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Skip to 0 minutes and 10 seconds Well, planning instructions, in a way is planning a lesson. The language you use in order to tell people what you expect them to do I think needs to be as clear and simple as possible. Giving instruction is one thing. Checking understanding of instructions is another one. So our piece of advice, if you want, never start any activity just after giving your instructions. Don’t forget to check understanding first. I think first of all I have to make sure my instructions are very clear, so short sentences. And at the beginning of the year I might repeat the same instructions so they become familiar with them and then build on those during the year.

Skip to 1 minute and 0 seconds I also like to give them key instruction words that I use so that they then know what they have to do with those words. For example, a simple one would be identify or classify. But then the more demanding ones could be justify or assess. So they need to know what they have to do to produce according to the instruction. What I found quite useful often is to write out what I would be saying and then write what I would hope they might be saying.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds And once again, it becomes a habit, both for them, and actually for you as a teacher because you’re thinking very carefully, very clearly about the kind of language you’re going to be using, enables you then to have some very clear words, almost some keywords, that as soon as they hear those it almost is like, OK. Right now I’ve got to be doing this. I would say when you’re preparing your lessons to think about how you want to set up tasks, how you want to check instructions, etc, in English.

Skip to 1 minute and 57 seconds And use this almost in a formulaic way so that you’re training your learners to understand repeated instructions from you in English and not saying things in different ways in English all the time so they think they need to understand a broader range of language. I sometimes also with instructions take examples from perhaps exams. And they have to match the task example with the rubric or the instruction. So if they’ve got in geography a map of the centre of a city, and their instruction says identify the location of two shopping centres, then they have to match those. So that can give them confidence in understanding the task.

Giving instructions

How can we help learners to understand instructions? Let’s think about how we give instructions and look at some command words that you can use to help learners understand what to do.

For example: Read the data on the whiteboard. Then calculate the average local temperatures during the three summer months.

Watch the teachers talking about giving instructions and answer these questions.

  • Why do the teachers think it’s important to plan the language of instructions?
  • What techniques do they recommend for giving instructions?
  • What example of giving instructions does Kay give?

Compare your answers with those in the document below.

Do you think it’s important to plan the language you’ll use when giving instructions in English? Tell us a reason why or why not.

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