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Make Connections to What You Already Know

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Reading Mathematics Study Skills & Tools 21st Century Skills Universal Design for Learning Middle/High School Strategy

Skills

Verbal Reasoning Verbal Memory Abstract Reasoning Visual Memory

Make Connections to What You Already Know

In the garden of memory, in the palace of dreams...that is where you and I shall meet.
— Alice Through the Looking Glass

When you are learning something new, one of the most effective ways to help you understand and remember it is to connect or compare the new information to what you already know. This strategy is also known as Activating Prior Knowledge or Elaboration.

How To Apply It!

  1. Ask yourself questions as you are reading or studying to be sure you understand key facts or ideas. Question yourself as frequently as necessary to ensure understanding.
  2. You can often use the same questions to help you make connections, regardless of subject: "What does this story remind me of?", "Is this character like someone I know?", "How is this relevant to what we learned yesterday?", "How is this historical event similar to something going on in the world right now?"
  3. If it makes sense, draw a picture of the idea. What does it remind you of? What questions do you have after seeing it?
  4. Make a list of similarities and differences to a known concept. How are the two concepts similar? How are they different? You can try using a 2x2 matrix or Venn diagram.
  5. Writing it out helps. Make a list of the details you know and understand. Can you group items together? Does it have the same details of something you've seen before?

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Research shows explicitly thinking about new material in the context of what is known and familiar strengthens your understanding and ability to remember the new information. This technique, also known as elaborative interrogation, has been shown to improve learning for upper elementary students and older with the greatest benefit for students who start with a strong foundation of knowledge and use this technique to build on that knowledge.