An Interview with Beth Holland: Can You Hear Me?

Jan 10, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy
Eastern New Mexico University
Portales, New Mexico


  1. I have this HearBuilder Following Directions Fun Sheets book in front of me. What are you trying to accomplish with this?

We want children to be able to follow oral directions, because oral directions are a part of everyday life. Children have to be able to listen to and follow directions for appropriate behavior, social interactions, and learning. For example, a parent may tell a child to look both ways before crossing the street, your brother may say knock three times before coming into my room, or your teacher may tell you deliver a note to the office and then meet the class in the auditorium. The HearBuilder Following Directions Fun Sheets provide fun color, cut, and paste activities for 4 to 9 year old children to do as they practice following oral directions.

2. You seem to have a variety of directions in this book. Is this intentional?

Yes. We give and follow many different types of directions every day, so it is important for children to understand different types of directions. The 100 lessons in the HearBuilder Following Directions Fun Sheets book are divided into five types of directions: Basic Directions (Color the plane.), Sequential Directions (First add the butter, second add in the flour, finally add the peanut butter.), Quantitative and Spatial Directions (Give Kim both hammers.), Temporal Directions (After you put the cups on the table, put the ketchup on the table.), and Conditional Directions (If a book is in the backpack, put the backpack on the large desk.).

3. Are there multiple activities for each type of direction?

For each type of direction, the HearBuilder Following Directions Fun Sheets book has 20 lessons. The length and complexity of the directions gradually increases across the lessons in that section. For example, in the Basic Directions section, the first two activities have one-step directions with one element (Cover the robot.). Then the next two lessons have directions with two elements (Color the small dollhouse).  The activities continue to gradually increase in difficulty to directions with three elements, four elements, and five elements, until the final two Basic Directions lessons where there are six elements in each direction (Glue the small, green skate beside the white ball).

4. What are conditional directions and why do kids need to be able to follow these?

Conditional directions contain “if” or “if-then” statements. We use conditional directions in school, in activities of daily living, and in our work. With conditional directions, children must decide what actions to do based on the given conditions. For example, “If you finish your homework, then you may watch television.”  With this example, the child must understand that the first condition of finishing homework has to happen, and only then is he allowed to watch television. A child who does not understand the conditional nature of the direction may go directly to watching television without doing his homework and not understand why he is reprimanded for this.

5. It seems that even basic directions tap into a child’s understanding of certain nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Is that accurate?

Yes, that’s true. The understanding of basic vocabulary and concepts is inherent in understanding oral directions.  Objects, actions, colors, shapes, sizes, textures, etc. are part of even simple oral directions—for example, “Put the red cup on the table.” The activities in the HearBuilder Following Directions Fun Sheets include and reinforce the following basic concepts: colors (red, blue, green, yellow, purple, orange, brown, white), quantities (one, two, all, both, either, except, or, and, don’t, not), sequences (first, second, third, then, next, last, finally, fourth, fifth), shapes (circle, square, triangle, star), size (large, small, long, short), time (before, after), spatial relationships/positions (first, second, third, last, between, beside, next to, above, below, inside, in front of, on, in, behind).

6. Beth, it makes sense to me that with both parents working in most families, children’s abilities to listen and follow directions may be less well developed.  Am I off on this?

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, giving children experiences with listening to, remembering, and following a variety of directions may fall by the wayside.  As adults when we are pressed for time, it may be easier to simply do things for our children rather than present them with instructions, teach them strategies to recall the instructions, and wait while they follow through on the directions. It is, however, crucial for academic and life success that our children learn to listen to, interpret, and follow oral directions.

7. I understand there is also a HearBuilder Following Directions software program. How do the Fun Sheets relate to the software?

The HearBuilder Following Directions Fun Sheets book is arranged in the same order as the HearBuilder Following Directions software to make it easy for the parent or educator to integrate the two. When I was working fulltime as a speech-language pathologist, I used the HearBuilder Following Directions software with my students. The creation of a companion activity book seemed like a logical step to both introduce skills before students independently use the software and to generalize skills learned on the computer to activities completed away from the computer with an adult. The Fun Sheets can, however, be used to teach and reinforce oral directions and basic concepts without the software.

8. I noticed that at the bottom of each activity page there is at least one “Alternate/Extension” activity listed.  What is that?

The alternate/extension activities included with each lesson provide opportunities to increase the challenge in the main lesson or extend the lesson to related concepts, vocabulary, or language experiences.

9. Why is there a CD-ROM included with each book?

Each lesson lists the materials needed. Some of the lessons require the use of pre-colored picture pages (indicated in the “Prep” section of the lesson). These pages can either be copied from the print book and colored prior to beginning the lesson or simply printed in color from the included CD-ROM.

10. Where can parents, teachers, and speech pathologists get more information on this?

They can visit for additional information about the HearBuilder Following Directions Fun Sheets, including samples and a Show Me How video. Super Duper Publications also has free Handy Handouts (, which are free educational handouts on a variety of topics, including listening skills and following directions.  The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association ( is another great resource for parents and educators seeking information on language and listening.

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