Teachers use activities in the classroom which can be fairly complex in terms of the way they’re organised, and sometimes, even experienced teachers will claim they got a class totally confused by the way they’ve given instructions. Here are some reflection upon how to give instructions successfully:
1) How can you make sure that your instructions are as clear and comprehensible as possible? Plan how you’re going to give the instructions before you go into the classroom, and make sure that you can explain them within the limits of the language which the students can understand. Think too about the speed of your speech - slow down slightly if necessary. Don’t start the explanation until you have the students full attention and make sure they have stopped whatever they are doing, are turned towards you and are listening.
2) How can you make it in a more student-centered manner? There are some techniques that come very handy specially for more complex activities. The idea is simple: the teacher gives the instructions and after the teacher presents on the board the same instructions but without key words students are supposed to complete. Another idea is to put under some of the students’ desks key sentences about the activity and as soon you have finished, you ask them to put the sentences in order according to the instruction you have given. And the last but not the least! My favorite one: take a whistle or any other noisy object to class and every time you make that noise, students will have to repeat the last sentence you said. Of course you are going to choose key sentences and you will see that giving instructions can be a really lively and fun moment in you lesson with lots of students participation.
3) How can you reduce your teacher talking time (TTT)? The answer to this question overlaps the other. By using some of those techniques you will certainly reduce your TTT. However, it goes without saying you should always check that students have understood your instructions before starting the activity. The question Do you understand? is as good as useless. Students may be too shy to admit that they don’t understand, or may think they understand when they actually don’t . Also you may take the risk to keep on repeating over and over the instructions. Some suggestions: ask them check questions, ask them to repeat back the instruction and role-playing.