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Make Connections to Previously Learned Information (Elaboration)

For: Students, Parents, Teachers


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


Verbal Reasoning Verbal Memory Abstract Reasoning Visual Memory

Make Connections to Previously Learned Information (Elaboration)

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.

How To Apply It!

  1. The key is to learn to ask yourself questions as you are reading or thinking to be sure you understand key facts or ideas. The more frequently you question the more effective this strategy will be (e.g. every paragraph or two is more effective than every page or two).
  2. Even though each subject is different, you can often use the same questions to help you make connections, either to something you learned before or your personal experiences: "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. 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?
  4. If it makes sense, draw a picture of the idea. What does it remind you of? What questions do you have after seeing it?
  5. 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.

Why It Works (the Science Of Learning)!

Thinking about new material by connecting it to familiar content strengthens your understanding and ability to remember the new material since you can call on the information that's already in your memory and then can think of how it is similar or different, rather than needing to remember entirely 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.