motivation to Learn: From Theory to Practice, Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.

‘25 Ideas to Motivate Young Readers’, http://www.educationworld.com/a_lesson/lesson/lesson035.shtml. Last accessed 25 November 2013.

Cambridge English Teacher © Cambridge University Press and Cambridge English Language Assessment 2014


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