Following Directions

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SWBAT write directions to follow so that their partner can create a structure from Legos.

Big Idea

Following directions and step-by-step instructions is crucial for successful science investigations.

Lesson Overview-5 E Lesson Planning

5 minutes

Unit 1: Scientist Training Camp

Lesson 5: Following Directions

5E Lesson Planning:

I plan most of my science lessons using the BSCS 5E Lesson Model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate.  For a quick overview of the model, take a look at this video.

I use this lesson model because it peaks the students' interest in the beginning during the "Engage" portion and allows for the students to actively participate in the investigations throughout the subsequent steps. The “Evaluate” component of the 5E Lesson Model can be used in many ways by the teacher and by the students.

A great resource for lesson plan frameworks and explanations is the Community Resources for Science. The 5E Lesson Planning Template and 5E Lesson Planning Prompts come from this website.

Unit Overview:

In this unit, students will learn about the tools and safety guidelines that are necessary for conducting science investigations. They will also be setting up a Science Notebook and learning about the difference between a scientist and an engineer.

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, students will learn about the importance of following directions especially as it relates to science and engineering practices.

Materials Needed:

  • Science Notebooks
  • Lego Pieces (about 10-20 per student-you must have 2 of each piece so each partnership has the same set of Legos) You can purchase a large box of Legos that have a variety of pieces at Target or on Amazon (the one on the left costs about $15   and the one on the right costs about $38
  • plastic zipper bags

Lego box image              Legos

Next Generation Science Standards:

In this Unit I will be introducing the students to the different Next Generation Science Standards by showing them an overview of the Disciplinary Core Ideas, Crosscutting Concepts, and Science & Engineering Practices. 

In the last few lessons of the Unit we will be using some of the Science and Engineering Practices to design an experiment and to go through the Engineering Design process.


10 minutes

I start this lesson by giving the students the following Following Directions hand out and tell them that we're having a pop quiz. I explain that if they read and follow the directions carefully on this quiz, that they will get a passing grade on it.

Here are some samples of Following directions "quiz" 1 and Following Directions "quiz" 2 as you will notice, these students did not follow directions, but realized their mistake later on as we discussed the "quiz". 

This is a classic worksheet that I have used with my students several times over the years. There are always a few students who don't read the whole list and do some of the items. This time is no exception. Some students look at me with confused looks on their faces when they read the direction of calling out their name loudly and others end up doing these things quietly. Several students figure out the "trick" and are done quickly and sit and smile. 

After the 3 minutes have passed (since it's a 3 minute "quiz") we have a discussion about how important it is to follow directions. I ask the students why it would be important to follow directions during a science investigation or when completing an engineering task and most of the students decide that it has to do with safety and that you wouldn't have good results. I tell them that it's OK to make mistakes sometimes with science and engineering because this is part of the learning process, but if there are clearly written directions on how to use a tool or create a result for an experiment, it's best to follow the procedures that are given.  Here is one student explaining about the importance of following directions is: Following Directions video and another Student Answering question about following directions

I then tell them that they are going to write directions for each other to accomplish a task.


30 minutes

I bring out the box of Legos and the kids get excited (most kids get excited when they see Legos). I tell them that they will be working with a partner and that one partner will be "A" and the other partner will be "B". I also tell them that they will need their Science Notebooks so that they can write down the directions.

After the students have decided who will be "Partner A" and who will be "Partner B" I show them the Following Directions Activity directions. Each partner will have the same set and number of Legos. I explain in the Lesson Overview how many pieces each bag should have and that there should be a variety of pieces in each bag. 

Partner A will use the  Legos to build a 3 dimensional figure and write the directions down as they build it. Partner B goes out of the room so that they don't see what Partner A is doing. I send the students who are Partner B outside to our outdoor learning area to walk or work on catch up work. If this isn't an option for you, have this group sit in another part of the room with their backs to their partners working on an activity.

I give the students about 10 minutes to build their figure and hide it somewhere. (This time can be reduced if you have less Lego pieces). Here is one student Writing Lego Structure Directions

Partner B then tries to re-create the figure built by Partner A by following the written directions. After Partner B completes the task Partner A  gets out their figure and they compare the 2. I make sure that Partner A doesn't help Partner B or give any hints. This partnership was So Close!! and these partners are Happy with their creations- almost exact

I tell the students to have a discussion by answering the following questions:

  • What was clear in directions?
  • What was unclear?
  • How could you make the directions more clear?

I also tell them to write any notes about their discussion so that they can participate in the whole group discussion later.


15 minutes

I tell the students to sit down again with their partners. I tell them to do a Rally Robin cooperative learning structure and I give them 2 minutes to discuss the questions: 

I then ask someone from each group to share what they talked about and write these on the board. 

What was clear? The color of the bricks, the size of the bricks, the number of "prongs". 

What was unclear? The direction the bricks had to go in or the order. It was hard to read the writing or understand the drawing.

How could the directions be more clear? Adding a drawing to the directions or a key to what the brick looked like. Write more neatly. 

We talk about how important it is when planning an experiment or working on an engineering project, that directions need to be detailed and clear so that another student could replicate it.