5 Ways to Help Spacey Kids Follow Directions

#1 Have Them Help Demonstrate – Your first instinct might be to choose a model student to help demonstrate a task.  Try picking a student who struggles to follow directions instead.  You may have to give them a lot of guidance as they demonstrate in front of the class but then you know they have at least gone through the motions of the activity instead of just spacing out while someone else demonstrates.

#2 Turn Directions into a Song – Nothing catches the attention of kids faster than when you start singing.  The more ridiculous the song, the better!  Here’s one for cutting out spelling words (to the tune of Old McDonald):

Cut around the edges first,
E I E I O,
Cut the middle after that,
E I E I O,

Put your scrap in the trash,
Put your scrap in the trash,
Here a scrap, there a scrap,
Everywhere a scrap, scrap,

Cut around the edges first,
E I E I O!

It doesn’t matter what song it is.  The words you put in don’t even have to rhyme.  Sing it through a couple of times as the kids start working and more of them will follow directions.

Also see: a song to remind students to put their name on their paper.

#3 Act Out Directions – Have students act out a brief, exaggerated version of what they need to do.  Say you want kids to just use dots of glue on the corners of their paper rather than slather the whole thing into glue-mageddon.  Have them hold up their finger and act out putting dots on the corners of an imaginary big piece of paper in the air.

When I give directions, my students are...  #teacherproblems


#4 Write Directions on the Board – Teachers talk a lot during the day.  Kids obviously won’t remember everything you have said.  As you are giving directions, write a brief version on the board in list form.  Use pictures if appropriate for your students.  Instead of getting bogged down answering questions about directions, you can refer students to the board.  Eventually students learn to check the board first.

#5 Use Repetition – Say the directions in a very simplified form such as, “cut on the solid lines, fold on the dotted lines.”  Say it a couple of times.  Have the whole class say it together.  Call on a couple of individuals (maybe students who frequently miss directions) to repeat it.

Following my Teaching Tips board on Pinterest for more ideas!

Follow Hannah @ The Classroom Key’s board Teaching Tips on Pinterest.

Hannah Braun on FacebookHannah Braun on InstagramHannah Braun on PinterestHannah Braun on Youtube
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun
Hannah Braun is a former teacher with 8 years of experience in the classroom and a master's degree in early childhood education. She designs engaging, organized classroom resources for 1st-3rd grade teachers.


  1. I usually just pick a student to repeat the instructions and then pick a few more -” What do you have to do Hannah? Fantastic you have to …. . What did I just ask you to do Ryan? You got it. Kate, can you tell me what you have to do now? Great, anyone not sure?” If they get it wrong – ask another student to help them by having them repeat the instruction to that student.

    • Yes! That’s a great strategy. Sometimes kids will ask, “Why are we saying this over and over?” Weelllll kids, because someone (or many someones) will be so confused if we don’t ; )

Comments are closed.