One other way to make expectations explicit is to provide students with an exemplar. If you are assigning an essay, show them what a model essay looks like. Walk them through the requirements, and show how the exemplar meets the requirements. It can be time consuming, but also rewarding in that you will likely get better responses.
Working with literary concepts, expectations are often explicitly and clearly presented in the context of a lesson.
For instance, I might create an assignment on symbolism asking students to define symbolism and identify two examples of symbolism from a story the class has recently read. Or I might create a writing assignment wherein students are required to include argument, evidence and analysis in each body paragraph of the essay assigned.
In both of these cases the expectations are explicitly built into the assignment. Students know what they are expected to demonstrate and incorporate in their work.
If I was going to implement a lesson plan, I'd let the kids know what our goal was. I often do this on the board daily. The list may include paperwork (collection or distribution of graded paper), review of the highlights of what we covered the day before, and then either a specific goal or a goal-setting question. I always think it's best to give the kids some idea of where you're going, but I don't know it's necessary to give the entire thing away, so a general approach might work best. Ask a controversial question and suggest a discussion if you're trying to explain, for instance, concensus. I might ask the kids to tell me what they know about Shakespeare, or for Macbeth or Hamlet, I'd ask what do they know about ghosts, have they ever seen one, do they believe...We might spend the lesson on the supernatural, but I might not connect it to Shakespeare until the end of the lesson as I'm introducting that aspect of Elizabethan drama. But I would tell the students that we were going to discuss our preconceptions about the supernatural, and that would be an explicit expectation. It would be open-ended enough that it should pique their curiosity, though they might not necessary connect Shakespeare to it. By the end of the lesson, everyone would have shared what they knew, learned some new things and eventually have found out that the supernatural was really popular in Shakespeare's time.
If something was to be accomplished and graded by the end of that period, I would give directions, examples, answer questions, and tell them exactly what I wanted completed at the bell. I might close out their time 5 minutes before the bell to avoid chaos. In this kind of situation, I might even announce what we were going to do, the previous day.
An explicit expectation is when you tell the students EXACTLY what you expect of them in regards to performance in the classroom. You tell them how to complete an assignment. Explicit instruction might include modeling the work for students first so that they know what to do on their own. Explicit instruction provides the details of how something is be done. It anticipates variables and attempts to front-load the necessary information for students so that they can be as successful as possible.
One good method might be to assign students an opposing opinion to defend or refute. A student should come to a conclusion by their own efforts, instead of being told what to think, and you can guide them in the correct direction by appealing to the Devil's Advocate; many people -- myself included -- have a knee-jerk reaction to take the opposing side in an argument whether they agree with it or not, so it could be helpful to run debates as part of the expectation of understanding. The most important thing is to teach them how to think, not what to think, and critical debate is a very good tool in this regard.
I do this frequently. I tell the students the objective of the lesson - let's say, everyone can use an apostrophe correctly- and I write it on the board. I give written examples, then put the names on the board of the students who achieve the objective as they go. I then use smartboard examples, paired teaching, individual tuition, whatever to get everyone's name on the board. Of course I know the order I write them is the order in which the students got the concept, and I will start the revision session with those at the end of the list.
Students love explicit teaching - they understand why they're in the classroom!
Explicit means stated. I would also add that it means the students understand exactly what you want. A behavioral expectation might be that you expect them to make quick transitions. You assess their performance and let them know. An educational objective explicitly stated might be that students will be able to read a story and describe the characters. Telling them this ahead of time better prepares them for the assessment.
One thing I do when I have students read their textbooks at home is I give them study guides that I make up. I tell them that anything that is on the study guide is fair game to be on a quiz or a test and that I will not go over any of the study guide unless asked. This makes it very clear what they are supposed to know so there is no guessing.
If you are giving a lecture or a lesson and you want to give an explicit expectation, all you need to do is to let the students know what you expect. There is nothing better than spelling out clearly what you want them to learn and what you want them to do. There are several ways to accomplish this. Let me give you a few suggestions.
First, you can have a handout every lecture or lesson and right from the beginning write what you want them to do. The benefit of this approach is that the students will pay attention to the lesson to accomplish the assignment. Having a goal in mind is helpful.
Second, if there is no handout, you can simply tell them orally. The benefit is the same as above.
Another way to reinforce this is to mention throughout your lesson what the students need to be focusing on. Reminders are key. You might also let them know what is important and tell them why. As you become more experienced, you will do this naturally.