To begin activating prior knowledge I ask them to take out their white boards. I want them to write down, as quickly as possible, all the things that they know or might know about Christopher Columbus. As they are writing I offer some suggestions to add to their boards.
Here are some prompts to get them thinking:
- What did he do to become famous?
- What is something you might know about his story?
-Is he real and how do you know?
Once they have their thoughts I like to fill in a KWL chart. To fill in the K, I am going to use the thoughts they write down. I write down everything they tell me and make sure that as a class, we agree on what should be under K. This might be a short list or a long one.
Students have used a KWL chart and are familiar with what the pieces are. They still might need to go over it and what we should be writing in each section. For the W, we put in what we want to know. We can usually do this as a pre-reading strategy and I do want them to do this. They are going to give me suggestions on what they want to learn. I use a colored marker to show these thoughts that we generated before we began.
The rest of the W, is going to fill up during our reading. Good readers, ask questions as they read and we need to so this to be good readers of non-fiction. I explain that I am going to leave room for our during reading questions. I warn them that we might come up with a lot and that would be fantastic.
I then hand out their books and tell them they can only use the front cover to explain their thinking. We are discussing what they think and I am trying to draw out all their thoughts, prior knowledge and predicting.
To wrap up the creation of our chart I lead the class in a brief discussion on what we just did and why it might be important. I ask them about what they believe we will learn from our reading of a biography, and How could reading a biography help us? I also want them to draw from the discussion that this is a secondary source and that if they were going to do research on Columbus, I would need more than just this book to be my source of facts.