How to Give Instructions in English: An ESL Class

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Giving instructions and describing how to do something is an integral part of most ESL classes. I like to use map reading and give students a good reason to speak using sequencers. The following is a class I used over in Korea. It is compiled from various sources.

The second part of questions was to a class which was made up of primarily soldiers. You can modify the questions to fit the students in your class. I recommend taking their backgrounds and knowledge into account and ask them something that they know very well and just have to put into steps to make it work.

How to Give Instructions in English

Do you know how to give instructions in English? What sort of instructions can you give someone?

  • • How to make a cup of coffee?
  • • How to search for a topic on Google?

• How to make a call on your cell phone? Or listen to your voice mail?

There are two parts to giving instructions.

What we call Sequencers and then the actions.



Sequencers help order your instructions

It is like the 1, 2, 3, 4 of your actions.

The most common are




After that…



Example: Today I am going to tell you how to make the best sandwich in the world.

First, you must roast a chicken and slice it into thick pieces. Then toast your favorite bread (two slices).


After that, you need to put mayonnaise and mustard on the toast and then the chicken slices. Next, you are going to add your vegetables — tomatoes, lettuce onions, cucumbers, etc.


Finally, put a couple of slices of cheese on the sandwich and then close it with the other piece of toast.

The second part,


do one of three things.

1) Tell people what is necessary

2) what is wrong

3) what is not necessary

  • • You (don’t) need to…
  • • You have to…
  • • You must/mustn’t…

• You should/shouldn’t…

So now that you know the basics…here is an example:

How to Make a Cup of Coffee

First, you need to buy some coffee and a coffee maker.

Then you have to put the water into the bottom of the coffee maker.

You don’t need to boil the water, cold water is fine.

Next, you have to put the coffee in the coffee compartment and screw the top of coffee maker on.

After that, you need to put the coffee pot onto the stove.

Then turn the stove on high and wait. You don’t have to move the coffee pot.

When the water boils and goes into the upper part of the pot, you then have to remove the pot from the heat.

Finally, you pour some coffee into a cup, add sugar and milk, and enjoy.


Now you try to tell your partner some of these:

  1. How can I use a photocopier?
  2. What is the best way to make new friends in Korea?
  3. How can I be a good boyfriend/ girlfriend/ husband/ wife?
  4. How can I make a good first impression on a blind date?
  5. How can I join KDLI?
  6. How can I be a good soldier/ officer/ NCO?
  7. How can I be a good language learner?
  8. How can I get promoted?
  9. How can I find a delicious restaurant in Icheon?
  10. What can we do to prevent the sixth extinction?


Make it Your Own

As you can see, you might have to modify my final questions. Instead of Icheon, just substitute the city where you are teaching. And the last question is from a report one student did for the class. He talked about the dinosaurs going extinct and said there have actually been five extinctions on earth. The sixth extinction is coming soon!

Always Try to Build on Knowledge They Gained Before

I always try to build on what they learned before and incorporate the vocabulary or grammar skills into the next class. Repetition, repetition, repetition. I hope this class is educational and informative for your class.

And always remember, Teaching English is Fun!


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