helpful tips wordsDuring our workshops on Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) we use a text entitled Explicit Direct Instruction: The Power of the Well-Crafted, Well-Taught Lesson. Written by John Hollingsworth and Silvia Ybarra, the text lays out the components of EDI and provides real life examples from the classroom to help practitioners understand the concept and procedures.

Here’s one incredibly powerful concept:  Well-crafted lessons consider what students already know. This is called “activating prior knowledge.” Background knowledge conditions learning. It acts as a hook for new information and is the basic building block of content and skill knowledge.

Students with disabilities who have deficits in memory and processing benefit from this instructional strategy.  Activating prior knowledge explicitly retrieves pertinent information from long term memory and places it into working memory so that students can use existing knowledge to understand new content. This facilitates learning but it also helps with the storage and retrieval of that information.

Here are some quick tips for activating prior knowledge:

  • There are two ways to activate prior knowledge: universal experience and subskill review.
    • When you provide structured activities to help students draw on life experiences that are relevant to the topic, you are activating universal experiences.
    • When you conduct a subskill review you are explicitly reviewing something previously taught that is pertinent to the new lesson.
  • You need to facilitate interaction. Get students talking to each other or writing on white boards.
  • You must explain the connection to the lesson. Explicitly identify the connection between what they already learned and what they are going to learn next.