Teaching Reading Strategies: Activate Prior Knowledge


Reading is a vital skill that everyone needs to develop and maintain in order to successfully navigate through life. One of the key components of effective reading instruction is teaching reading strategies that can help students become more fluent, confident, and engaged readers. One such strategy is activating prior knowledge, which enables students to connect new information to what they already know and deepen their understanding. This article will discuss the importance of activating prior knowledge and provide practical tips on how educators can incorporate this strategy into their teaching.

The Importance of Activating Prior Knowledge

Activating prior knowledge is a reading strategy that prompts students to access their existing knowledge, experiences, and memories before they encounter new text. By helping learners make connections between their own life experiences and what they’re reading, this technique empowers them with a greater level of understanding and engagement.

Research has shown that building on a foundation of prior knowledge enables students to:

1. Improve their comprehension skills.

2. Increase their retention of information.

3. Enhance metacognition, or the ability to think about one’s own thinking processes.

4. Foster higher-order thinking abilities.

How to Activate Prior Knowledge in the Classroom

Here are some effective ways teachers can activate and facilitate the use of prior knowledge in the classroom:

1. K-W-L (Know-Want-to-know-Learned) Charts: This visual tool helps students organize their thoughts by listing what they know (K) about a topic before reading, what they want (W) to learn or find out while engaging with the text, and what they have learned (L) after completing the task.

2. Think-Alouds: Teachers can model how to tap into prior knowledge through think-alouds where they verbalize their thought process as they read aloud or analyze an image or object related to the text.

3. Brainstorming Sessions: Teachers can facilitate group brainstorming sessions around keywords, phrases, or visuals associated with the reading material. This encourages students to recall pertinent knowledge and share their thoughts with classmates.

4. Graphic Organizers: Tools like mind maps, Venn diagrams, or concept maps can be used to help students visually organize their prior knowledge about a subject.

5. Anticipation Guides: Develop questionnaires that ask students to agree or disagree with statements related to the topic of the text. This method helps learners think critically and activate any relevant prior experiences before beginning the reading process.

6. Journaling: Encourage students to write journal entries reflecting on how a particular text relates to their existing knowledge or experiences. This helps them link new material to personal context and create meaningful connections.


Activating prior knowledge is an essential reading strategy that promotes comprehension, retention, and critical thinking skills in learners. By incorporating diverse teaching methods that foster self-reflection and collaboration, educators can empower their students to become more efficient problem-solvers and lifelong readers. Implementing these tactics in the classroom not only enhances learning outcomes but also instills a love for reading that continues long after formal schooling has concluded.

Choose your Reaction!