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Lesson Plans
Teaching Students To Follow Directions

When your students learn to follow directions, they progress more easily in every area of the curriculum. To help children learn to follow directions successfully, it’s important to help them focus and listen carefully.

Purpose

To guide students to practice following directions—verbal, visual, and written, and apply this skill to important everyday tasks—staying safe during an emergency, exhibiting proper behavior in the cafeteria or on a field trip.

Materials

  • Building Blocks ABC Coloring Book (PDF)

  • Markers or crayons of at least six different colors for each student

  • Chart paper

  • Tape

Character Cards

Preparation

Choose one coloring page from the ABC Coloring Book and print out enough copies for each student, plus one for yourself. Then, print out the full coloring book twice so that you have two copies of each letter page—enough for 26 students in a class.

Write the phrase “Follow the Leader” on the top of the chart paper. Then, tape one of your selected coloring pages in the center of the chart paper.

Procedure

Ask the children to talk about what “Follow the Leader” means. How might the leader give directions? Answers should include:

The leader could tell me what to do.
I could see what the leader does and do the same thing.
The leader could write directions.

Tell the students that you’re the leader today and that you’re going to ask them to follow directions in three different ways.

Distribute a copy of the selected printout and crayons to each student. Tell them to listen and watch carefully to follow directions exactly. Then, give verbal, written, and/or visual directions.

Say: Color Sandy Squirrel’s hair brown. Allow time for the students to follow your direction; then, color Sandy Squirrel’s hair brown.

Or: Draw a line from the clasp on one of Sandy’s braids and write the word “blue” in blue crayon. Allow time for the students to read and follow your direction; then, color the clasp blue.

Or: Color one of the clasps on Sandy’s braids red.

After each direction, ask the students to hold up their drawings and compare it to yours.

For older students:

Give two or more directions at a time:

Color Sandy Squirrel’s blouse orange and her pants purple.

Make directions more complex:

Add a red bow to the braid with the blue clasp.
Color Sandy Squirrel’s belt buckle any color but blue.

Discuss

Have students talk about what made following directions easy or more difficult. (Answers will vary, but may include: When other students were talking, it was hard to hear the directions. I watched carefully so I knew which color to use to color the clasp on Sandy’s braid.) Finally, ask the students to describe the two most important things to do when following directions: watch closely and listen carefully.

Practice

Help children practice following directions and illustrate how important it is to watch and listen carefully.

 “Fire Alarms for Fire Safety” is a Building Blocks lesson plan that helps students apply step-by-step directions in case of emergency:

  • Stop what you are doing.
  • Listen for directions.
  • Walk quickly and silently.
  • Follow the escape route.
  • Meet outside the building.
  • Once outside, stay outside.

When you’ve completed the lesson plan, discuss once more why following directions is important in our daily lives.

Challenge

Now, tell the students that they are going to be the leaders. Divide the class into teams of two. Distribute a set of duplicate coloring pages to each team. Have the teams sit on the floor or at desks, back-to-back. Have each student take turns describing a coloring direction, completing each direction as they say it. For example, if a team has “Ff: Frog family floats for fun,” directions might include:

  • Color the frog on the top green.
  • Color the eyes of the frog in the water blue.
  • Add three blue spots to the frog on top.

When the teams have finished coloring their pictures, have them stand side-by-side at the front of the room and talk about how well they followed directions. Have them discuss any problems they had as leader or as follower.

Practice

Setting rules of behavior is another way to guide children to understand the importance of giving clear directions and following them carefully.

Adapt “Set Rules Ahead of Time,” a Building Blocks Family Activity, to help students make rules and apply skills for following directions for specific school activities. For example, change the discussion and steps for following directions “at the movies” to guide students to create rules for following directions:

  • On a class field trip
  • In the cafeteria
  • On the playground
  • In the hallway.

When students have completed creating the rules and directions, have them talk about why following these rules is important in each situation. For example, following directions on a class fieldtrip will help us:

  • Stay safe and stay together.
  • Show people how well-behaved students from our school can be.
  • Learn all we can from our field trip.

Optional Procedure: Give the students more practice in following oral directions by having them follow directions in songs. Play Smile at Your Neighbor” and/or “Moving in a Circle.” Have students act out the directions of the song as they sing and dance along.

Related Family Article: Following Directions

Resources:

  • How Kids Learn to Follow Directions” from Pediatric Services in San Louis Obispo, California, gives tips about what parents should avoid and tactics they should try to help children learn to follow directions.
  • Listening and Following Directions” from Articles for Educators provides educational activities that address pre-reading and listening skills, as well as following multistep directions.

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Updated on 4/5/2013