Getting Students to Read the DIRECTIONS!

Discussion in 'General Education' started by catnfiddle, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Dec 6, 2012

    The assignment I gave: Write a five-paragraph argumentative essay taking a stance on one of the following: Year-long School, Homework, Sleep and Learning, or Social Media and Education. Use the research already available in the classroom to support your thesis and counter and arguments that attempt to refute it. Turn in your essay with parenthetical citations and an ELA style Works Cited Page attached.

    The assignment I received: A two-paragraph opinion piece against abortion, with no research but plenty of graphic description of the procedure. :dizzy:

    My biggest problem with getting students to follow directions is that I am mostly asynchronous, so my students may never listen to the lectures and discussion where I explain the assignments. The directions are clearly listed in my online classroom and a checklist is available for students to self-monitor their work. I had to send back that incorrect assignment with an F, call and leave a message on voice mail, and email.

    Any suggestions for getting the point across the first time?
     
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  3. MikeTeachesMath

    MikeTeachesMath Devotee

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    Dec 6, 2012

    A big, red, bold, underlined, italicized "READ THE **** DIRECTIONS"?
     
  4. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Dec 6, 2012

    That is covered in my New Student orientation, "Surviving Mrs. Fiddle's English Class". The exact wording is:

    DO read all of the directions! Read them aloud and call me with questions! There will also be [live] sessions to go over the assignments and get them started.

    DON'T create your interpretation of the assignment! That’s when I have to deduct points or send it back to you to have it completely redone. It’s much easier to get it right the first time.​

    To go with this, I have a picture of an inkblot test with the caption, "I know this does NOT look like a five-paragraph essay to you."
     
  5. GoldenPoppy

    GoldenPoppy Habitué

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    Dec 6, 2012

    I put little "extras" in my written instructions, usually an opportunity to earn some extra credit. Even when I discuss the assignment, I don't talk about it until the assignment has been completed. Then I make a big deal about who read the instructions and got the extra credit. My kids love it!
     
  6. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    Dec 6, 2012

    Golden... that's what I was going to say. I remember getting worksheets with bonuses hidden within them. I remember some that said you can do only the even number problems or something of that nature. It was always funny to see the kids doing all the problems and the ones who read their directions...
     
  7. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    The biggest problem I'm seeing, again from the odd vantage of distance learning, is that my students are jumping straight into the assignments without having read the material. If the dropbox where the assignment should be placed is blank, they call and complain. I have to explain that the directions are in the pages beforehand and they need to open a fresh document and enter their answers / essay / whatever based on those.

    Another example of not reading the directions came this afternoon. A student opened a chart she was supposed to complete based on a series of slides in a PowerPoint from the previous page. Once she called me, I was able to get her back to the correct page to open the slides. We read the directions together and she nailed the assignment as we talked. If she had read the directions, she would've saved herself a lot of aggravation (I've returned plenty of charts that had random information having nothing to do with the slides). On the other hand, I loved having the chance to work with this young lady and assess her understanding in real time.
     
  8. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Dec 11, 2012

    The fact that I had to make this an autotyped response says it all:

    " I always love to see your opinions on topics, but your paragraph should specifically be about the debate between Winnie Stackleberg and Tim Lynch, and whether or not they supported their positions with facts. This assignment is all about your reaction to the topic and not an analysis of the debate itself. I would love for you to give the debate recording in the classroom another look so you can write this assignment properly."

    I've had to use that shortcut a half dozen times so far.

    :beatdeadhorse:
     
  9. Poodle15

    Poodle15 Companion

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    Dec 11, 2012

    With my experience taking online classes through my local community college (8/10 classes online), not reading the directions is the one thing my professors deal with and hate the most. Regardless of what the syllabus says ("This is NOT an 'at your own pace' course!"), there are students still doing the discussion board topics before they're assigned, turning in incorrectly or not completing assignments, and some genuine mistakes. I accidentally sent a file as an attachment to my English teacher even though none of the assignments all semester had been sent that way. It was a throwback to the class I'd had with her before (online).

    TL;DR - I think this is going to happen no matter what. I do, however, think that maybe a "trick" assignment is in order. Have some very long, very familiar instructions for an assignment. Add in there somewhere that they don't actually have to do it and if they've read the instructions to please not share the "trick" with their classmates (if that's even viable for them). Then stress how utterly important fully reading the directions can be. :2cents:
     
  10. edtechKing

    edtechKing New Member

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    Dec 11, 2012

    Try providing directions in Audio. I have done this with increased success. Read the directions out and embed the audio. I use Audioboo. I can't provide you with the direct link (new user here) but it is free and very easy to record. Simply record and copy and paste your link into your course. It will embed the audio file right there.
     
  11. Chrissteeena

    Chrissteeena Companion

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    Dec 12, 2012

    I had a teacher (well many actually- HS and College) that got fed up with people not reading directions. This was when I was in community college, and he said "next class you will have a test, make sure to read the directions." Next class, he handed us a test. The directions said "There are fifty questions on this test, answer only questions one through ten and forty through fifty, all answers are (insert letter here)" ... [that may not be word for word its been a while lol]. Guess how many people answered all 50 questions or answered the 1-10 and 40-50 but didn't finish and put all the correct letter that was given. A lot.
     
  12. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Dec 12, 2012

    A couple of us have been toying with embedding audio or even visual directions. My hope is that it would actually draw attention and not just be one more thing to click. As is, we give intense instruction and go over the directions in a live session with students twice a week. We even start the assignments together as a class. However, only 3-6 of my students regularly attend, and almost nobody watches the recording we make.
     
  13. Mamacita

    Mamacita Aficionado

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    Dec 13, 2012

    I just graded a student's Fact/Opinion test. She labeled everything True/False. She failed. I purposely create tests that require careful reading of directions. We already have far too many adults who can't follow directions and certainly don't need any more. I also give a lot of quizzes wherein the directions change every few questions. If they answer #8 using #1-7's directions, they're wrong.

    I'm not talking about creative, cool students who understand the directions but choose to add a little whimsy to it, delighting me while getting it right. I'm talking about kids so anxious to get it over with that they plunge right straight into it and ASSUME they're doing it right.

    I also sneak extra credit and rewards into the directions. There are still always "those" students who never catch on.

    I fear for the future; I really do.
     

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