Step by Step: The Value of Following Directions

Following Directions with Shurley English.jpg

For my birthday, I received a beautiful interior sliding barn door as a gift.  I envisioned that this hefty, rustic door was going to be a unique addition that would bring more style to my home.  With a few extra hands, how hard could this DIY project be if we just followed the instructions?  Right?

Well, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be!

Have you ever experienced a situation when you didn’t need to read the directions for a simple recipe or to assemble a new toy?  I’d venture to say that sometimes that works out, but not every time.  Even when you’ve read the instructions, they sometimes aren’t clear enough to get the final product you’d hoped for.  If that’s the case, you may end up with holes in your wall and a barn door that is now taking up space leaning against the wall. (Ugh!)  When it comes to reading the directions every time, I’m just as guilty as the next person—I don’t always do it. 

In the classroom, many students bypass the instructions and head straight to number one on the assignment.  Shurley English students are not immune to this; it happens all the time.  As a teacher, it’s frustrating and heartbreaking to see the defeat in a child’s eyes when they realize they haven’t followed the directions and must start the assignment over.

Shurley English stresses the importance of following written directions and gives students plenty of opportunities to practice following directions and writing them.  Students learn that they will follow written directions for various reasons such as following recipes, filling out forms, taking tests, and following “how to” instructions.  We also teach students that it is normal to have to read directions several times to fully understand what to do. 

There’s a simple, hands-on activity in the Shurley English Quick Reference section that can help you reinforce following directions.  You might enjoy implementing it in your classroom now!  Here’s how it works…


Writing Activity: (Students will need a partner for this activity.)

1.     One partner will hide a small object in the classroom.

2.     Then, he/she will write simple instructions for the other partner to follow and locate the item.

3.     Now, reverse roles and hide the object again.

4.     Discuss the ease or difficulty of writing and following these directions.

5.     Which did you find easiest? Why?


Remember, in order to be competent and confident at anything, you have to practice, practice, practice!  So, practice reading the directions first!  You’ll be glad you did! 

Writing Toolbox: Composing Better Sentences

Sentence Composition with Shurley English.jpg

Whether you teach language arts in the school classroom or your home classroom, you have to teach your kids how to write, right? To be clear, I don’t mean the mechanical parts of writing: holding the pencil correctly, positioning the notebook paper properly, and so on. I mean the actual generation of topics that kids know about and want to write about. I mean the composition of clear, concise sentences that convey what the writer is thinking. It would be nice if kids were natural writers and could pluck ideas (and the words needed to express those ideas) out of their brains at the first sign of a prompt, but most of the time, this is not the case.

What kid writers need is good modeling. In Shurley English, we teach students the eight parts of speech, along with the conventions and strategies for applying grammar knowledge to their writing. We start at the sound/symbol level in the early grades and quickly build toward words and sentences. Shurley exposes students to good model sentences almost daily. Herein lies an important point I need to make. Although it’s fine for students to use the Q & A Flow sentences as good model sentences for their own writing, you can do more with those model sentences than meets the eye. I like to challenge students to a higher level task after they can classify and label the parts of speech like an expert. Observe how the sentences become a gold mine for composition practice. Here’s what you do:

Step 1: Choose a set of Practice Sentences your students have already analyzed.

Step 2: Review each sentence aloud and pick one improvement to make.

Composing Sentences with Shurley English.png

Let’s start with Sentence 1. This sentence begs for specifics, so try this:

Sentence 1 Improvement:

The lunch money crashed to the cafeteria floor and rolled under the pop machine!


Sentence 2 could use a few more specific ideas, as well. How about this?

Sentence 2 Improvement:

The brown snake, a Northwestern Garter, slithered lightning fast under the backyard fence.


Sentence 3 features some redundancy because of the adverb brightly. Since most people know that ambulances have glowing lights and that they are obviously bright when they flash, this sentence doesn’t really say much. So, we can revise it this way:

Sentence 3 Improvement:

The ambulance lights, glowing red strobes, punctured the darkness.


Of course, in the Shurley program, we teach Builder Sentences directly and provide a grid-type of worksheet. But this strategy can be done immediately following sentence analysis. To give your students extra immediate practice, try this activity occasionally, and your students’ sentence composition skills will grow by leaps and bounds!

Shurley English 101: Teaching with Confidence

Shurley English.png

So, you have purchased your Shurley curriculum, you open the book or access your digital teacher’s manual…and then it hits you! “What’s all this? How am I going to cover all of it? Can I even do it?” If you have had these or similar feelings, don’t panic. It’s going to be all right.

My post today is about confidence. Yes! You can teach with confidence, especially if you are just embarking upon your first journey with Shurley English. I realize that the sheer volume of information about English that we teach might be enough to send you to the edge. But, pull back. Breathe. Help is on the way.

Narrow the Field: First, don’t view the entire bulk of the curriculum in preparation for your school year. Look at it in terms of only a school day…in other words, narrow the field. By nature, our brains can get way too overwhelmed by all the text you find in Shurley. Believe it or not, when I first started teaching this curriculum, I only needed to stay a day or two ahead of my students. Sure…preview the student objectives because they are a guideline for WHAT you will be teaching during a specific chapter and lesson. However, the crux of the teaching is found in the References. They are numbered for you, so simply read the teaching scripts and the References found in only the first lesson you plan to teach. Make any notes you might think will be handy when you start working with the materials and teaching the kids.

Pre-learn the Jingles: Next, make sure you know the jingles that accompany the lesson before you actually teach them. You will reflect confidence to your student if you already know each jingle well. Spend the first minutes of every session practicing the jingle with your learner(s). If you have our Jingle Posters, chunk the verses a bit to make them more bite-sized. With a marker, draw brackets around each section you want to rehearse. It’s easier to add on new verses of the same jingle over several lessons.

Pre-read the Scripts: As you move into the Question and Answer Flow, pre-read the scripts before actually teaching. Start slowly. You don’t even have to do all of the sentences required during the same lesson at the beginning of your school year. You and your student(s) will gain momentum quickly! (If you find that you would like to supplement your sentence work, you can check out our Sentence Booklets for extra practice.)

Pre-determine Words: Finally, to help build your confidence in the area of teaching writing, again, preview the Builder Sentence Blueprints that occur every so often in the program. The first time you introduce the concept, make sure you have pre-determined some of your own words you want to use for composing your sentence. That way, as you invite your learners to volunteer answers for the spaces on the grid, you have a pre-planned word to use if everyone gets stymied. You will appear to be completely in control and very confident during what might seem like an intimidating exercise. 

The bottom line rule for growing in your confidence is more about a balanced ratio of pre-reading to avoid surprises and following the script when it is provided! You will quickly gain the confidence you need by rehearsing your lessons beforehand in the ways I have outlined above. Good luck! And, don’t forget, you can always call our office and speak with any one of our expert customer service representatives. If you just need to talk, or if you want a boost of confidence, don’t go to silence. Call us at 800-566-2966.

Go forth and teach confidently!