So much of our academic instruction involves following directions. Every time you say something simple like “take out your pencil” or “find page 62” that’s following directions. Getting more advanced, when you say things like “do the first 20 problems” or “write 3 details” those more complex directives involve a considerable amount of processing and receptive language comprehension. If your students are struggling with academic learning, it may be helpful to work on one-step and multi-step directives and build up some receptive language skills.

Tips for Teaching Multi-Step Directions:

  • Make sure one step commands are mastered. Does your student have a wide range of simple one step commands that are mastered? Can those skills generalize into the natural environment? If you ask your student out of context to stand up – do they do it? You don’t want to build your receptive language castle on a faulty foundation. Ensure that these are mastered first before moving on to more complex skills.
  • Combine mastered one step commands to begin teaching two step commands. Work on this in isolation during direct instruction time. Provide high powered reinforcers for correct responses. Provide error correction for incorrect responding.
  • Prompt appropriately. Don’t over prompt and get students reliant on your prompting. Errorless learning is a great approach to take here. Model and physically prompt for the student the correct response and slowly fade off so they are responding independently.
  • Use visuals. Visuals are a great way to show what to do without over prompting. Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 10.17.24 AM
  • Take consistent data. Data is key here! You need to see how your student is progressing on this skill. Data sheets and program guides for one-step and two-step commands are included in our Discrete Trial Data Set 2. 

It’s also important to practice following directions with items and within basic activities. Simple activities that involve combining multiple adjectives, features, or components to complete the task are helpful in building advanced processing skills.