Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Activate Prior Knowledge or Build Background Knowledge

By Mark Heintz

In history, students typically do not have a lot of direct background knowledge on a subject.  One way to build background knowledge or activate any prior knowledge in a quick in easy way is through picture.  I try to put more pictures into the curriculum because they make students think.  Anytime I can do that, I put one in the win category.  For this picture analysis, I used two different forms of art, Ottoman miniatures, and Aztec codices.  These two forms of art are on the AP World curriculum framework.  I mean…I did my dissertation on the cultural comparisons between Aztec codices and Ottoman miniatures. 

Anyway, I have students list everything they see in the pictures.  It really is that easy.  Also, it is a great starting point for picture analysis. The students come up with great observations simply by looking at the photos.  From the pictures below, the one on the left, the students saw soldiers with guns.  Which is great, because they either made the connection to prior learning about Janissaries or they then have that image in their mind when they read about Janissaries later in the period.

The pictures were a pre reading strategy.  The pictures gave students an image in their mind when they read about Aztecs and the Ottomans of which they typically have little prior knowledge.  These images were a great reference point when details come up in the reading.

The student listed what they saw under the picture and then listed what the whole class listed on the right hand side of the picture.  In this case, the iPad was a great medium for the students because they can see the pictures in color and can zoom in on specific parts of the images.

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