Home > Practitioner's Corner > Strategies for Connecting to Past Learnings

Strategies for Connecting to Past Learnings

Transfer helps students make connections between what they already know and the new learning. It is important to remember that the connections are of value only if they are relevant to the students’ past, not necessarily the teacher’s. This process also helps the teacher find out what the students already know about the new material. If students already have knowledge of what is planned for the new lesson, then teachers should make some adjustments and move on. (The curriculum is notably cluttered with too much repetition at every grade level and in every subject area.) This method also alerts the teacher to any prior knowledge that may interfere with new learning (negative transfer). Here are a few suggestions to discover what students already know so that prior learnings can help facilitate new learning (positive transfer). Note that the activities use novelty and shift the task burden to the student. Choose those that are grade-level appropriate.

  • Short Story. Students write short stories to describe what they already know about a given topic. This can be used in any subject area because writing is a skill that should be continually practiced. (Note: This activity is not journal writing, which serves a different purpose.)
  • Interviews. In a think-pair-share format, students interview their partners to determine their knowledge levels.
  • Graphic Organizers. Students select an appropriate graphic organizer to explain and relate their past learning.
  • Mural or Collage. Students make a mural or collage to communicate their current knowledge.
  • Music Activity. Students write a song that tells of their prior knowledge.
  • Models. Students build or draw models to express what they know.
  • Student Ideas. Students may suggest other ways of showing what they know, such as writing a poem, painting a picture, creating a quiz show, and so on.
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