Giving Instructions: Mine Used to be Terrible
I remember back to when I first started teaching and I would give what I thought were clear, concise instructions for a game or activity. I’d tell the students to start and they’d just look at me with these confused faces. Some would push through and attempt to do something, but it most often wasn’t what I wanted. The fault was not on the part of my students, it was with me. My instructions were too long and complicated and the exact opposite of what my students trying to learn English needed.
Giving Instructions: Wait until the Students are Ready
One problem is giving instructions before the class is ready to listen. This is critical in an ESL class, because comprehension is already difficult enough. Wait until the students are seated, calm, and ready to listen to what they need to do. Chaos will ensue if only a few students out of the entire class understand what they need to do for the next activity they’re going to do.
Giving Instructions: Other Issues
There are plenty of other issues related to giving instructions which I’ve been guilty of:
-using only verbal instructions (write simple ones on the board or PowerPoint too)
-giving too many instructions at once (think simple steps only)
-addressing the class while your back is turned (while writing on the board)
-speaking too quickly or with too difficult of vocabulary for their level (simple is always better)
-finishing up with, “Everybody got that?”
The Best Tip: Use Instruction Checking Questions (ICQ’s)
When I did the CELTA and DELTA English teacher certification courses, it was all about ICQ’s. ICQ = Instruction Checking Questions. Instead of asking, “Got it?” or, “Do you understand?” it’s far better to ask the following questions:
“How many minutes do you have to play the game?”
“Who is the winner?”
“If you roll a 6, what happens?”
“Who starts the game?”
“How many sentences do you need to write?
“What three rules do you need to remember?
These ICQ’s are useful for two reasons. The first is they confirm to you that the class has understood your initial instructions and show you if you need to clarify anything. They also serve as a second chance for the lower-level students who might not have caught them the first time to play a bit of catch up. Use them frequently (and CCQ’s-Concept Checking Questions for grammar and vocabulary points) and you’ll find instructions less of a problem than they perhaps have been in the past.
Like These Teaching Tips? There are Way More of Them!
These tips about giving instructions are from the book ESL Classroom Management Tips and Tricks: For Teachers of Students Ages 6-12. You’ll:
Learn how to get the entire class involved.
Discover how to plan a lesson and organize your class.
Learn motivation and discipline strategies that work.
Get some tips for forging a strong, productive relationship with your co-teacher.
Prepare yourself with go-to activities for those “surprise” classes
You can buy it on Amazon by clicking on the link below. It’s available in both electronic and print versions. The (cheaper!) e-version can be read on any smartphone, tablet, Mac, or PC by downloading the free Kindle reading app.