How many times a day are you asked about directions for an assignment that you just explained? I know it is easy to get frustrated. This is a frequent topic in the teachers' lounge, so take comfort that you are not the only one.
I don't think you can completely solve the problem, but I do think you can take steps to improve it.
Like, any problem, you have to first get to the root of what is causing it. Sometimes there might be different things happening at once.
If I am pressed for time, I have a tendency to rush through instructions. It should come as no surprise that when I rush, I get more questions. I have found a few things that helps me slow down and helps my students, too.
- I hold up one finger at a time when I give the steps of the directions. Example: I hold up 1 finger and say, "write your name at the top of the paper." Students hold up one finger and repeat what I say. Then I hold up 2 fingers and say, "step 2 color the pictures before you cut them out." The students hold up 2 fingers and repeat what I said. We continue with this format until all of the directions are given.
- For assignments that we do the same format each week, I make picture cards showing the steps so students have visual cues that they can refer to if needed.
If you are not rushing your delivery and the majority of your class is asking questions, your students' hearing may be affected by either allergies or a virus. If you've also had a high number of tattling, then your students are probably coming down with a virus. I have noticed a high rate of tattles 24-48 hours before they show signs of a virus.
Do you only have a small handful of students who don't understand the directions? There can be a variety of reasons for this. Reasons such as:
- Did they have frequent ear infections during the toddler years? Children, who have chronic ear infections during the stage when they are learning to follow multi-step verbal directions, often do not learn to tune to the meaning of words. They are used to hearing sounds, but not the actual words because it is muffled when their ears are infected. With these students, you and the parent have to work with them like you would with a child in the toddler years. Start out giving one or two-step directions. Encourage them to look at you and repeat the directions so you know they are tuning in to the words. You will be surprised at how quickly they catch up to their peers.
- Is this an English as a Second Language issue? I have had students who had grandma for a babysitter the first 6 years. Grandma only spoke Spanish to the child and the parents only spoke English to the child. The home language survey said English was the language of the home, which was true. After meeting with parents and finding out the additional language, my student was able to get tested and needed support.
- Do you have a small group of students? Sit them in a group together so that you can go over the directions with the small group after you explained it to the whole group.