Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Gimme that Prior Knowledge!

The first time I heard of the term "prior knowledge" was my first day as a graduate student in the teacher education program.  My professors showed us research of how important it was, emphasized what it would do, but I didn't really understand the importance until I had my own class.  

I consider accessing prior knowledge to be when I ask what my students know about the topic I am about to teach. This is when I can find those holes or gaps in between the students' education and try to fill them in before I start the lesson.  One of my least favorite things is beginning a lesson and then finding out that I had assumed that a few of my students knew a part of the prior knowledge needed to progress forward.  That usually requires more attention, time, and effort to go back and fix the mistake.  It is usually much easier and effective to begin with finding out the missing parts in the students' knowledge. 

 There are many ways that I try to access this prior knowledge, but I have an absolute favorite three.  

My kiddos are brainstorming some concepts related to subtraction before the subtraction unit.  
1) Pair-share: I pose the topic to the entire class, ask them to think about it.  Then I ask them to share with their partner everything they know about that topic.  Finally, I follow up with hearing out loud from a few of the students. This is the most minimal and easiest way for me to get access into a student's head 
2) KWL charts: (Know, Want to know, and Learned): I pose the topic, hand out the KWL chart (google it and you will find a million!), and then have the students fill out the K(now) and W(want to know) part of the worksheet.  After I give them a few minutes to fill it out, then I let them talk to their group mates about what they wrote.  Once again, I call them back to a whole group discussion of what students wrote.  This takes much longer than a simpler pair-share.  
3) Brainstorming: I pose the topic, delegate how the students will be brainstorming (chart paper or white board), and give them about 5 minutes just writing down everything they know about that topic. We then have a discussion of any misconceptions, similarities, etc.  I LOVE it when my students have the free reign to think about, write down, and share their knowledge in the subject areas.  My students already love talking so why not have them talking about school! :) 

That day, I had the signs 'subtraction' and 'addition' in the room, and the students were free to go back and forth from the different graphs.  

One students wrote '1-2=0,' and that is something I will address to the entire class.  It is a common misconception, and my goal is to nip it in the bud. 

They really do get excited!

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