Monday, July 30, 2012

Stra-tiques Giveaway/Activating Prior Knowledge

Last week, I wrote a post about the importance of activating prior knowledge.  While it is necessary to assess students' prior knowledge at the beginning of each and every lesson and unit, it is especially crucial at the beginning of the school year as you begin to mine the gems of knowledge that lie in the minds of your students.  

This week, I will be sharing a few of my favorite ways to do this and I'm hoping you will share your ideas with us.  In turn, you will have the chance to receive a copy of this resource with even more ideas.

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So, here's my Activating Prior Knowledge tip for today!

I love using this Vocabulary Knowledge Rating sheet with grades second and up.  Even if students can't read, the ScreenBeans explain themselves.  You can provide a list of vocabulary words and phrases and have students copy the words into the column that best fits their knowledge of the term.

As students are writing and reflecting, walk around the room and take note of which words commonly end up on the left side of the sheet and which end up on the right.  This can really help you know how to focus your time!

Throughout the lesson or unit, ask students to revisit their rating sheets and have them draw arrows from the word to the column that currently represents their level of understanding.  Yes, these sheets do get ugly and that's okay.  Meta-cognition can be messy!

If you want to try this with younger students, you can use the same pictures and post them in the four corners of your room.  Display a word or phrase and read it aloud.  Ask students to move to the corner that best fits their knowledge of that term.

What if students lie misrepresent their understanding?  Don't stress about it!  The goal is to get students to begin thinking about their own thinking.  It is a gradual process but a worthwhile one!


  1. I usually have a content cognitive dictionary going in my class for vocabulary from my social studies or science units. I write the word, we note if how many have heard/seen the word or if the word it new. We predict meanings in small groups (activiating prior knowledge, root words, in what contect they have used the word. Then I let them think, ask parents at night, read a our theme book with the word, before I give them the actual meaning. We usually use the word and meaning as a signal word. I say the word, students repeat the meaning using body movement to convey the significance. Next day, review word and start a new word.

    1. Beth, this is such a great, systematic way of building vocabulary that will stick with them. I love all of the ways you incorporate of them "knowing" the word.

  2. I love doing anticipation guides with my students. They always think they are a blast!

    The Second Grade Superkids


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