Following directions is a common goal for students as it involves a complicated language process.
It requires that the students:
- Attend to the information given caution; some students may not be attending to information that is presented in one modality. Be sure to combine as many modalities as possible for that particular directions this may include auditory, visual and some motoric information but also may have a routine or time frame that helps the student. Make sure that you get the child’s attention prior to giving the direction. Often it is good to have a set phrase that alerts them to the fact that something important is about to happen. I happen to use Whole Brain Teaching by Chris Biffle and I do an exchange “class” which they answer ‘”yes”. WBTQuickstart-1l2l6lj Students with executive functioning difficulties may anticipate the direction and start before you have finished giving it. You need to teach them ‘how’ to listen to the direction.
- You need to understand the vocabulary and concept that is in the direction. Sometimes it is the vocabulary that the student does not understand ( next to, over, after etc.). There are some words that are more commonly used in directions so it is important to make sure the student understands them. This includes conjunctions, prepositions, and negatives.
- You need to be able to remember You need to be able to hold the information in short term memory so that you then can manipulate the language to follow the direction.
There is also a hierarchy of following directions:
- Basic One Step: This has simple noun vocabulary (cup, shoe, book) with simple early developmental verbs ( put, throw, draw). ” Pick up the cup.” ” Throw the ball.”
- Expanded One Step: Some later developing language or concepts are added including negatives and contractions (Give me the cup and spoon. Use the larger crayon.
- Basic Two-Step: Directions with two basic concepts and an additional phrase.” Draw a tree and a flower.” ” Close the door and sit down.”
- Expanded Two-Step: Directions that are two steps but also have an additional structure such as time and place. ” Throw your trash away before you sit down.”
- Complex Directions: Multiple clauses or later developing vocabulary. ” Draw a flower near the tree after you have colored the grass.” ” Write your name at the top of the page then do questions 2-5.”
One way that you can determine if you are matching the directions to the complexity that you are working with a student on is to diagram the sentence. What type of words are you using? Do you have multiple prepositions which would complicate the direction that you are giving? Is your sentence simple, compound or complex?
If your student is not able to do the directions that you are using make an analysis of the sentence structure and separate out what you have as a hypothesis. So for example, if the direction you gave was to ” Color the flower next to the tree and color the smallest leaf orange.” Was it the concept ‘next’? Was it that this was a compound sentence? Was it the concept smallest? Give the direction in a more basic way ” Color the flower next to the tree. This will give you an idea if the concept next is not understood. Do this with all the other sentences.
Sometimes it is the materials that we are using that may complicate the following directions for the child. So for example, if you are using animals in your directions make sure that these are very familiar to the child so that does not become the difficulty. So for some children, they know the names of every dinosaur while another just calls them all dinosaurs. Prior to using the material screen the names to make sure the child knows them.
Sometimes it could be the number of items that you are having the child scan. If discriminating between items is not part of your treatment goal then only have a couple items or pictures out.
What has worked really well for you?