Instructions are indeed at the heart of teaching English as a foreign language. If they are clear, students are able to handle the tasks given to them with ease. That explains why English teachers are also called instructors because your job is to get students to do activities and exercises in the classroom, not just sit there doing nothing but listening to you. Now one way of making sure students understand your instructions is what we call ICQs, an abbreviation that stands for ‘Instruction Checking Questions’. These questions are really important for some tasks and they help teachers see whether students got things right in their heads or not. However, some candidates especially on professional TEFL courses ask unnecessary ICQs just for the sake of showing their tutors that they are good at them and they end up saying silly things to students, check this one:
Instructions: Now I want you to read this passage and answer those questions.
ICQs: So what are we going to do?
Now why would any human being asks students something like that, you have just said it: ‘read and answer the questions’. This is clear enough. You do not need to ask any ICQs here. But check this one:
Instructions: Now as you see, in this passage we have four paragraphs, I want you to read only the first two and answer questions one to three.
So are we going to read the whole passage? / No.
So which paragraphs will you read? / The first two.
Which questions will you answer? / One to three.
Now those previous instruction checking questions are effective, simply because instructions are complicated so the teacher really needs to ask these questions to avoid any confusion later when students are doing the activity, but to say to students: ‘listen to the following track and answer the questions’, then you ask them ‘what are we going to do?’ is really unnecessary.
So to wrap up, ask ICQs when you feel there are stages and different elements in your instructions that make them complicated, do not just use ICQs to show off.