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Instructional writing – Can your children pass the hilarious ‘Exact Instructions Challenge’?

The latest craze in viral videos on YouTube provides a lot a laughs, as well as an opportunity for learning…

Lloyd Burgess
by Lloyd Burgess
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Instructional writing has always been a great exercise for English lessons, giving children a task of writing specific, unambiguous, step-by-step descriptions of exactly what the reader should do.

But nowadays that idea is more important, and more literal, than ever thanks to the rise of coding and computational thinking.

With instructional writing you can at least rely on some human element of interpretation, for example knowing what a hammer and a nail is when following flat-pack instructions for building their new Ikea bookcase. But when programming you can’t say ‘move forward a bit’, or ‘go over there’, you need to be way more precise about what a ‘bit’ is and where specifically ‘there’ is.

That’s where the ‘exact instructions challenge’ comes in. Watch and enjoy these excellent videos with your class, then you can adapt the activities into something for your class to ‘program’ their partner and ‘debug’ their instructions where necessary.

How to make a peanut better and jelly sandwich

Josh Darnit (real name, apparently) and his adorable kids kicked off this challenge with this sandwich-making video. Josh showcases the perfect attitude towards this activity blending the computational thinking style of carrying out the instructions with a very human warmth and humour. Plus, the kids are ace.

Best bit: At 4.10 when the poor boy (Evan) nearly has a meltdown at his dad’s shenanigans.

If the idea of 500 pieces of bread covered in peanut butter and jelly in your classroom is giving you a nervous breakdown, this lovable family followed this up with a drawing instructions challenge which might be easier to replicate in school.

How to make a bowl of cereal

Next up, the Eh Bee family attempt to make a bowl of cereal, with wonderful descriptions like ‘the scoopy side of the spoon’ (which I believe was a discarded Pink Floyd album title) and a wonderfully deadpan poker face from Dad throughout.

Best bit: 3.47 ‘He was so close’.

How to make fresh orange juice

With kids of varying ages offering instructions the results of this one differ greatly, other than the fact that dad has to drink a number of efforts, none of which can be called anything close to ‘orange juice’, much to the children’s delight.

Best bit: The infectious laughter of the kids throughout.

How to make an ice cream sundae

This one is a great example of how ambiguous pronouns can be misinterpreted. Less of a problem in everyday speech, but it highlights how often we can use them and presume the other person will know what the ‘it’ is that we’re referring to.

Also, is it bad that I still want to eat the finished efforts?

Best bit: The swirls at 3.25.

How to clean your teeth

After eating all of that lovingly prepared food you should probably give your old chompers a bit of TLC.

And if you were unsure as to the best way to go about it, the Holderness family have prepared some detailed instructions for you to follow to the letter.

Best bit: 1.41 ‘And scrub’.

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