Communicating Goals, Directions & Procedures to Students

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

An important aspect of student success is making sure they clearly understand goals. This lesson outlines methods teachers can use to make sure students understand objectives before or during teaching.

The Importance of Communication

Students and teachers have very special relationships. They spend a good portion of the day together with the goal of learning. Throughout the day, teachers communicate, or give information to students in a variety of ways and for many purposes. They make announcements in the morning, explain steps for an assignment in math, and review for a test in social studies. These and other types of communication send important underlying messages to students, such as the purpose of learning or the importance of following directions.

In other words, teachers communicate what to do, how to do it, why to do it, and much more throughout the day. Can you see why good communication is important? If students are unsure of directions to complete a project, they will be unable to succeed. If they don't know why they're completing a task, they have no goal to reach for. Teachers need to use specific language to convey what they mean, allowing students the chance to find success.

Types of Communication in the Classroom

Ms. Brown works with students who have a wide variety of strengths and struggles. When planning instruction, she pays attention to what and how she communicates key concepts. Throughout the day, we can see her communicating with students in order to:

  • Give directions for procedures or tasks
  • State learning goals
  • Teach content
  • Enrich a student's language skills

When Ms. Brown gives directions for a learning task, like how to complete a poster showing the planets in the solar system, she gives oral directions as well as written ones. She may write them on the board or create a checklist. She checks for student understanding and keeps her eye on their progress as they work to make sure directions were clear.

Before beginning the poster, Ms. Brown explains the learning goals, what she hopes students will accomplish. In this case, the learning goal is to locate and identify the planets. She makes sure to communicate all learning goals and objectives clearly, so students have a purpose in mind. If she doesn't let students know the goal is to identify and locate planets, some students may fail to label them or put them in the correct order.

Ms. Brown's main form of communication with students is the explanation of content, or what she's teaching. She makes sure to use engaging methods, like descriptive language, and connects learning to the real world. To make sure her communication during instruction of content is clear, she checks in often, asking questions and probing for clarity. During this type of communication, Ms. Brown relies on students sharing what they understand and invites them to explain their thinking and understanding.

Finally, Ms. Brown communicates in order to serve as a role model for proper use of oral and written language. When students hear her use varied vocabulary, their own understanding and word usage increases. She uses academic vocabulary, words typically only found in schools or educational settings, such as 'isotope' or 'synthesize'.

Communicating Clearly

Like we said above, teachers need to make sure they communicate clearly in the classroom. If not, students can become confused, not understand directions, and struggle with content learning. Let's imagine Ms. Brown did not communicate clearly for the planets poster. Imagine she set out markers, poster board, and a few books about the planets. She got the students' attention and then told them to show what they know about the planets, failing to clearly explain exactly what she would consider acceptable. Then, without checking for clarity, she went to her desk and began grading papers.

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