Course material works no differently. "Compare and contrast" is met with "How?" "Why?" and ever other question in between. "Make a Venn diagram or a T chart" I always say to myself and then to them after becoming frustrated that they didn't automatically do the activity the way I imagined it in my head.
Better instructions are a solution, but how specific should they be? I haven't found my footing on that question just yet. Sometimes I over explain and sometimes I'm still very vague. Being able to independently interpret instructions is a valuable skill, but it has to be taught. The students have to be built up to it.
"Meet them where they are" is one of those buzz phrases we hear a lot in education, but there's some truth to it. I've told several stories of shock over the past year that stem from my assumptions. Not all students know slaves in the Americas came from Africa. Some don't know that pickles are made from cucumbers. Assuming they do or should know certain things and then expressing that can make them feel stupid and shut down. Then nobody is getting what they need out of the interaction.
Class will go much more smoothly if start at the beginning instead of in the middle.