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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

When the Kids do NOT Listen to Instructions

When the Kids do NOT Listen to Instructions

Related Tags: Project-Based Learning
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Yesterday was fun and frustrating for me building mousetrap cars with the College for Kids class. They are so excited when I hand them the kit, maybe that is part of the problem. I try to go through a single task with the class very carefully. Very few of them must be listening as they each individually have to come over to me and ask what I just explained. Hopefully they will do better on today’s project. Bill Kuhl

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Comments (19)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Anne Tenaglia's picture
Anne Tenaglia
Fifth grade teacher from Philadelphia, PA

Next time, try allowing them to look at the kit and its components the day before you want to work with it. That way, they will already know what it entails and be more ready to listen.

Bill Kuhl's picture

Might be worth a try, I am not sure I could get the get the kits back once I handed them out. Their enthusiasm was unbelievable. What I have heard from teachers I have shared this with, is to try to get the students working with each other more instead of always relying on me.

Brian's picture
I teach

maybe don't go over anything when they have the kit. two ways to approach this...

one would be the completely constructivist approach of giving them the kit and saying, essentially, "figure it out." the danger here is it could take lots of time, and/or be frustrating for the students.

the second would be the method of having them follow you as you go through the process. there are a number of ways to do this. you could upload a video to youtube (so they could watch over and over as they build theirs) or simply walk them through it at the front of the class. thing is, if i want their attention, never hand out anything when you want them to listen. and the "them" i'm referring to are children or adults. this goes for handouts, tests, anything ... but a mousetrap car kit? of course you're going to fight a losing battler there.

bottom line though ... you have them engaged. they're excited. that's over half the battle. good luck.

John Keating's picture


I agree with Brian's comments. Yours sounds like a great project and one that will be memorable for your kids. A few questions crossed my mind. Is it OK if they don't get it right the first or second or even third try? Are you operating under time constraints that would not allow them to fail a few times (not being attentive, not following instructions, not asking questions, etc.)? Is it allowed for them to get help from others who have successfully completed the assembly? Tons of really vauluable lessons to be learned doing these type of projects if you have enough time!

Bill Kuhl's picture

Thank you for all the suggestions and comments. The class was just 90 minutes a day for a week with a different project each day, so not much extra time. I did apreciate that the kids wanted to do things correctly, because if they do not, I end up spending so much time trying to correct things, which I did some of.

From what I am learning from other people doing project classes, is that kids really are having trouble building things. With more time it would be good to work on some really basic skills before attempting the projects.

Bill Kuhl

PS I am working on a wiki about some of this:

Bill Kuhl's picture

At last Saturday's mousetrap car workshop one of the volunteers said other kids listen better to instructions than your own kids. Another volunteer agreed and she noticed one mother telling her son some instructions but he ignored her but would listen to the volunteer.

Hans Albanese's picture
Hans Albanese
English Language Arts teacher in Japan, Course Supervisor (past)

One idea might be to put them into groups of maybe 2 or 3 students and give each group a set of written instructions on how to assemble the car that you wrote. They would learn to follow instructions and work together. Depending on the age, it would be rather interesting to see how they do. If you want to make it even more interesting, you might give each child in a group of three 1/3 of the directions so they had to work together to do it. If you want to really challenge them, leave out a few easy-to-guess directions from the instructions.

This is not really related to the discussion, but what is a mousetrap car? Living in Japan, my son makes battery-powered, solar-powered, and wind-powered cars in school, but I've never heard of a mousetrap car. Could you send me a link or an explanation if you don't mind? Thanks a lot.

Ghostwheel's picture

Make a Powerpoint presentation and show that before you give the kids the kits. Make it short and sweet (Here is the kit you are going to get; it has these parts; here is one way to organize your parts; you can add x parts to it; for best results read the instructions that come with the kit-but that will be up to you; you want the car to do X; you have x time; if you have any questions, ask first-glue later) Then distribute the kits. That has worked for me in the past. Setting up expectations for the kids is usually helpful.

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