How to teach students to consult resources/read directions

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Koriemo, Sep 25, 2015.

  1. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

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    Sep 25, 2015

    I teach at a private high school, and nearly all of my students are college bound. I've noticed that many of my students have a hard time reading directions for assignments or looking at resources they have been given in order to answer questions they have. In fact, I've noticed that one of thing biggest differences between my honors students and my grade level students is that the honors students look at assignment requirements and follow them.

    At first, I thought students just didn't pay attention, so I tried giving them quizzes over handouts or notes. For example, I gave students a handout that covered basics of MLA format. These are high school juniors who have been learning about MLA format for at least two years. One side of the handout has information and the other had a sample example. We covered it briefly in class, then the next day I gave them a quiz over it. I explained to them that the goal of the quiz was to test their ability to consult resources for information, and this handout was the resource. I expected all of the students to get 100%, but several of them got below a 75%. I asked simple questions like, "What should the margins on your paper be?"... One of the bulleted points on the handout was "Margins should be 1 inch on the top, bottom, left, and right." One question was a little bit tricky; it asked, "What does your title page need?"... The handout had a bullet point that said, "You don't need a title page." But that was the hardest question on the whole quiz.

    The next day, students pulled up their papers on the computer and were supposed to format the paper in MLA format, with the header, title information, paper title, margins, 12 point font, etc. even the students who did well on the quiz still did things like make the title bold, put the date in the incorrect format, or put their first name instead of their last name in the header.

    My students do this with other assignments too. We did an assignment last week, and the handout began with "This assignment has three parts" and went on to list and explain them. They had time to work on it in class for 2.5 days. At the beginning and end of each classes I said, "All three parts of this assignment are due Thursday!" ...Thursday came, and I still had students shocked that the assignment had three parts and they only did one or two of the parts of the assignment.

    Part of me is just frustrated because I feel like they would do better if they just paid attention to detail and listened to instructions. I don't want to micromanage a 17 year old. On the other hand, I feel like I have a serious problem with students' reading comprehension, since some of my students genuinely struggled with the quiz over MLA format and applying it to their papers. I also wonder if classroom management may be part of it. When I go over things, students are quiet and I speak loudly and clearly and write things down, but I don't actively prompt kids to make sure they aren't staring off into space not listening to anything.

    Sorry that this turned into a rant. But honestly, Does anyone have any suggestions for teaching this skill or correcting this behavior?
     
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  3. Mrs. K.

    Mrs. K. Enthusiast

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    Sep 26, 2015

    I feel your pain! I have all college prep seniors, and every year some act like they've never heard of MLA before. I've started giving separate grades for content, development, and organization, which counts as 60% of the grade, and for format, which I count as 30%. The last 10% covers things like turning in all the drafts, etc. by making the format a separate grade, I think I'm giving it importance on its own. I think. I may just be deluding myself.
     
  4. Koriemo

    Koriemo Comrade

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    Sep 27, 2015

    I should probably raise the grade I give for format. I usually give the format grade as part of the rough draft (which is a "daily grade") but students only seem to care about test/paper/project grades.

    I've been thinking about this more, and I think part of the reason that this is so important to me is that many adults are lacking in the same skill: reading the fine print. Now, on my assignments, I definitely try to make these details obvious, but in the "real world", companies don't always do that. When I was in college, I had a bad experience with a credit card company. I wish I had read the details of the agreement before signing it.
     
  5. Rockguykev

    Rockguykev Connoisseur

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    Sep 30, 2015

    By that age the system has clearly failed them. Too many teachers let kids get away with being lazy. We want to help them so when they mess up or ask for obvious help we still help them.

    With my 7th graders I refuse to grade papers that didn't follow directions. I just give it back marked INC and leave it at that. They know it means they have a zero and need to fix something. It is up to them to figure it out. I will still happily give them the full points on it when/if it comes back but I'm not going to bother until then.
     
  6. vateacher757

    vateacher757 Cohort

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    Oct 3, 2015

    I feel you!!!

    I have high schoolers that will not read the instructions to a lesson assignment and if an assignment is say for example.....answer the lesson review questions at the end of the chapter I will get the question "what page is it on?" ....I don't believe in spoon feeding high schools kids each step of what they are to do, in my opinion it creates lazy soon to be employees. I teach business so my mindset is also on workplace readiness.
     
  7. GTB4GT

    GTB4GT Cohort

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    Oct 4, 2015

    agree 100%. The emphasis on students success appears to have unintended consequences. At my school, as the students do less and less, some teachers do more and more for them. It is heart breaking and in the long run, does more harm to a student's intellectual growth than good.
     
  8. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Oct 4, 2015

    We've probably all seen the activity sheet that lists 'read all directions first' followed by a long list of busy work...and the last direction being 'ignore all prior die critics, put your name on this paper and hand it in'. Kind of elementary in scoe, but it one's make a point. I'd suggest taking off points for not following directions on all work. It will begin to affect their grades as a consequence and may convince your students to be more aware and cognizant of the importance of following directions, paying attention and taking care in their work.
     
  9. catnfiddle

    catnfiddle Moderator

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    Oct 4, 2015

    My situation is a little different because I'm in an online setting, but those of you who have a webpage might try some variations of this as well.
    • Underline or bold all verbs in the instructions. If the students have to choose one of several tasks to do, make sure that is emphasized as well.
    • Model the assignment for the students before they begin the task. Some of our more auditory listeners might fare better to hear the instructions, and our tactile learners might catch on to a round of "I do, we do, you do".
    • If you have a class web page, record yourself explaining the instructions again. I swear by Screencast-O-Matic for creating short videos of myself explaining things. Students may pay attention in class but fail to recall your instructions when they get home. Having the ability to "rewind the teacher" might help those kiddos.
     
  10. Nov 4, 2015

    This is such a relevant problem. Sometimes you just have to realize that no matter how many time you give them these amazing resources they will not take advantage of it.

    But in the mind of not wanting to ever give up on the students, these are some tips I have noticed. When going over the assignment details, have the students themselves highlight the important parts and key details, and then have them relate them back to you. This way they are taking the time to know the details, and when you go over them you can cover anything left out. Something you can also do with these students is break up the large assignments. Have them turn in the small parts, and when they are all done have them put it all together to from the whole. This way the students can focus their efforts.

    Hope this helps!
     

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