Crickets…I’ll admit, there were times in my teaching that I dove into a new concept and all I heard from my students were crickets. One of the first lessons I learned as a new teacher is to never make assumptions about what your students know or don’t know.
So how can you combat the crickets?
The most effective way I’ve found is to begin each lesson by activating students’ prior knowledge. By discussing what students already know, a foundation is laid on which students can construct new concepts.
When working with the primary source analysis tool–which promotes analysis through observation, reflection, and questioning–it is important to consider students’ prior knowledge.
Based on previous experiences working with K-4 students and teachers, the following are suggestions for how to activate prior knowledge when using the primary source analysis tool in the classroom:
- Model how to use the primary source analysis tool and move through the analysis process before expecting students to complete the process on their own.
- Elementary teachers (K-5) can explicitly teach what it means to observe, reflect and question through subjects like science and language arts. For example, students might observe an illustration in a book they are reading and connect the details they see in the picture to the text in the book.
- When working with K-3 students, begin by building observation and questioning skills, and then move on to the more difficult skill of reflecting (making inferences).
- Use sentence stems to help students understand the action they should be taking when they observe (I see… I hear…), reflect (I think…), and question (I wonder…).
When working with primary sources, what strategies do you use to activate students’ prior knowledge?