Age 11-18: Secondary (6-12 Grade US) 2013 Feedback from Day 2

Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin

Middle School

One teacher had presented students with the learning targets for a study of Romeo and Juliet. Students submitted their ideas and the class picked the best ideas together.  The next unit was tackled in the same way.  Students picked the same activities the teacher would have.

Some subject areas such as math, found this a difficult area to approach in this way, because of giving students too much choice.

In a social studies unit the focus was on how a commercial bill becomes law.  Students came up with ideas for how to introduce a new rule to the school.  The students didn’t really vary how they presented the information, maybe because it was late in the year.  It improved their research and depth of knowledge (based on what the teacher witnessed during class).

In a science unit, the students chose their own experiment to work on. The teacher put out materials for students to choose from.  They had more ownership of their learning and greater depth of knowledge.

High School

One teacher described how at the beginning of each chapter, with the vocabulary on the board, students were asked to write what they knew individually, then share as a group, then take suggestions as a class.  This prepared them to learn and made them aware of their prior knowledge.

In a Spanish class one teacher gave students a list of words to determine their prior knowledge before reading.  They started to apply their previous knowledge to determine the content/plot of the reading.

Another strategy used was ‘storm the board’ in which all prior knowledge is pooled. This prepared students, tuning them into the topic.

One teacher who gave students a choice of how they wanted to demonstrate the targets was shot down by the students, who were uninterested.

In another school, all teachers offer students choices and they are required to develop their own projects.

A comment was made that maybe our school schedule and structure holds teachers and students back from blending subjects together.  Where topic were not sequential, it was possible for students to vote on the order to be covered.  This led to higher engagement and greater participation.

Kentucky (all subjects)

Middle School

One teacher had gauged prior knowledge about atoms by using a science probe book about a penny.  Another teacher gave the students the learning objectives to be covered and sked what they already knew about them.  Pre-tests were also given to determine their level of understanding and also post-tests, which enables students to see the progress they had made.  It was felt that more needed to be explored with involving students in planning.

Other strategies used to establish prior knowledge were

  1. A chart with learning objectives in the first column and ‘what it looks like’ in the second.  Given learning objectives, students wrote in the second column.
  2. Students given 2 true and 1 false statement to discuss.
  3. Given learning objectives students talked with talk partners to design possible activities for them.

Students enjoyed the activities and misconceptions were revealed.

High School

To establish prior knowledge, students were given a few ideas about the topic then asked to brainstorm.  This revealed strengths and weaknesses and helped plan the unit.

Another teacher used a card sort for ecosystems to determine prior knowledge.

Other teachers used pre-tests.

One teacher gave students a list of activities from which they chose 3, which gave them ownership.


My students are currently investigating chemical reactions and how they play out/apply to real-life situations.  On the first day students investigated the myth that taco sauce can clean tarnished jewellery.  Upon finding out that it does, through experimentation, students then wanted to investigate what causes the sauce to clean the jewellery.

Chris Lacy, Morgan County High School

Pre-assessments were given by one teacher then she looked at the answers with the class, asking the students to determine which items should be addressed or skipped.  This helped their achievement and meant they could move on quicker.

One teacher determined prior knowledge by informal questioning and raised hands.  BY seeing who could raise their hand the teacher could see who knew it or not.  Whet students wren asked for their ideas younger students enjoyed this but older students just wanted to be told ‘You’re the teacher!’

Bell ringers (starter activities) and exit slips were useful in deciding where to go next.

Kettle Moraine School District, Wisconsin, USA

Patricia Deklotz |

Kentucky, USA

Kim Zeidler |

Tunbridge Wells, Kent, UK

Mel Shackleton |