Following Directions

One of the questions I'm asked quite a bit is: "How do you get your students to follow directions when they can't read?"  It's also a huge complaint of teachers who are tired of repeating directions as soon as they've just sat their students in front of a white board for a few minutes, modeled what they want their class to do, shown them an example, posted that on the board and done the activity step-by-step. 

A young child no sooner gets to their desk and their hand shoots up: "What do I do now?" The patient teacher again explains the directions to that child, a few minutes later they are repeating the same thing to a dozen more who weren't paying attention the first time around.  Does this sound familiar? 

Pix_of_how_the_board_looks_with_the_following_direction_icons_in_useWho can really blame the young student though.  Some experts believe that for every year a child is, you have one minute of undivided attention.  If that's true, I basically have 4 minutes to explain my morning's- worth of table top activities.  I had to think of something, or lose my voice and sanity,  so I developed picture icons. They have been extremely successful!  Here's how they work:

  • Print off several sets of the icons.
  • Laminate them.
  • Cut them out and put magnate strip on the back. 
  • I attach my skill sheets with magnet clips that I buy from The Dollar Store and put a "direction icon" under that skill sheet.
  • I model and do each skill sheet with my students.
  • When they get back to their desks if they forget what they are to do for that skill sheet, they simply look at the board, locate the skill sheet and the icon that is above it.  
  • My students also have the option to raise their hands and ask me, but I'm trying to teach them to be independent so I tell them to LAF first
  • This is an acronym for: Look at the board, Ask a friend, or try and Figure it out on your own.  
  • Click on the links for further explanations and to print and view the icons.  Icon explanations and directions, Icon pictures,  LAF explanation.
How do you get your students to follow directions? I'd love to hear from you.