Giving Clear Directions Print

A Lesson Plan from Life Planning Education: A Youth Development Program (Chapter Three)

NOTE:  Life Planning Education (LPE) is currently being revised. The printed/for-sale version includes an older version of this lesson plan. Please make sure you have looked at the PDF of Life Planning Education before purchasing - that is the version that is available to buy.

Purpose: To understand the importance of sending clear, accurate messages.

Materials: Index cards; pencils or pens; bread, knife, and peanut butter and jelly (or materials to make another simple meal)

Time: 30-40 minutes

Planning Notes:

  • If writing is a problem for one or more participants, ask them to give you step-by-step verbal direction while you write down what they say.


  1. Begin without introducing this activity.  Give each participant an index card and ask them to write directions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (or whatever simple meal you have decided upon). Collect the cards, fold them, and place them in a container.
  2. Choose one card from the container and explain that you will follow the directions exactly.  Ask for a volunteer to read the directions from the card while you do as the card directs.
  3. Do exactly what the directions say until you cannot follow them any further.  Then ask for another volunteer to choose and read a second card and repeat the process.  Continue with several cards until everyone understands that the directions were not complete and comprehensive.
  4. Explain that communicating is an everyday behavior that we all take for granted.  Often, we do not choose our words well enough to get our message across accurately.  In this case, the directions were not detailed enough to follow successfully.
  5. Conclude the activity using the discussion points below.
Discussion Points:
  1. How easy or difficult is it to give clear, complete directions?  Why?
  2. Give examples of when giving clear directions has been really important in your family, with your friends, with a partner, or on the job.
  3. What can the sender say or do to make communication clearer?  (Answers include, but are not limited to: take the time to be really clear; give step-by-step directions; use visual cues [show and tell]; describe what you’re talking about in detail; ask for feedback to see if the message is understood.)
  4. What can the receiver say or do if someone else is not communicating clearly?  (Answers include, but are not limited to: give feedback; repeat what you heard; ask questions; ask the speaker to slow down or to speak more quietly or more loudly.)

Life Planning Education, Advocates for Youth, Updated 2009.

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