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More Strategies for Helping Students Build Background Knowledge

By Michelle McFarland-McDaniels

Use the following instructional and assessment strategies to help your students acquire the knowledge they will need to build a foundation for academic success.

Use the following instructional and assessment strategies to help your students acquire the knowledge they will need to build a foundation for academic success.

Diagnostic Testing

Use pre-tests and other diagnostic testing instruments to assess what your students know before you begin new lessons and units of instruction. By determining what your students know and don’t know, you can effectively plan to build in the scaffolding and differentiation necessary to meet them where they are and get them to where they need to go.

Activate Prior Knowledge

Encourage students to think about, reflect upon and share their prior knowledge. Just about everyone knows a little bit about just about everything. Challenge your students to dig deep into their knowledge wells, jog their memories to uncover long buried information and search for connections to new concepts in things they have experienced, read, heard about or observed.

K-W-L Charts

K-W-L Charts are excellent tools for activating prior knowledge. They also provide you with instantaneous diagnostic feedback.

Minute Papers

Having students take a minute to write everything they know or associate with a concept is another excellent means for both activating prior knowledge and obtaining meaningful assessment data.

Exit Tickets

Exit tickets are an excellent strategy for assessment, reinforcing concepts and encouraging reflective thinking.

Think Aloud

Model the think aloud strategy to help students learn how to activate their prior knowledge.

Hands-On Learning

Engage students in hands-on learning activities to give them opportunities to learn from experience. Experience is often the best teacher.

Real Word Learning Experiences

Apply the concepts you teach to the real world by incorporating field trips, guest presenters and opportunities for students to show what they know into instructional plans.

Inquiry-Based Learning

Afford students opportunities to engage in self-directed inquiry-based learning focused on the concepts you are studying. Students will acquire knowledge efficiently when actively engaged in seeking answers to questions that are of interest to them.