Activating Prior Knowledge

Element 10A.1: Activate Prior Knowledge and Extend Knowledge-Building

Why is this important?

Activating prior knowledge and extending knowledge-building gets students ready to learn. Students build schema for what they are going to learn by connecting information and experience to the new topic or skill. By providing context and the necessary connecting information, you ensure that everyone is on the same playing field and you support student readiness to deepen and develop their understanding.

You might want to start here:

See it in action:

  • A Teaching Channel video of high school entry event designed to kick off a unit on the Declaration of Independence with a high level of engagement and student interest. 
  • See an Elementary example focused on points of view in nonfiction texts. Provides examples of multiple hands on activities to draw on and build on background knowledge including four corners, jigsaw and concept development

Descriptions of instructional strategies that help activate/build background knowledge:

  • KWL Plus from the Literacy Professional Development Site
  • Anticipation Guides from the Teacher Toolkit (link includes video examples, grade level templates and variations)

After exploring this high impact strategy:

1. What are your most important takeaways?

2. In what ways do you anticipate this will impact or shift your practice?

3. What questions do you have at this point?