One person used ‘What did I do wrong?’ most often as a prior knowledge starter, mainly for common mistakes in numeracy. This has allowed the children to demonstrate the strategies they know and an opportunity to iron out the ones that are not useful.
Teachers felt that they had used the prior knowledge starters so much now it has become a regular part of all lessons. Before they had always started with the learning intention. This has made starts to lessons more interesting and motivating, for teachers and children and sometimes redirected the course of the lesson.
The impact on teachers has been to make them more aware of things they need to explicitly teach.
The ‘odd one out’, such as in doubling and halving has allowed teachers to see misconceptions and adapt plans for that lesson. There is a difficulty in some subjects in changing the original plan.
‘Always, sometimes, never’ had been used successfully in a lesson on money, which took the lesson in a different, unexpected direction.
One teacher had created a PowerPoint with all the templates for prior knowledge starters so she could adapt for every lesson with ease.
Another teacher found it useful to revisit the same questions at the end of a lesson for children to reflect on what they know or don’t know, seek further help if necessary or move on to the next lesson.
The mastery booklets produced by the NCETM (National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics) were used for finding good prior knowledge questions and improving teacher questioning.
Starters that were open and therefore focused on debate and discussion were the most valuable.
North Wales Team 1
All teachers had used the range of answers template:
People’s ideas, a lot of stories etc. etc.
Characters in a novel. Was he…
Kind, Thoughtless, brave,cowardly,conflicted etc
Lower achievers were more confident and focused with starter questions and more confident to discuss within their group. Children are put less ‘on the spot’ because they have had some discussion time. Higher achievers have deeper understanding.
All had used the statement template, especially in maths lessons. One teacher used it as a discussion vehicle at the end of a guided reading session:
‘This article proves that plastic will kill off animals.’ Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons.
The statement resulted in deeper discussion. Teachers get to know very quickly what children know and misconceptions are obvious. Teachers were surprised at how much children knew. One teacher said this had made her think more about the quality and range of questions she asks the children.
One teacher used the odd one out for science based research. ‘Explorify’ was a very good resource for science for asking good questions.
Prior knowledge questions starters have been used in all lessons for a number of years, but having received further guidance and ideas, this element within the lesson has developed further. Children are fully engaged from the outset. The question is visible as soon as the children enter the room and know exactly what is expected of them. Any issues or problems that have occurred before the lesson are forgotten and the children are ready to learn. Use of resources like ‘Concept Cartoons and ‘Explorify’ have helped develop the different types of prior knowledge questions used as well as the templates offered by Shirley Clarke. Teachers are now aware of whether what they taught yesterday has had an effect and the tasks they set are far more suitable.
One teacher used concept mats for mathematics: show it, draw it, explain it, prove it, as a way of spotting misconceptions. Children are more willing to take part. Mistakes are celebrated and misconceptions spotted immediately.
North Wales Team 2
One teacher gave children coloured cups A, B and C in which they put counters to show the correct answer to a question. This had made them engaged and interested in maths lessons.
The ‘odd one out’ had created good discussion for odd numbers, building vocabulary.
All teachers had tried ‘what went wrong?’ In column addition one teacher deliberately made a mistake, which the children loved – all shouting out ‘You’re wrong!’
One teacher put these common misconceptions on the board and asked children to explain why they were common mistakes:
This made them think and not sit passively. Teachers were able to assess prior knowledge. Using named lollysticks for who answers was fantastic, as it was not just the keen one now answering and teachers had previously underestimated children who didn’t put their hands up.
One teacher asked children to compare Monet techniques with Van Gogh which resulted in a variety of criteria.
The statement was used for ‘Washing powder dissolves better in cold water.’ Discuss…
‘Convince me’ was used for fraction starters, such ½ =3/6. Children were collaborating, proving, communicating and showing deeper understanding.
“I found out that a prior knowledge starter could be used effectively at the start of a topic. I dressed up as Explorer Betty at the start of a World Explorer topic. I told children I was lost and couldn’t remember anything about where I was going. Clues were in my bag – a passport and information that I was going on an adventure to find out about the world. The children were asked ‘What do we know about the world?’ and they were really engaged, eager to give ideas (both right and wrong!)”
Liz Roberts – Pen y Bryn
Three teachers had used the ‘range of answers’ (e.g. Which fraction of 100 pounds would you choose to keep? Why? ¼ , ½, ¾ ). There was instant engagement giving children an opportunity to show what they know.
All teachers had used the ‘statement’ (e.g. These fractions are the same. Agree or disagree? (visual representation)). Also ‘This character is a responsible person. Agree or disagree?’ Children’s reasoning was encouraged.
The ‘odd one out’ (e.g. verbs and nouns) was used by all teachers and ‘put in order’ had been used for decimals, fractions and grammar.
The opposing statement had been used for the question ‘Is it right to forgive a crime?’ This caused great debate.
‘True or false’ was used by all teachers, such as ‘Is it true or false that 1/3 of this shape is shaded?’ as well as ‘What went wrong?’, as in column subtraction.
These prior knowledge starters had enabled the teachers to modify the lesson based on what was revealed.