Kids have a hard time remembering directions.
I’ll give you all a minute to recover from your swooning at receiving such shocking and surprising information….
Yes, some of the problem stems from them not listening or paying attention. However, I found that, even when my 6th graders were listening, they had a hard time remembering more than one or two steps. I thought I’d be clever and write the directions down for them, but I didn’t notice much of a difference. In fact, I was more frustrated, because they just skimmed over everything and did what they wanted to anyway.
I remember having a breakdown one day and going off on a rant about what happens if you don’t follow directions. To synopsize, not following directions can lead to eventual death:
“If you don’t follow the directions on the medicine you take…you can die!”
“If you don’t follow the directions when filling your car with gasoline…you can die!”
“If you don’t follow the directions and rules of the road when driving…you can die!”
It wasn’t my finest hour, but I just wanted them to GET that directions are IMPORTANT and actually TRY to follow them.
I don’t think it made much of a difference, other than letting them know their teacher was on the edge of losing it.
So, what can we do to help these poor, sad souls (and I mean the teachers, not the students)?
I was thinking about how I keep track of what I need to do, and what works for me is keeping checklists. I have to write everything down these days, because I just can’t keep track anymore. Even if I squirrel out, which is my husband’s affectionate term for when I get distracted, I can look at my list. The visual aspect is nice, and the physical aspect of marking something as completed forces me to focus on one thing at a time. I have little boxes next to everything that I fill in, and it’s the best feeling of accomplishment to color in one of those boxes.
This is my checklist for the week that lives in my planner. The page is half full, and it’s only Tuesday.
How to Make a Checklist
You can make checklists for your students in Google Sheets with only a couple of clicks. If your students have access to devices, they can check off the boxes online. If not, you can print them and students can fill in the boxes as they complete tasks.
To insert a checkbox, select the cells you want them to appear in. Then, go to “Insert”–> “Checkbox.”
Here’s an actual example of a checklist I made myself for one of my college courses. Not only were the checkboxes helpful, but I color-coded each week so it was easier to keep track of what was due when. I like to use the milder colors so they don’t hurt my eyes when I look at them.
While this solution may not cure your students of their inability to follow directions, it will make them more accountable for their work. Hopefully, having to fill in the boxes will force them to pay more attention to what they’re doing. Additionally, if you have them turn in this checklist with their assignment or project, they should be confident in the knowledge that they’ve met the basic requirements. Not only that, but parents can’t complain that the project wasn’t explained well enough, because kids have to check off that they’ve accomplished each individual step.
Organization and Management
Finally, I think this can really help our students that struggle with time management. Your list may not be as extensive or detailed as the one above, but, if they have a concrete reminder of what has to be accomplished at the end of the class period, day, or week, they at least have an idea of where they need to be. In a perfect world, I’d love for them to be able to set something like this up on their own and organize themselves, but we have to start somewhere.