Strategies for activating students' prior knowledge

When people are faced with new knowledge, they can suffer as a kind of anchor to previous knowledge. Hence, each student, when reading or living a new experience, assimilates it more or less according to the knowledge they have up to that moment. A strategy launched through his theory of cognitive psychology by the pedagogue Ausubel ( Theory of significant learning ).

This is why it is extremely important that teachers know and apply strategies to activate the previous knowledge of the students or to generate new knowledge in case the students have little knowledge, but how to make the previous knowledge activate? In this article below, we’ve put together some ideas that can help you find out.


conocimientos previos




How can prior knowledge be activated?


  • Produce clashes in knowledge

One way to activate knowledge is by producing a clash with previous knowledge , which can be done by posing situations of discrepancy, surprising or incongruous, before dealing with the subject. In this way, the attention and motivation of students is strongly influenced.


  • Develop a guided discussion

Another useful strategy is to induce a pre-planned discussion in an informal and free setting . Each student can be allowed to participate in their own way but without deviating from the topic of debate. At all times, you should seek to focus on the central theme of the discussion, moving towards the previous concepts that the student must handle. The board can be used to write down the most important ideas that are reached with respect to the relevant prior knowledge. Finally, the discussion is closed with a brief summary.


  • Brainstorming

This strategy consists of having students reflect on all the ideas they have on the topic and share them through a technique called brainstorming . Students can help themselves with concept maps or any other graphic technique they know. The idea is that the teacher guides the discussion and then the presentation, in order to make sure of the correct or incorrect concepts that the student handles in each specific topic.

Ask the students to share their own experiences, hunches, and ideas about the content or concept of study and to connect and connect with their own lives. Keep in mind that sometimes you will need to offer suggestions and ideas to guide them towards connections a bit.


  • Exploratory question strategy

Questions are one of the best strategies used to probe prior knowledge and kick-start curiosity. That is why it is, without a doubt, a knowledge activation and motivation strategy to know and want to know more. The desire to want to know more makes learning easy , so injecting some suspense into questions will always be good.





  • Objectives as a teaching strategy

Teachers always set objectives for the teaching of students in class, which happens as a result of the need to plan the tasks that must be done in class throughout the year and with the aim of achieving certain learning. The difference when using these objectives as a strategy to activate prior knowledge is that they must be raised with the same student and using vocabulary that they can understand. In addition, it may be good for the student to participate in the design of the activity plan to achieve the proposed objectives.


All students need time to process new ideas and information, but they also need time to understand and verbally articulate their learning with the rest of their peers, who also participate in the same experience and trajectory. If, in addition, in order for them to achieve these new learnings and the use of anchors, we seek activities that attract their attention and motivate them to continue transforming their knowledge and the information they already have, much better.

Obviously, the lack of time or overcrowded classrooms will always harm this type of focused learning and the possibility of activating it with the help of previous knowledge, since to achieve this it is very important to be able to dedicate time to each student to find out what their level is and adapt planning to it.

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