Turns out the problem can be solved with four simple words: "When I say 'go'"
By prefixing an exercise explanation with "When I say 'go'", an implicit contract is created that students will listen to the entire exercise before they process any of it. Make sure that when you're giving instructions, you speak in the future tense, and make sure you do actually say 'go' at the end!
Say I want to do a small-group critique and feedback session on a new move students have just learned. Compare:
"Ok, students, now we're going to break up into groups and..." Some of your students minds have processed that instruction and are beginning to follow it—and won't process any of the rest of the instructions.
"When I say go, we're going to break up into groups of four. Couple A is going to dance and couple B is going to watch and suggest ways couple A could more efficiently generate the momentum required for this move. I'll give you about 5 minutes and we're going to switch the dancing couple and the watching couple about halfway through. When we're done, each group will share the techniques they discovered with the rest of the class. Go."
So, next time you're teaching a lesson and want to make sure all your students are on the same page about what they're supposed to do next, try out the phrase "when I say go." I know it sounds simplistic, but I use it extensively in my teaching and it has proven itself countless times in real classrooms across the country.
Written by Paul Mandel