Step by Step: The Value of Following Directions

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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 Extension: Exploring Appreciative Inquiry

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Spring brings longer days and more light into our lives.  It’s the time of year when flowers bloom and tree buds turn into luscious leaves before our eyes!  With everything outdoors transforming anew, it’s so hard to capture the attention of students experiencing spring-fever!  So, why not capitalize on the fresh change of seasons, using a writing activity that will inspire students to appreciate spring and ‘Carpe Diem’ at the same time! 

Carpe Diem is a Latin phrase coined by the Roman poet Horace to express the idea that one should make the most of each and every moment of life while one can. Latin scholars translate the phrase to mean “pluck the day (as it is ripe).”  In order to do that, a person must learn how to appreciate what’s going on around them.  Learning to appreciate can translate into a more positive approach to thinking that can last a lifetime if knowledge, skill, and practice are applied. That’s where the poetic principle of Appreciate Inquiry comes into play.  It simply means that what we spend time focusing on and studying shapes our interpretations, learnings, and inspirations!  (Do you focus on what you want or what you don’t want?  Whichever it is, you’ll likely find it.)

For this lesson, students will follow the poetic principle of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) as they carry out the following steps: 

  1. Define the Topic,

  2. Discover (explain the best of what is),

  3. Dream (imagine what could be),

  4. Design (develop what should be), and

  5. Destiny (compose what will be). 

The topic should be written on the board for everyone to see.  Students will get out a sheet of paper and write it at the top of the page.  Topic: A Spring Day in (City/State)…Carpe Diem! 

Since the topic has been predetermined, students will learn to appreciate spring a little more by engaging in the steps of Appreciative Inquiry.  The initial step requires students to Discover.  In this moment, they will be asked to find, emphasize, and bring attention to any factors that are included in a spring day in (city/state)…carpe diem!   They will focus on explaining the best of what is! Often times, it helps to think about positive experiences from the past, or if possible, you can have students venture outside to witness spring taking place in real time. Some additional questions include: 

  • Is there anything surprising going on around you? 

  • Does anything touch your heart or move your spirit? 

  • What seems to be going well for you in this moment? 

As students generate ideas, they will list their ideas on the sheet of paper.

Once students have discovered the attributes of a spring day in (city/state), the next step in the AI process is to Dream.  Ask students to use their imagination to enter a state of dreaming and begin to daydream about what could be or needs to be included in the best spring day in (city/state)…carpe diem…ever!  The sky’s the limit, and no dream is too big!  Some questions to help students dream include: 

  • What could make this spring day even better? 

  • What would you add? 

Students will make a list of dreams, leaving room for details that will be developed in the next step of AI.

The next step in AI is called Design.  During this step, students will write concrete, actionable steps that could turn their dreams listed in the previous step into reality.  They will literally explain the steps that would have to take place for their dream to come true.

Last, but not least, Destiny is the final step in AI.  During this step, the student must decide on how they will personally contribute to the dream (Step 3) and the proposed design (Step 4) of a spring day in (city/state)…carpe diem.  Students will write their destiny statements beneath each dream and design statement.  (Example:  I will…)

After students have completed the 5-steps of AI outlined above, they will use the information to write a 5-paragraph essay.  Students will prewrite, write, edit, revise, write a final draft, and publish: ‘A Spring Day in (City/State)…Carpe Diem!’

Resources: Use the following link for access to various prewriting maps to aid your students in their journey!