Designing Effective Projects : Tapping Prior Knowledge
Thinking Activities


Learn About Thinking Activities
Thinking activities are used to tap learners’ prior knowledge by giving them an opportunity to create lists, make predictions, and use analogies. By using these activities, learners are put in control of their learning and allowed to make personal connections to new content.

Organized Lists
Making organized lists that rank items in an order that makes sense to the learner is one way to help learners organize what they know as way of tapping prior knowledge. The Visual Ranking Tool*:

  • Is an online thinking tool for ordering and prioritizing items in a list
  • Helps learners analyze and evaluate criteria for their decisions
  • Compares reasoning visually to promote collaboration and discussion

With the use of this tool, learners can use prior knowledge at the beginning of a project or lesson to rank items and then see how their new knowledge expands their viewpoint over the course of learning.

Example Visual Ranking List:
Working in pairs, learners are given a list of animals and asked which one most resembles a human. They use Visual Ranking to put the animals into order, ranking them on their human-like qualities.

Visual Ranking List

This Visual Ranking list comes from the Project Idea: Classify Animals*.


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