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Understanding spoken instructions

Classroom instructions often contain several parts for children to remember. There are some simple game such as ‘Simon Says’ that can help you check if your child can follow instructions.


  • Simon Says: This classic game is excellent for making your child pay attention and listen to instructions. Call out instructions by saying, for example, “Simon Says put your hands on your shoulders”. When you give an example that doesn’t begin with “Simon Says”, such as “Jump three times”, your child must not do it. This means that for each instruction, your child must listen for two details — whether or not they must follow the order and what they need to do.


  • Do This, Do That: This is a variation of Simon Says. Standing in front of your child, perform certain actions by saying either “do this” or “do that”. For example, you could tap your head, clap your hands or do a jump. When you say “do this” your child must do the action, but when you say “do that” they must stand still. Children love this game and often giggle their way through it. It takes a lot of concentration to not move and first listen to whether they should perform the action or not.


  • Listen to Stories: Listen to audiobook CDs or stories on Youtube, without looking at the screen. Ask your child about the story after he has heard it. This also works with bedtime stories. Ask your child to close his eyes and listen to you reading the story without showing the pictures. Ask him to think about how he will draw the story for you in the morning.


  • Give Multiple Instructions: Give your child instructions around the house or while cooking together. Make them clear. Start with one instruction. Please fetch the book next to my bed. Ask your child to repeat the instruction back to you, then follow it. Increase it to two instructions. Please fetch the book next to my bed. Open it and take out the recipe cut-out from the front cover. Again, ask your child to repeat both and then carry them out. Increase this over time, until you can give 5 instructions at once. Multiple instructions are frequently given in the classroom, making this a valuable exercise.


  • Ask Questions During Story Time: While reading to your child, ask different types of questions to develop their higher-order thinking skills. Examples are questions that require prediction, problem solving, understanding cause and effect, discussing character traits, personal opinions, etc.


  • Draw a Picture: Adapt the following exercise to your child’s level. Give your child a piece of paper and coloured crayons/pencils. Ask them to follow your instructions carefully. This is an enlightening exercise that often clearly shows if listening skills are in place or require some sharpening.


  • Practise Auditory Analysis and Synthesis: Practise breaking up words by listening to their sounds and substituting letters. This is an excellent activity to help with phonics and reading. The following activities increase in difficulty. (1) Repeat each word after me: say mat, say cat, say rat, etc (rhyming sets). (2) Repeat two words together, then three, etc: say mat, fat, cat. (3) Take away one word in compound words: Say pancake, now say it again without pan. (4) Change the initial sound: Say sad, now change the s to an m – mad. (5) Change the end sound: Say fan, now change the n to a b – fab. (6) Change the middle sound: Say nut, now change the u to an e – net. There are many other ways to break up sounds but these are a few ideas to start with.