The importance of clear instructions in teaching English to yl instructions

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The importance of clear instructions in teaching English to YL


  • What are they?

What are they?

  • A step by step guide explaining how to make or do something.
  • Instructions can be spoken or written.

Types of instructions

  • Instructions are used for many things.
  • How many types of written instructions can you think of?
  • Recipe books
  • Computer games
  • Craft books
  • Gardening guides
  • Science experiments
  • Sport games
  • Safety rules

How are instructions written?

  • A question for the reader.
  • Diagrams
  • Finished product picture.
  • Starts with a GOAL.
  • Includes a list of tools and equipment.
  • Numbered steps.
  • Time Connectives.
  • Imperative verbs.

Look at the instructions you have been given can you find any of these features? Use post it notes to mark them.

  • A question for the reader.
  • Diagrams
  • Finished product picture.
  • Starts with a GOAL.
  • List of tools and equipment.
  • Numbered steps.
  • Time Connectives.
  • Imperative verbs.

Bossy verbs

  • Imperative instruction
  • Don't smoke here
  • Fix this with glue
  • Don't run
  • Take 300g of flour
  • Sentence
  • You should not smoke here
  • You must fix this with glue
  • You must not run
  • You will need 300g of flour

Important Things to Remember When Giving Instructions

  • Length – keep instructions brief and to the point; overly long instructions are less likely to be read thoroughly
  • Word Choice – Keep the vocabulary in terms your audience will understand; define technical terms when necessary
  • Language – write in clear, concise language that is easily understood; conversational tone; steps written as commands
  • Design – Make sure the page is easy to read and information is easy to locate; use visuals when necessary
  • Accuracy – Instructions need to be accurate and complete; find out any facts your are uncertain of before giving instructions
  • PresentationChoose whether oral, written, visual (demo), or a combination will be most effective

Title (purpose of instructions)

  • Title (purpose of instructions)
  • Introduction (overview, define the task, explain a process)
  • Definitions (define any terms your audience may not understand; use a glossary or define the term after the first time it is used)
  • Preparations (anything that is necessary to do before the instructions can be followed)
  • Warnings/Precautions (give audience a heads up of any problems that may arise when following your steps)
  • Steps (the order in which the task needs to be done)
  • Closing (how to test results, summarize main steps)

Use Concise Language

  • Extra words, sentences, and information can clutter writing and make it unnecessarily long and confusing.
  • If any words or sentences can be removed without changing the meaning of your message, remove it.
  • Examples:
    • Revolutionary new can be changed to new
    • Terminate can be changed to end
    • In the year of 2011 can be changed to In 2011
    • Completely finished can be changed to finished
    • During the time that can be changed to while

Chronological Order & Command Forms

  • Instructions should be carried out in the order that they are given.
  • Instead of saying “before you open the lid, turn the machine off” you should say “turn the machine off before opening the lid.”
  • Steps in instructions are always written in the second person as a command.
  • Using the second person (“you”) allows direct addressing of whoever is being instructed.
  • Examples:
    • Clamp the board to the bench.
    • Please fill out an insurance form.

Parallel Structure

  • Steps in instructions should have the same sentence structure.
  • Example of parallel structure:
    • 1) Insert disk in CD drive, 2) Close drive door, 3) Press ENTER
  • Example of NOT parallel structure:
    • 1) Disk inserted in CD drive, 2) Drive door must be closed, 3) Press ENTER.

Giving Effective Instructions

  • 1) Analyze who your are giving instructions to
  • 2) Research the subject
  • 3) Organize
  • 4) Make notes
  • 5) Prepare visual aids (if necessary)
  • 6) Practice
  • 7) Presentation

Designing an Effective Page

  • Layout – spread material evenly over the whole page, place visuals where they are easy to find, make important information stand out, be organized
  • Headings and Print – headings help the reader find information quickly, use print that is large enough to see and easy to read
  • Sequence – instructions must be written in the same order as the reader’s actions

When to Use Visuals

  • A visual should be included with your instructions if you answer yes to any of the following questions:
    • Will a visual help to understand the purpose of the instructions?
    • Will a visual help to identify parts or equipment?
    • Will a visual help to understand a specific step or series of steps?
    • Will a visual help to avoid injury or increase safety?
    • Will a visual help to successfully complete the task?

Giving Warnings

  • The listener or reader of your instructions need to be warned of any hazards that may come up as your instructions are followed.
  • Signal Word – Use words like DANGER, CAUTION, WARNING, STOP, or IMPORTANT written in large letters to grab attention; using a color like red, orange, or yellow also helps
  • Identify the Hazard – tells whoever is following your instructions what to be aware of (electric shock, radiation, toxic gas, etc.)
  • Result of Ignoring the Warning – what will happen if the warning is ignored; explain the damage the hazard can cause
  • Avoiding the Hazard – give detailed instructions on how to avoid the hazard using simple, direct language


  • Summary – shortened versions of speeches, writings, and events
  • The original source is reduced but the main idea is included and restated in a summary
  • Major points and important details can be included as long as they are essential to the central idea
  • A summary can be as brief as 1 sentence or as long as several pages

Subject, Audience, & Purpose

  • The subject of what is being summarized will affect how long the summary is.
  • Example: a 90 page report will take more time and more words to summarize than a 1 page article
  • A summary must be an accurate representation of the original source. Whoever uses the summary should not have to refer to the original source to understand it.
  • The audience and purpose will determine the length and presentation of a summary.

Characteristics of a Summary

  • An effective summary should be ALL of the following:
      • Brief – short and to the point
      • Well Written – the summary needs to be understandable with the most important points highlighted throughout
      • Independent – clear, stands alone from the original, contains main idea(s) of the original, should not have to refer to original to understand
      • Accurate – provide understanding of original, clearly reflect the author’s intent, does not distort the meaning

What to Include in a Summary

  • From the original: Include what is necessary after reading or listening to the original more than once
  • For a general audience: a summary for a general audience translates whatever information is being summarized into plain language
  • For specialists: provide enough information for the needs of the audience, often with recommendations and/or results so that a specialist as enough information to make a decision

Types of Summaries

  • Informative – condenses main ideas with no explanation or detail
  • Explanatory – contain only information with no analysis or opinions added
  • Analytic – used if the summary’s purpose is to interpret, evaluate, or criticize the facts of a source; observations and criticisms can be added

How to Summarize

  • Choose and Arrange Main Points – find the author’s organizational pattern; signal word clues will help find the main points
  • Highlight and Take Notes – highlight and take notes on main points based on the summary’s audience (about 10% of original should be included)
  • 1) Read/Listen to original, 2) Find main ideas, 3) Highlight and take notes, 4) Support main ideas with facts from original

Writing an Effective Summary

  • 1) Preview (skim original for main points)
  • 2) Read/Listen to original
  • 3) Highlight and/or take notes
  • 4) Identify main idea
  • 5) Find supporting facts (direct quotes and paraphrasing)
  • 6) Organize and write summary
  • 7) Edit (eliminate unnecessary words and repetition)
  • 8) Document (give credit to original source)

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