Activating prior knowledge can increase the learner’s motivation. At one end of the motivation continuum, we have intrinsically motivated learners, who love learning for itself. At the other end, we have learners who are only extrinsically motivated and who need rewards to learn (and sometimes punishment!). Tapping into learners’ prior knowledge and finding ways to connect to their existing knowledge can be useful to increase their motivation.
Another reason for activating is to create expectations about a topic. In real life you know what to expect when you do something. For example, if you watch TV you know that at a certain time the News will be broadcast, and if you switch to another channel, you know what type of programme to expect. In a lesson, the learners come ‘cold’ to a subject, so activating prior knowledge helps them to create a context and expectations about what is to come.
Focusing is another reason for activating. Learners come into our lessons from other subjects and need to tune in again to a new one. Activating helps them to focus on the topic and the language of the lesson, or to return to a topic which they were dealing with in previous lessons.
In this clip, the teacher engages the learners’ curiosity by involving them in a matching activity using cards. This clip was filmed at the Isendoorn College in Warnsveld. The learners are second year pupils (average age 13-14), The subject is history and the teacher is Michel van Dam.