Teacher Tuesday: Following instructions FUN activity

One thing that I have stumbled across time and time again is that people rarely read instructions properly. (Note I said ‘people’ – this certainly isn’t limited to students…). With multiple tests throughout the year it is important for students to learn this skill and how important it is and this activity is perfect for doing just that.

I first came across something similar to this on a training course. It’s a bit of a trick but mostly a way of highlighting how so few of us actually read instructions fully and completely. Let me tell you, out of a group of twenty adults, we all fell for it.

There are many versions of this activity on the internet but this is one that I put together with language that I knew my students would understand.

The key with this activity is to not say too much. Hand out the worksheet (I have included a link to the PDF file at the bottom of the page) and simply say that students have to follow the instructions written on the paper, then sit back and see if any of them actually do that.

Read on to see the instructions that students have to follow:

Please read all of the instructions before doing anything, you are allowed 10 minutes to complete this task.  There is a prize for the student that fully completes this task.

  1. Find a pen and paper.
  2. Write your name at the top of the paper.
  3. Write the numbers 1 to 5 in a line with 1 at the top and 5 at the bottom.
  4. Draw five small circles next to number 1.
  5. Put an “X” in the 2nd and 4th circles next to number 1.
  6. Write the word ‘encyclopedia’ next to number 3.
  7. On the back of the paper multiply 7 x 9.
  8. Put an X at the bottom of the paper.
  9. Draw a circle around the X.
  10. Underline your name.
  11. Say your name out loud.
  12. Draw a circle around number 4.
  13. Count the number of words in this sentence and write the answer next to number 2 on your paper.
  14. Put a square around number 1 and number 5.
  15. Draw 3 small flowers anywhere on the paper.
  16. Write your first name next to number 4.
  17. Write today’s date next to number 5 on your paper.
  18. Circle every letter ‘e’ you have written.
  19. Stand up and say ‘I HAVE FINISHED’ out loud, then sit down.
  20. Now that you read all of the instructions, only do number one and two! If you have followed the instructions correctly, you should only have your name on the paper!

Did you figure out what the trick is? The instructions clearly state that participants are to read all instructions before doing anything. If the students actually do that then they will of course read the final instruction that states that they only need to do the first and second instructions and nothing more. In reality what happens is that most, if not all, will do each and every instruction as they read it. It’s funny to watch as they all work their way through the different instructions and even funnier when it gets to the end and you have the pleasure of telling them what they should have done!

If you have any switched on students who appear to have not been fooled, try your best to make sure they don’t give it away to the rest of the class – no one likes a smarty pants.

Click here to download a PDF of this activity.

Why not have a go at this in your classroom?  You don’t have to be studying instructions specifically, this works as a fun warm up regardless.

This is part of a weekly feature – Teacher Tuesday – make sure you come back next week for another lesson idea.  If you have an idea to share as part of Teacher Tuesday feel free to get in touch.