Home Questions Answered “Read the directions!”

Not ONE student, EVER, at ANY point, has read a WORD of directions. I wish I were exaggerating. Be honest – you skip them, too!

So, now, I make all my assignments without them. ALL sentence starters and circling, with no clunky directions wasting ink and space.

For example, rather than writing, “Answer all questions with complete sentences, being sure to include two details”, followed by the question, “Do you predict the object will sink or float? Explain.”

I will instead write, “I think the object will (FLOAT / SINK) because…. Another reason I think this is….”

I realize this is too much scaffolding for highly capable students, and later other teachers or professors do not do this, but if they get help forming ideas nowhere else, I want them to get it in my classroom.

I teach 8th grade science, and yes, I do assign papers with somewhat less structure. It also counts as built-in scaffolding for ELL and SPED students. I know some teachers do a goofy read-the-directions assignment at the beginning of the year that ends in students just putting their name on the paper and silently turning it over, or something to that effect. But I would rather go around the problem than try to fight through it.

What do you think? Do you do this, too? Do your students ALSO not read directions? What do you think of my strategy?

I understand your frustration and you’re right they don’t read the instructions. Sometimes in class I read the instructions out loud at the beginning of a class to make a point.

I don’t like the goofy read-the-directions assignment myself. So instead, I make the first assignment we do dependent on the directions.

In the directions I explain that not following directions will result in a lower grade. So if your problem is getting them to write in a complete sentence then having incomplete sentences would severely affects the grade.

I do this on one assignment. Then before handing them back I talk to the room and explain that a large number of assignments were given lower grades than they really deserved simply because they didn’t follow the directions given. I tell them I expect the right answer in the format requested.

I explain that it’s important to learn from our mistakes and improve because of them. This one grade won’t determine their semester grade, and if I see a drastic change sometimes I drop it completely. But, it makes a big impact on my students. They read the directions and ask questions before beginning an assignment after that to make sure they understand.

I always emphasize that sometimes we learn more from our mistakes than we do from doing things correctly. I think life lessons are important and what you describe is an important one.

You’re negating the problem but you’re also holding their hand to ensure they get a better grade rather than teaching them the importance of following the directions. I think it’s an easy fix for us as teachers to do what is the easiest thing for us to manage but you might make a bigger impact by using directions and then grading according to the directions given. When students ask why they got a D, you have clear instructions printed that give them your expectations for the assignment and can point at each one that wasn’t fulfilled.

It does save time to do things the way you are but I think you’re missing an opportunity to teach them an important lesson in life – that we need to follow the rules to succeed.

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question submitted through reddit.com/r/teaching and answered by TeacherAffairs

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