26 Strategies to Help Learners Who Fail to Follow Verbal Instructions and Directions

Are you looking for strategies to help students who fail to follow verbal directions and instructions? If so, keep reading.

1. Provide visibility to and from the student. The teacher and the student should be able to see each other. Make eye contact possible at all times when giving oral instructions.

2. Assess the clarity and quality of oral directions, explanations, and instructions given to the student.

3. Designate a peer to work with the student to help them follow oral instructions.

4. Provide instructions, explanations, and information using vocabulary that is within the student’s level of comprehension.

5. Refrain from placing the student in situations that require listening for an expanded duration of time such as lectures, seminars, etc. Give the information for the student through a recording or lecture notes.

6. Be firm, fair, and consistent, expecting the student to listen to and follow instructions. Do not Let the student fail to follow instructions one time and expect instructions to be followed the next time.

7. Ensure the student has heard what was said by having them give acknowledgment (e.g., by saying, “Okay!” “Will do!” etc.).

8. Tell the student that it is their behavior that determines whether consequences are positive or negative.

9. Connect clearly to the student when it is time to listen to oral instructions.

10. Support the student in performing their duties. As they show success following oral instructions, slowly decrease the assistance and require the student to independently assume more responsibility.

11. Provide a predetermined signal (e.g., clapping hands, turning lights off and on, etc.) before giving oral instructions.

12. Connect with parents (e.g., notes home, phone calls, etc.) to disseminate information about the student’s progress. The parents may reinforce the student at home for following oral instructions at school.

13. Show directions, explanations, and instructions as they are presented orally (e.g., use the smartboard to work a problem for the student, begin playing a game with the student, etc.).

14. Show the steps of oral instructions as they are delivered to enable the likelihood that the student will follow the instructions accurately.

15. Create instruction-following tasks/learning activities (e.g., informal learning activities designed to have the student carry out oral instructions in steps with increasing degrees of difficulty).

16. Assess the visual and auditory stimuli in their surroundings. Ascertain the number of stimuli the student can tolerate. Remove unnecessary stimuli from their surroundings.

17. Do not criticize when correcting the student; be honest yet compassionate. Never cause the student to feel negatively about themselves.

18. Do not give instructions to the student from across the classroom. Go to the student, get their full attention, and tell the student what they are to do. As the student’s capacity and ability to follow oral instructions increases, slowly increase the distance of communication.

19. Provide oral instructions before handing out learning materials.

20. Provide the student with short directions, explanations, and instructions to follow. As the student shows success, slowly increase the length of the directions, explanations, and instructions.

21. Consider using a classroom management app to help the student follow directions and instructions . Click here to view a list of apps that we recommend.

22. Consider using Alexa to help you with classroom management. Click here to read an article that we wrote on the subject.

23. Click here to learn about six bonus strategies for challenging problem behaviors and mastering classroom management.

24. Read this article that we wrote on developing listening comprehension skills.

25. Read this article that we wrote explaining why verbal comprehension skills are important to academic success.

26. Read this article that we wrote on what you should do when your child struggles with verbal comprehension.

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