Is a task really simple for your pupil? Copy

Completing Tasks

As a teacher, your entire day is about asking your pupils to complete tasks. Sometimes they get on with the job straight away, sometimes they may have to ask a question and other times a student may fail to complete the task at all. But why might a student not follow your instructions? Are they simply being disobedient or is there another reason?

Something that may seem simple to you, might be more difficult for a student. Once you start to break any task down, it is easier to understand why that is.

When you ask a pupil to do a task what are you really asking them to do?

A blue character is standing with his mouth open talking. His left hand is on his hip, and his other hand is pointing his finger as though explaining something, like a teacher. He is wearing glasses and a blue jumper with a red shirt underneath.

Let’s look more closely at a ‘simple’ task:

Asking a pupil to get up from their desk at the back of the class and move to the front of the room. 

A blue character wearing a blue top and yellow dress is looking confused. There is a question mark over their head.

That pupil has to:

1. hear/see your instruction to move or receive a physical prompt

2. understand your instruction to move

3. understand that is meant for them

4. move away from their desk

5. move to the front of the class avoiding any obstacles, such as chairs, bags and desks

6. move to the front of the class ignoring any distractions, such as other kids or noises

7. Stop in the correct place

You can see that an apparently simple task, like moving to the front of the classroom, is really more complex than you first imagine. There can be many stages and many opportunities to get it wrong. 

Ask yourself what are you asking someone to do?

Break down your task into steps

First you need to break down a task into steps, so you are clear what you are asking someone to do. As we have shown above, something as apparently straight forward as walking to the front of the room is actually a complicated thing to do.

Exercise 1:

Below are four tasks that pupils have to carry out every day. Look at each task and break them down into their separate stages like the example above. Complete this before moving on as you will find our breakdowns of the tasks on the next page.

  1. Follow a verbal instruction
  2. Move from one room to the other
  3. Reading information from the board
  4. Writing something down
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