What is going on?
Teacher: “Good morning class. Please make sure last night’s homework is in the green bin. We will begin class in thirty seconds, so make sure that your pencils are sharpened and you are ready to begin. 30, 29, 28….”
Casey (thoughts swirling, wandering around the room): “We had homework last night? Did I do it? Did I even get it? Oh man…where could it be?”
Teacher: “...3,2,1. Thank you class for being ready to start. Casey, why are you out of your seat?”
Casey: “Huh? Oh, did class start, sorry.”
This classic exchange happens in many classrooms in different forms countless times a day. Whether it is about pulling out an assignment, finding a snack, lunch, supply, etc. Students that struggle with multi-step directions, will not know where to begin.
Now what? Give up before you start?
NO! Absolutely not!
As the adult, there are so many ways you can help the child.
Firstly, be conscious of the instructions you give the child.
“Go put on pajamas.”
This seemingly simple statement requires a lot of executive functioning skills.
Where are the pajamas?
In order to put on pajamas, often the clothes from the day need to come off.
Is there an expectation of dirty clothes being put in the hamper?
Every time we give a direction, it is on the adult to think about the steps involved and break them down, AT FIRST. Once the direction becomes routine, and habits form, the directive “Go put on pajamas.” becomes self explanatory.
I used this example because of its seeming simplicity.
Most people will put on pajamas and not think about the steps involved. This is the goal for our students. Classroom routines should become second nature, but until they do, breaking down the steps into the simplest directions can help a child create those habits.
Next week we will begin to discuss practical strategies for helping Casey and anyone like her in the classroom.