I really like doing prior-knowledge activities. During a unit on the Holocaust I taught during my student-teaching practicum i did a Prior-Knowledge/Shared-Knowledge grouping of activities in which students were given prompts on poster paper and told to write down anything they know about that prompt. Then I had them spend a few minutes looking at what their classmates wrote, then they did a shared-knowledge activity in which, using the same prompts, they wrote down what they learned from reading their classmates prompts. Then I had them do a written self-reflection on the activity. If i had to do it again i would have also asked students what they thought important to know about the Holocaust and incorporate those things into the learning objectives. I was able to incorporate some of what students already knew into learning objectives for the unit, though primarily the facts they were to learn came from my co-operating instructors powerpoint.
I like using pre-assessments for the reasons outlines by Greenstein. Pre-assessments inform teachers about what students already know and don’t know and what instruction should and shouldn’t focus on. I don’t think students should have to spend time learning what they already know, nor should what they don’t know be glossed over.
I suppose students would refer to post-instruction assessments as “reviews before the test” but I like the idea of students Nutshelling what they learned during the lesson or unit. Summarizing what one already knows is not a simple thing to do and really forces a person to think hard. I would scaffold this with Exit Slips during daily instruction.
I’ve used student generated questions to start discussions to varying degrees of success. I guess this would be Bump-in-the-Road or Muddiest Point. I like this activity because students may have questions that may not get answered during regular discussions. During a post-Tom Sawyer unit survey my students told me I didn’t answer questions directly enough, and always seemed to answer questions by asking other students to answer similar questions (this was during my student-teaching and had learned during the previous semester to not use the QRE method during discussions. My co-operating instructor told me this was nuts and shouldn’t listen to the people at Pitt who were too far removed from the realities of classrooms to be of any real help).