Give Directions and Read Road Signs in Basic English

Part 1: Lesson Description

Lesson Title

Give Directions and Read Road Signs in Basic English


This lesson will prepare beginning English language learners who plan to take a U.S. driving test. They will acquire vocabulary to be able to understand and/or to give directions as well as the meaning of road and/or traffic signs.

Learner Audience / Primary Users

The primary audience are beginning adult immigrant English as a Second Language learners who plan to take a U.S. driving test.

Educational Use

  • Curriculum / Instruction
  • Assessment

College & Career Readiness Standards (CCRS) Alignment

  • Level: Adult Education
  • Grade Level: A
  • Subject: English Language Arts / Literacy
  • Strands: Reading / Speaking and Listening
  • Sub-Strand: Reading Informational Text / Speaking and Listening
  • Standard Description Reading: CCR Anchor 7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
  • RI 1.7: Use the illustrations and details in a text to describe its key ideas (e.g. maps,charts, photographs, political cartons,etc.).



Material Type

  • Instructional Material
  • Lesson Plans
  • Homework and Assignments
  • Images and Illustrations
  • Memory cards

Learning Goals

At the end of this lesson, learners should be able to:

-  give and figure out directions.

- read and interpret the meaning of basic road signs.

Context Summary

This lesson may be implemented in a basic or beginning ESL class designed to teach general life skills or one specifically related to driving.

Relevance to Practice

Adult ESL learners often immigrate to the U.S. to access better economic opportunities. In addition to their command of English being a primary challenge in securing employment, these learners can have trouble accessing transportation, which means that outside major metropolitan centers that have public transportation, they need to be licensed to drive a car in order to transport themselves to classes, job interviews, etc.


  • Designers for Learning
  • Adult Education
  • Driving
  • Road Signs
  • ESL
  • Traffic Signs
  • Give directions
  • Drivers

Time Required for Lesson

50 minutes

Prior Knowledge

Driving Related Verbs (Stop, Go, Turn, etc.)

Colors (Red, Yellow, Green, etc.)

Directional Vocabulary (Ahead, Straight, Left, etc.)

Shapes (Triangle, Rectangle, X-gon,etc.)

Negative Forms (No, not)

Required Resources

DMV Drivers Manual for Appropriate U.S. State

Computer and screen to show Power Point presentations ; printer and eventually a laminating machine, if available.

Lesson Author & License

  • Lesson Author: Melissa Malagardis

Part 2: Lesson

Instructional Strategies and Activities


Time: 10 to 15 minutes

1/ Quick revision of directions vocabulary and color vocabulary

-Give/understand directions to find something in the classroom:

Instructor gives directions to find something hidden in the classroom (a pen, a notebook, a pencil case etc.). Directions to give: go straight, turn left/right, stop, be careful, go slow/fast) Then, the learner this time gives directions to another to find something else with same type of instructions. Add colors as well (it's green/yellow/red). Try to do it with at least 3, 4 learners, let the others participate as well.

2/ Display examples of road signs 

Display American road signs ( open ppt file below):

Download: Designers_for_Learning-_Warm-up_American_Road_Signs.pptx

Ask students to identify the signs that they know, what the proper response to the signs are, and tell any stories they might have from their own experience about seeing other drivers ignore road signs. 

For students who are not capable of this, ask any questions that will get each student talking. How can they describe the signs? What do they look like? Use questions that will activate knowledge of the signs as well as previously learned vocabulary (e.g. colors, shapes).


Time: 5 minutes

Now, let's say you're passing your driver's license with an instructor and you come in front of this - show the Stop sign, what would be your reaction? To Stop, right? That seems easy, but then if you are at an intersection, what would you do, who goes first? Well, if two roads intersect, there are four “entrances” and four “exits” to the intersection. In the US, the way it works is that if multiple vehicles arrive at the STOP intersection, priority is given to the first vehicle that arrives. If it is a busy four (or even five!) way STOP, it can initially be a little tricky to keep track of who arrived when, but with a bit of practice you get the hang of it. If in doubt, wait a bit.

So, as you can see, road signs are a big part of the driver's test, and today we'll focus on recognizing some of the most common signs.


Time: 10 minutes

Present U.S. specific traffic signals/road signs and vocabulary associated.

Download ppt: 

Download: Presentation_American_Road_Signs__hWTGc45.pptx

Present and discuss the road signs with help of this ppt. It shows clearly in which situations they could find these signs. Take advantage of the notes I put below the image as well. Invite the students to talk about a situation where they saw this sign, or someone not following the rules.

Guided Practice

Time: 10 minutes

Here we can do a little Memory Game. For the ones who don't remember the rules, here they are:

  • Mix up the cards.
  • Lay them in rows, face down.
  • Turn over any two cards.
  • If the two cards match, keep them.
  • If they don't match, turn them back over.
  • Remember what was on each card and where it was.
  • Watch and remember during the other player's turn.
  • The game is over when all the cards have been matched.

Download the road signs memory game and the back cover to put (if you have time) :

Download: Memory_game_-_Road_signs_u32aSsI.docx

Download: Back_covers_-_Memory_game.docx

Let them play in teams of 2, 3 max. Discuss any misunderstanding, resolve any doubts to be sure everybody’s on the same page.


Time: 5-10 minutes

Do a multiple choice short quiz, available here:

It has all the images and their meaning, that we covered with the ppt and the memory game.

This way they practice and can see clearly how useful the class is. 

You can either do it online (it’s free) or print it and do it on paper.


Time: 30 minutes to 1 hour (outside of class)

Photo essay assignment

Tell students to take pictures of the traffic signals and/or road signs that they encounter on their way to and/or from the class. They must take at least 5 photos, then describe them (color, shape) and explain their meaning in writing (simple sentences). They should have at least one road sign, we didn't see in class, search on the internet or in the Driver's handbook their meaning and put it in writing as well.

Key Terms and Concepts

The following definitions and terms are taken from the 2016 California Driver Handbook (, pages 22-26. Please consult the driving manual or handbook for your own state as terms may vary.

  • Yield
  • Crossroad
  • Fast/Faster
  • Flashing
  • Highway
  • Intersection
  • Merge
  • Pedestrian
  • Reverse
  • Sharp (as in turn)
  • Two-way
  • U-turn
  • Lane

Part 3: Supplementary Resources & References

Supplementary Resources - Find the driving manual for any U.S. state: 

Manual of Traffic Signs - A comprehensive listing of the most commonly used traffic signs in the United States: 

Free Road Sign Practice Test on 

Free Road Sign Quizzes: 


California Driver Handbook 2006: 

Attribution Statements

"No Traffic Lights Vs Traffic Lights" created by user "studio tdes" under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 license.

"I-Team: Caught on camera, drivers igngoring traffic signs" created by user "WWLP-22News" under Standard YouTube license.

"JUMPING Traffic SIGNAL on Red Light - Awareness Video" created b user "Neha Shreya" under Standard YouTube license. 

"Pedestrian Walking free icon" icon created by "Scott de Jonge" under CC 3.0 BY license.

"Hold free icon" created by "Madebyoliver" under Flaticon Basic license. 

"Curvy Road Warning Sign free icon" created by "Freepik" under Flaticon Basic license. 

"Car front free icon" created by "Google" under CC 3.0 BY license. 

CC Attribution

This course content is offered by Designers for Learning under a CC Attribution license.
Content in this course can be considered under this license unless otherwise noted.   

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