You may, in fact, have encountered what I am about to say in one of your educational labs. Have you ever observed in a classroom where the teacher says:

“Now Class, get out your math book and open up to page 153 and work on problems #1 through #10.”

All of a sudden, you hear one student ask, “What book do we get out?” Another student will ask, “What page is the assignment?” And yet another student will ask the teacher to repeat which problem should be worked. The class seems to have been thrown into chaos as students bang desks hunting for their books, notes are passed under desks, whispers go back-and-forth, the teacher has to repeat the instructions several times and get louder each time to go over the noise — and it takes minutes before the class settles down to the task.

What was the teacher’s mistake? Can you guess? It is so simple but so easy to forget. This teacher gave too many directions at one time. I will share with you a strategy that will ensure this will not happen to you.

Now remember this:

Always give your students one direction at a time

Here is how to implement this strategy. Let’s work through the scenario above.

Step 1

The teacher (you) instructs the students to get out their math books. Take note, at this point, the teacher should STOP. Do not proceed any further until all students have their math books on their desks.

Step 2

Next, the teacher instructs the students to turn to page 153. Once again, the teacher should stop and wait. Do not proceed to the next step until all students have opened to the correct page. You may even want to ask them to give a show of hands when they have double-checked that they are on the right page.

Step 3

Lastly, the teacher instructs the students to work problems #1 through #10.

I know that you are probably thinking, “Wow, this is going to take all day to do a simple task.” But I can assure you that it will not. In fact, once the students realize they only need to do one thing at a time, then they are usually able to accomplish it without a lot of fuss. Just think for a moment – if you had to stop and repeat yourself 25 different times, how much time would be wasted!

Yes, it’s true. An argument could be made that most 21st Century kids are amazing at multi- tasking. They can watch TV, listen to music, write messages on smartphones, build a fort, watch the other kids, and play games on a computer or Xbox – all at the same time.

But what most children cannot do is perform tasks sequentially. They may also not be very good – yet– at prioritizing. These are skills that you as their teacher can assist them to gain by breaking tasks into achievable “chunks.”

Working step-by-step, one step at a time, following just one direction from the teacher, they can be successful all along the way and will learn the connections – how one step leads to another. Moreover, they will begin to understand how if you break large tasks into small chunks, you can accomplish almost anything!

Just go step by step…



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Steve Hiles

I am a retired military and elementary school teacher living in Tennessee. I am an avid reader and love to write. I am very passionate about helping teachers. I hope you find my educational tips and strategies useful and enjoy hearing about my personal journey. Thanks for visiting!

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