Monday, July 22, 2013

Teaching School-Age Children to Follow Directions

directions school

The ability to listen,  to comprehend, and to follow directions is a critical skill for children to develop. This skill is relevant in many areas of life, particularly in the areas of schoolwork and developing personal responsibility.

There are actually many components in learning to follow directions. The child must:

  • Pay attention and listen to the speaker

  • Understand what the speaker is saying

  • Be able to keep the directions in his memory.

  • Translate the spoken instructions into action and carry them out.

If a child has difficulty with any of these, he will not be successful in carrying out multi-part instructions. It is important to figure where the breakdown is occurring and to focus on that area. Practice will definitely help!

The following activities are excerpted from my book Language Lessons, which is packed with games and activities to enhance skills in listening, comprehending, and producing language.


Following Directions

Look for opportunities during daily life for your child to follow directions. When expecting your child to complete a complex job, such as cleaning his room, or setting the table, give him one instruction at a time. If he is able to complete each small task accurately, challenge him by giving him two directions at a time, (“Hang up your coat and put your shoes in the closet.”)

· Play games like "Simon Says" and "Mother May I?"

· Sing and play, "Hokey, Pokey."


Have the following objects available: chair, table, book, ball, block, door, spoon, and bowl. Ask your child to follow these directions:

1-Step Commands:

· Read the book.

· Pick up the block.

· Tap the block with the spoon.

· Walk to the door.

· Close your eyes.

· Clap your hands 3 times.

· Put the block under the table.

2-Step Commands:

· Sit down and cross your legs.

· Say your name; blink your eyes.

· Pick up the block. Give it to me.

· Clap your hands. Point to the ball.

· Touch the book. Crawl under the table.

· Put the book under the chair, then turn around.

· Throw the ball at the door, then bring it back.

· Hide the block under the bowl. Put the spoon on top of the bowl.

· Pick up the spoon. Then sit on the chair.

· Put the spoon in the bowl and pretend to stir.

·3-Step Commands:

· Touch your ear, stomp your foot, then sit down.

· Touch the book. Touch the spoon. Touch the table.

· Touch the block. Point to the spoon. Tap the table.

· Touch your ear. Touch your nose. Spin around.

· Pick up the ball. Hold it over your head. Put it on the floor.

· Close your eyes. Spin around. Say, "hello."

· Put the book in front of the door, the book under the table, and the spoon on top of the table.

· Put the spoon in the bowl. Stir it around. Turn the bowl upside down.

· Clap your hands. Touch your nose. Bend your knees.

· Put the book on the ground. Sit on it. Touch your knee.

· Put the spoon on the book. Put them both under the table. Then put them on the chair.

· Pat your head. Touch your toes. Stomp your foot.

· Tap the table with the spoon, then with the pencil. Then put them down.

· Put the book on the spoon. Put the bowl on the book. Put the block on the bowl.

· Hide the bowl under the book. Put the block and spoon next to the door.

Give your child a piece of paper and crayons or markers. Give the following directions for him to follow. Use a separate page for each set of directions.

· Draw a big red circle. Draw 3 small red circles inside it. Draw a brown triangle in each corner of your page.

· Draw a large red square on your paper. Inside the square, draw a yellow circle. Draw a brown line below the square. Make a red squiggly line below the brown line.

·Write your name. Draw a circle around the first letter of your name. Draw a line under the last letter of your name. Draw a big red box around your whole name. Then draw a blue box around the red box.

Give your child directions to draw a picture. Either draw the picture yourself at the same time or have another child draw the picture. Compare the 2 pictures. Examples:

· Draw green grass along the bottom of your paper. Draw a yellow sun in the sky. Draw a gray road across the middle of the paper. Draw a blue car and a green truck on the road. Draw a green tree next to the road.

Ask your child to follow these directions:

· Hold out your right hand.

· Touch your left ear.

· Turn in a circle to the right.

· Gallop 3 steps to the left.

· Jump to the left; jump to the right.

· Walk forward 3 steps, then take 2 steps to the right.

· Slide to the left, then jump backward 3 times.

· Take 2 giant steps to the right and 2 tiny hops forward.

· Bend to the right; bend to the left; bend forward.

· Lie on your right side; lift your left leg in the air.

This is just a sampling of the “Following Directions” chapter of Language Lessons. I hope it will give you some ideas for working with your child to enhance listening and following directions skills.

Language Lessons and the series of Super Star Speech books, which focus on articulation disorders, are available at

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