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Establishing Prior Knowledge in Primary School Students

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Ryann Hallett-Patterson

on 17 September 2012

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Transcript of Establishing Prior Knowledge in Primary School Students

Assignment 1 Investigating student's prior knowledge of science concepts What is Prior Knowledge? Three approaches used by teachers to establish prior knowledge The following three strategies for establishing prior learning can be used for students in primary school year levels 3 to 5. You need to access the students prior knowledge so that you can build on it. This helps both you (the teacher) and the students so you are not overlapping. Why is establishing prior knowledge important? Reason one Reasons why you should establish prior knowledge Prior knowledge is essential for us to know as teachers about our students. Unfortunately, it is often something we neglect to establish before engaging with a new topic. The following are reasons why establishing prior knowledge is important;

Establishing prior knowledge or ‘pre-testing’ means that we are assessing the knowledge and learning experiences our students possess before beginning teaching. This ensures that we are not setting tasks that may be too difficult or too easy for the students in the class; it also allows us to see what they have mastered or concepts that they cannot comprehend ( Groundwater-Smith et al. 2011). Reason two • You are going to have a diverse range of students in the classroom with a variety of background, cultures, religions, and so on that will influence how an individual learns and what they have learnt in their previous learning experiences in earlier years of schooling. Therefore, students may be at different stages in their development; prior knowledge or pre-testing helps us as teachers to acknowledge this factor (Woolfolk & Margetts 2010). •The most important factor that influences a students learning is what they already know ( Hewson & Hewson 1981). Reason three One strategy of establishing prior knowledge could be through ‘questioning’ the students as a class, while also allowing for individual response by using mini white boards (assuming they are available).
Extension: begin by posing a question to the class. Students are then required to use their mini whiteboards to write down their responses to the question.
Note: if mini whiteboards are not available at the school then as a substitute the teacher can use cheap plastic folders with a white piece of A4 paper lipped into it.
To keep record for future reference of students understanding and knowledge, instead of writing all the anwers given on the mini white boards; the teacher or even the students as an extra part of the pre-testing activity can take a photo of their work. Approach one The second strategy requires students to do a ‘visual representation’ of what they know about the topic. Students will be asked to design a placemat illustrating what they know about the particular topic.
Extension: students will divide an A3 piece of paper into four quadrants. Each quadrant will high light a different aspect of a particular concept realating to the topic, students will include the following; words associated with the concept, a pictorial representation e.g. a diagram, and a description of s real life scenario involving that concept.
Note: this allows for teachers to ‘SEE’ how deep their understanding of that concept is. This is also a started point as they continue to learn new things throughout the unit they can add more things to their placemats.
For future reference teachers can photograph their students work or have the students themselves take photographs of their work as an extra part of the pre-testing activity. Approach two The third strategy is a more traditional pre-test. I look at the Australian Curriculum and see if the content descriptor for the year below, the current year level, and the year level above. I them construct a written assessment.
Note: Using this I can see if they have retained previous learning, also how well they are travelling into their current level and double check if their current understanding extends. Approach three Extending on approach two The visual representation of the students understanding and knowledge is one I have recently completed with my year 4/5 class at Risdon Park Primary School. As mentioned previously students are required to design a placemat that includes an A3 page being separated into four quadrants, in each they will do; words associated with the concept, a pictorial representation e.g. a diagram, and a description of s real life scenario involving that concept.
To begin the pre-test, the students will be asked to answer the following question ‘Tell/show me what you know about the sun, earth, and moon, about how they move around one another’.
Firstly, students will be given an A3 piece of white poster paper (will allow for students to decorate themselves)
They will then be asked to use a ruler and lead pencil to divide the A3 paper into four equal quadrants. Once students have done this they will write a title at the top of each quadrant e.g. diagram of earth rotating around the sun.
Explain to students that they will be adding to the placemats throughout the particular topic they are engaging in, so make sure they leave space to do this.
When students have responded to the question to the best of their abilities (tell students to raise their hand once they are finished), they will need to hand it up to the teacher.
Note: as this strategy is continued throughout the topic students are engaging in decorating of the poster will be left until the completion of the topic. Students will then be able to share their posters with the class, parents and the school community by having them pinned up on the classroom wall. Throughout this pre-test I will be looking for the students understanding and knowledge of ‘Earth’s place in space’, I want to see if students can explain their responses to me, and be able to demonstrate an understanding of ‘what orbits around what’ in their visual representations of their prior –knowledge gained from their earlier years of primary schooling.
Have students drawn an accurate diagram of the rotation of the earth, and moon, around the sun, can they explain what is happening?
Is what that have written correct?

I Using the pre-testing approach A year 5 class is participating in the first science lesson of a new topic. The topic the class will be learning about in this unit is ‘space’. The unit ‘Earth’s place in space’ will begin with students answering the following question ‘Show me what you know about how the sun, earth, and moon all move in relation to each other and how long? Exploration of Space! It is important for students to have knowledge and understanding of this particular topic for the following reasons;
•This topic is not only relevant in the science curriculum, but across the curriculum in other subjects such as history e.g. the sun was used to tell time in and in religion e.g.

•It helps us to make sense and control of our world, and that beyond

•Albert Einstein said ‘the most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious’, we want children to be motivated to learn, we do not know everything about what is beyond our planet and therefore may help to spark curiosity and wonder because students want to know more. It allows for further exploration and discovery.

•Students are able to become active participates

• Have knowledge and understanding of things beyond what they see in everyday experiences

•Students will learn what is beyond earth and how they can affect our planet

•Scientist Richard Feynman explained our planet by saying; ‘We whirl around the sun. That is more romantic, more exciting.... This universe has been described by many, but it just goes on, with its edge as unknown as the bottom of the bottomless sea of the older idea, just as mysterious, just as awe-inspiring, and just as incomplete as the poetic pictures that came before’.

•Students will adopt the idea that there are always new things to be discovered

•Students will understand time, how we have day and night Why is learning about
'Space' important? A year 5 class is participating in the first science lesson of a new topic. The topic the class will be learning about in this unit is ‘space’. The unit ‘Earth’s place in space’ will begin with students answering the following question ‘Show me what you know about how the sun, earth, and moon all move in relation to each other and how long? Exploration of Space The Australian Curriculum Science This topic is relevant for all year’s level, but will focus on those in year 5 for this presentation. This topic in the Australian Curriculum comes under the strand Science, the sub-strand Earth and Space Sciences, and the key concept that will influence students learning the most is ‘Systems in Space’. Throughout the topic of ‘Space’ students will understand ‘the earth is part of a system of planets orbiting around a star (the sun). In my year 4/5 class at Risdon Park Primary School I decided to choose two individuals from the class and present their responses to this strategy, I chose a girl and a boy as to give variety and have more to compare. I found the following results; What was found from the pre-test •That the earth rotates around the sun, the sun does not rotate around earth. Both Primary school students knew: •That earth takes 365 days to complete one whole rotation around the sun, except when it is a leap year and takes 366 days.
•The phases of the moon
•That Neil Armstrong was the first person on the moon.
•The sun does not move
•It takes 24 hours for the earth to do a whole spin Male student knew: •That earth rotates around the sun in a clockwise motion
•The moon rotates around the earth, and earth rotates around the sun, while the sun does not move.
•The gravity on the moon is less than that on earth Female student knew: References As you can see both students show similar results from the pre-test. Both students have a basic understanding, and have the potential to build upon their knowledge and understanding throughout the topic on ‘Space’. 'Austrlian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority 2012, 'The Australian Curriculum: Science: Version 3.0', Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, viewed 13 August 2012.

Woolfolk, A & Margetts, K 2010, Educational psychology, 2nd edn, Pearson Education, Frenchs Forest, NSW.

Groundwater-Smith, S, Ewing, R, & Le Cornu, R 2011, Teaching challenges and dilemmas, 4th edn, Cengage Learning, South Melbourne, VIC.

Hewson G, M, & Hewson W, P 1983, Effect of instruction using students' prior knowledge and conceptual change strategies on science learning, Journal of Research in Science Teaching, vol. 20, no. 8, pp 731-743.

Fleer, M & Hardy, T 2001, Science for children : developing a personal approach to teaching, 2nd edn, Pearson Education, Sydney
Hallett-Patterson, P 2012, Teacher, Mitcham Primary School, Adelaide, SA Prior knowledge is knowledge students have gained from previous learning experiences. It provides us (teachers) with an indication of what individual students understand and acts as the foundation for future learning experiences.
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