Finding out what students already know about the goal and related skills

To pre-assess what students know and can do in relation to the goal and related Standards.

  • Process:
    Have students write or talk generally about their experiences in similar contexts or doing activities similar to their goal. For example, in a corrections setting, a student who wants to make "books on tape" for his small children might write about his experience reading to his kids in person. In ABE, a student who wants to read environmental print so that she can get around more independently might talk about times she has figured out the meaning of a store sign or a traffic marker. An ESL student who wants to advocate for a long vacation in order to visit his homeland might not know the English to use, but might know a lot about the policies of that workplace and who to talk to. In ESOL or literacy settings, the teacher might scribe what the students say.
  • Consider how you will use the information you have gathered to inform the curriculum. Where have students gotten stuck in past efforts to achieve a similar goal? What strengths are they bringing to the task?

Worksheet (Word file)

Using the Tool in Practice

Describing Your Experience (an ABE example)

Our class goal: To stick to our New Year's resolutions about living healthier lives.

Related Standards: Plan, Advocate and Influence

What do you already know that can help you with this goal?

I know the way I want to be healthier (stop smoking).

I know it's hard to stick to your resolutions alone. Doing it together will be better .

Have you every done something like this before? What happened?

I tried to stop smoking before, but I couldn't because other people in my house smoke.

I made a resolution last year about spending less money and I did pretty well until I had to take my kids to the dentist.

When have you used this skill before?

I make lots of plans, but it gets too hard to follow them. I plan best when it has to do with my kids. I planned a carpool schedule to get them to school, I plan their school lunches ahead of time, and I plan their appointments. It's harder to plan for myself.

Describing Your Experience (an ESOL example)

Our class goal : To have an interview in English.

Related Standards: Listen Actively, Speak so Others Can Understand

What do you already know that can help you with this goal?

I had interview in my country.

I good worker - many experience before.

Have you ever done something like this before? What happened?

Have interview one time in fish factory. My friend help me. Say I am good worker. The boss say okay. Very easy. Now my friend not here.

When have you used these skills before?

I listen the people everywhere. I listen the bus, the store, the school.

I speak to my teacher.

Additional tools for gathering information about students' knowledge base

1. Strategies Interview Form

Create a list of questions based on the strategy-related components of the Standard you are working on. For example, if the Standard you are working on is "Convey Ideas in Writing" your questions might include:

  • What do you do before you start writing? What do you think about?
  • Do you always write the same way? Explain.
  • What do you do if you don't know the vocabulary word for what you want to say?
  • What do you do if you don't know how to spell the word you want to write?

This activity can be done individually or as a group but, if you do it as a group, try to get a sense of individual student responses. This will help you later to decide which students to group together and which ones may need additional one to one support. (See, also, other strategy-building ideas in the "Support" section.)

2. Student Questions

On an index card ask students to write three questions they have related to the topic/content area they are working on. For example, to prepare for a parent-teacher conference, you might ask students to write down three questions they would like to ask their child's teacher.

Reflect on what you can learn about their current knowledge base based on the kinds of questions they ask.

Note: You may want to keep the index card and ask students to write three new questions after they have completed the teaching/learning cycle. Have them reflect on how their questions have changed and what this says about what they have learned.

3. Knowledge Base "Quizzes"

Prepare a short "quiz " to assess students on their knowledge of the topic or vocabulary. Explain that since they haven't yet studied this there are no expectations that they know the answers. This is just a way to find out what they already know. Students can take the quiz individually or as a group.

4. Brainstorming

Ask students to list all the categories they can think of that are related to the topic/goal. For example, list all the kinds of things a parent and teacher might discuss during a parent teacher conference, all the things a voter needs to know in order to make an informed choice of candidates, or all the things an immigrant needs to consider when choosing a place to settle.

Used in Teaching/Learning Examples:

Preparing for Release

Not Just Any Job