The Problem Looks Like…
A reader is not remembering letter names, sounds, sight words, phonics patterns or vocabulary.
Help readers remember previously learned information.
It’s Related to…
Prior knowledge acts as a hook for new information or as a file system where new content links to something known. Each person has a unique set of prior knowledge, so the system is individualized. Make quick connections for the learner by keeping records of known information.
Prior Knowledge in Reading
· A learner needs to begin with a known, perhaps the first letter of their name or another known sound or word. Sometimes environmental print offers a known place to begin, such as “McDonald’s” or “Cheerios” or “STOP” on the stop sign.
· Start with the learner’s own particular known, and then introduce a new word similar to the known word.
· Since this is teaching for reading and reading is a visual activity, make certain the learner has the opportunity to see the words or letters, not just hear them. Use magnetic letters, dry erase or simple pencil and paper.
For example, “Brandon” is a known word.
In order to connect the known to the new, use the letters in the known word to teach “and”, “on” or “br”. These are all part of the known word “Brandon”.
Another example, if the learner recognizes and knows the sound of letter “c”, teach “cat” and “car”. Begin with a known and connect to the new.
Some programs require fixed sequences of teaching letter sounds. A fixed sequence does not take into account the concept of linking new to known information. Each learner has a distinctive set of known. For quickest acquisition, step outside the fixed sequence and begin with something known.
In the children’s book “Turn the Page…It’s Fun!: A Concepts of Print Story” by Connie Dickison, readers are directed to connect new words to known words.
For example, if the student knows “me”, connect other new words by replacing the first letter with another letter, to make a new but similar word.
Prior Knowledge In Writing
Associating an already known word in writing, to a word the student is learning to write, facilitates the learning process.
For example, you want to teach the student to spell “feet”.
· First, see if the student knows how to spell any other words with “ee”, perhaps “see”.
· If the student knows no words with “ee”, then teach the first “ee” word with the use of repetition and practice using visual, auditory, kinesthetic and tactile methods (VAKT).
Starting with a known requires the teacher to make careful records for quick connections.
Prior Knowledge In Speaking
The concept of using prior knowledge is equally applicable to language acquisition.
· If a learner knows the meaning of “big”, teach “huge” and “gigantic”.
· If the learner can say “bird”, teach “The bird.”, “I see the bird.”, “The bird is in a tree.”, “I see a bird in a tree.”, “There is a bird in the tree.”
Nearly any connection is helpful, such as connecting “bird” to “dog” to “animal” to “mammal” to “amphibian”.
Gradually building new upon known quickly facilitates learning.
Prior Knowledge In Listening
Use prior knowledge to build new phonemic awareness listening skills.
· For example, the students name is Ruby.
Teach listening for other words that contain /r/, “run”, “write”, “car”. It does not matter that “write” begins with a “w” or that “car” has /r/ at the end instead of the beginning, because this activity is for improving phonemic awareness, a listening skill.
You can also teach listening for ending sounds.
· For example, other words that contain long /e/ like in the known word “Ruby”, “sunny”, “cookie” and “every”. This activity will develop phonemic awareness, another essential early literacy skill, as well as linking new knowledge to known.
Now That’s Better…
Learners remember information across lessons. The previously unknown concept starts to become partially known and eventually completely under control. A teacher quickly reminds students of the known and the student more accurately recalls the new information.