An Activator is a strategy to active students' prior knowledge on a particular subject before a unit of study. A common Activator is the K-W-L.
K-W-L : On chart paper create 3 columns. The first column is titled, "What We Know. The second column is titled, "What We Want To Know". And the last column is titled, "What We Learned."
At the beginning of a unit of study,with the teacher charting, the students contribute ideas for the first two columns. All ideas should be accepted. It is not the time to discuss the ideas or the merits of whether they are right or wrong.
At the end of the unit, the third column is filled in as a way to summarize and to clarify misconceptions and misinterpretations. The students' can also see the progress in their learning.
Posting the chart thoroughout the unit, is a great way of reminding the students the questions they had and what they may have thought they knew, or really did know.
For younger students, instead of "What We Know" try "What We Think We Know". Younger students believe what they know is right and as a result may state a lot of misconceptions and become embarassed if their statements are inaccurrate. It helps to "save face" if it is stated as "What We Think We Know".
Another strategy is to put the ideas on large sticky notes. In this way, they can easily be moved from column to column.
There are other variations of the 3 columns. If you know of some, please share them with us.
I hope you will experiment with this strategy. Let us know how it goes.
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