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Activating Prior Knowledge in the Social Studies Classroom

Presentation to train new content area teachers. Features how to use reading to learn and writing to learn to activate prior knowledge and how to integrate reading and writing with content area concepts.

Maria A. Gaitan

on 13 November 2013

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Transcript of Activating Prior Knowledge in the Social Studies Classroom

Activating Prior Knowledge
Reading and Writing to Learn Training in Social Studies
How do I activate students’ prior knowledge to prepare them for reading in Social Studies?
How do I activate students’ prior knowledge to prepare them for reading?
Integrating Writing Strategies with Content Area Concepts
Learning is rooted in what students already know which is why it is essential to activate prior knowledge (Vacca, Vacca, & Mraz, p. 166 ).

Gaining insight into what students already know HELPS you determine a starting point in a lesson
(McLaughlin, 2010, p. 5).
Admit slips are a perfect way to gain insight and prepare students for a lesson. An example of an admit slip for a unit on Colonial America (Gourley, 1999).

Writing prompt: What do you know about the New World? (Gourley, 1999)

What type of trade books can I use?
Historical fiction picture books are a great way to help all students including struggling readers understand content areas (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz, 2011).

Picture books provide valuable background knowledge about the content they will be learning (Vacca, Vacca, and Mraz., 2011).

Writing facilitates learning by helping students to explore, clarify, and think deeply about the ideas and concepts they encounter in reading (Vacca, Vacca and Mraz, 2011).

Reading and writing invites students to explore ideas, clarify meaning, and construct knowledge(Vacca, Vacca and Mraz, 2011).

Inviting students to write before or after reading motivates students to use writing to think more deeply about the ideas they have read (Vacca, Vacca and Mraz, 2011).
Writing to Learn Activities in Social Studies
Using Writing to Learn to Activate Prior Knowledge in Social Studies
Writing has long been acknowledged as an aid in understanding the concepts and ideas being written about (Zinsser, 1988).

It invites students to speculate, predict, and brainstorm.

Also it provides you with immediate informative feedback about what needs to be taught next, whether it’s time to move on to new concepts or if there are specific students who require re-teaching or remediation.
They are 5-10 minutes in length.

Not revised or edited.

Serve the primary purpose of causing students to reflect on what they know, don’t know, or are confused about (Fisher, Frey, 2011).
Writing to Learn Example
Instruct students to do the following: Look at this picture and write as much as you can about it in five minutes.

Have students think about:
1. It’s history ..
2. What it means to me ..
3. What it means to others ..

Collect all papers, evaluate the information on your students prior knowledge.

Plan and organize lesson plans
Integrating Reading with Content Area Concepts
“Concepts create mental images, which may represent anything that can be grouped together by common features ...”.

“... we invent categories (or form concepts) to reduce the complexity of our environment and the necessity for constant learning” (Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, 2011, p. 243).

Integrating Reading with Content Area Concepts
Graphic organizers are excellent tools to help students identify, relate and connect content area concepts.

More specifically, Concept of Definition Maps “provide a framework for organizing conceptual information ...”
(Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, 2011, p. 258)
Concept of Definition Map
On the next slide there is an example of the concept 'democracy' defined by asking:

1. 'what is it?' (category) and some comparisons;
2. 'what are some characteristics?' (properties); and
3. 'what are some examples?' (illustrations).
This strategy might be used before reading, during reading, or after reading about the concept.
(Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, pp. 258-259 & McLaughlin, 2010, pp. 100-101).
Form of Government



Athenian 'pure' Democracy
American Republic DEMOCRACY
British Parliamentary System

Everyone votes
Elected officials
Often extended debate
Checks and balances

In content area classrooms, teachers use a variety of instructional activities and strategies to put into play the power of writing to facilitate thinking and learning in their disciplines.
(Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, 2011, p. 314)
Writers construct meaning when they make connections between prior knowledge and new information and then think through how they can best communicate their message.
(McLaughlin, 2010, pp. 157).

Integrating Writing Strategies with Content Area Concepts
You can utilize: academic journals, response journals, learning logs, double-entry journals, writing in disciplines, RAFT writing, guiding the Writing process, and research based writing.

(Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, 2011, p. 279)
Writing to Learn Using:
Microthemes, POVGs, unsent letters, biopoems, admit/exit slips, dialogues, integrated reading and writing.

Example: RAFT Writing

RAFT writing prompts contrived situations and audiences in the context of what is being read or studied. (Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, 2011, p. 306; 309)

Questions to ask yourself when creating a RAFT:
1. Why do I want to write about any of these topics in the first place?
2. For whom am I writing?
3. How will I treat my subject?
What role will I take?

(Vacca, Vacca & Mraz, 2011, p. 309).
Examples of RAFT Writing
Below are examples of blank RAFT templates.
Students Fill out these Templates with content from the readings.
Social Studies RAFT Example:
McLaughlin, M. (2010). Content area reading. Teaching and learning in an age of multiple literacies.

Professional Developement. (2005). Retrieved July 20, 2013, from Tantasqua and Union 61: http://www.tantasqua.org/superintendent/profdevelopment/etraft.html

Vacca, R. T., Vacca, J. L., & Mraz, M. (2011). Content area reading. Literacy and learning across the curriculum (10th ed.).

Maria A. Gaitan
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