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No Direction

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Blogger Mei Flower was pretty sure her 9th grade students couldn't follow directions, and with standardized tests looming, such a skill gap could spell disaster. So she designed some worksheets to test them:

Circle the noun in each sentence that begins with a vowel.
This is where it would become very important for them to read the directions, you see. And the last sentence was always this:
Then, go on to the next section.
Well, except the last section, in which I wrote this:
Turn your paper over and draw a picture of a dog. Raise your hand when you are finished.

Her results?

My first period class is not very good at reading directions. Half of them did not catch the thing about vowels, and fully three-quarters of them didn't even catch the difference between circle and underline. Almost all of them drew the dog, though. I thought that was weird.

If dog-drawing is on the state standardized exam, her students will be all set.

5 Comments

Students will only pay attention to those things that engage them. Try bringing in other mediums such as TeacherTube.com. Have your students create a video on the importance of reading directions then place the video on TeacherTube.com. There is a way to upload videos privately so no one but you or who you choose to see the video, like your students, can view the video. Kids will have a blast making the video and they will remember the importance of reading directions for a lifetime.

Certainly the interest and inner motivation are important. But I think this specific example highlights a whole together different issue in their ability to follow directions.

The issue is that your "circle the noun..." sentence requires logic, and ability to break a compound sentence to its parts. The two are of course interconnected. The sentence reads:"If a sentence begins with a vowel, circle the noun in it". I believe [and I challenge you to test it :-)] that this phrasing would have higher rates of fulfillment, assuming they do know their vowels and consonants.

The last sentence is already broken to simple pieces and has a simpler conditional statement. Try replacing it with a more compound one, and a more complicated condition, and you'd see that the number of dogs would diminish.

You can understand more about where I'm coming from and my approach to it on my website, especially on the page for the "Word Problems" book.

I still don't know if your first direction was to circle nouns that begin with a vowel or to circle nouns in sentences that begin with a vowel.

I guess I don't know more than a second grader.

Margo, there is nothing wrong with being confused when the directions are confusing. No wonder the kids were lost. The directions that the teacher wrote told students to find a sentence that begins with a vowel then to circle the noun within that sentence. I am not a teacher-basher and I applaud all of those who work in this thankless profession. However, I get frustrated when we give the teacher-bashers ammunition like this. If you don't know what a misplaced modifier is, should you be teaching language skills?

I didn't realize until my students had questions that there was a misplaced modifier in the directions. However, I HAD told me that they COULD ask questions, as long as they raised their hands first; those who read the directions (and were--understandably--confused) asked me what I meant; I told them, and they continued without any problems. Tha majority, though, didn't circle ANYTHING, because they had not read the directions.

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  • Mei Flower: I didn't realize until my students had questions that there read more
  • Kelly: Margo, there is nothing wrong with being confused when the read more
  • Margo/Mom: I still don't know if your first direction was to read more
  • Moti Levi: Certainly the interest and inner motivation are important. But I read more
  • mrsjohnson: Students will only pay attention to those things that engage read more

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