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Leaves are a special organ adapted for absorbing and catching sunlight.

Phototropic cells contain special organelles called chloroplasts.

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Chloroplasts contain a special green pigment call chlorophyll.

Chlorophyll absorbs mostly green light.

Chlorophyll is the only pigment in chloroplasts that absorbs sunlight.

Plants and other phototrophs absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Plants never need oxygen.

Glucose is the only end product of photosynthesis.

Oxygen released from phototrophs comes from the oxygen originally found in carbon dioxide.

Exhibit 11.3 Sample Anticipation Guide



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A whole repertoire of activating techniques has been developed by practitio- ners and researchers in the reading and language fields and are well worth studying by teachers in all academic disciplines. They vary in terms of how much information is given to students and how much students are asked to generate themselves. Some take more time than others; some are verbal; some are visual; some require advance preparation of materials; others don’t. What they all have in common is that students actively seek to make connections to an upcoming topic prior to beginning the study of it. Thus all have the effect of getting students cognitively engaged and ready to receive.

To choose an activator that best matches a particular lesson or unit of study, consider the following:

p What is my purpose?

p What is most important for students to know about this content, skill, or strategy?

p What data do I already have about student understanding of this content and what level of student interest in this content do I anticipate?

p What additional data do I need?

p Which of the activators will best suit these needs?

For a repertoire of activating strategies, visit the www.RBTeach.com web- site and see our publication, Activators (Saphier & Haley, 1993), which gives detailed directions for implementing 24 techniques.

Pre-Assessing Students’ Knowledge

Although it is true that the extent to which students will learn new content is dependent on factors such as the skill of the teacher, the interest of the student, and the complexity of the content, the research literature sup- ports one compelling fact: what students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new informa- tion relative to the content. (Marzano, 2004, p. 1)

Ausubel (1968) writes, “The most important single factor influencing learning is what the learner already knows. Ascertain this, and teach him accordingly” (p. 36). Gathering this information matters. If adequate prior knowledge is absent, even a great lesson on new material will go for naught. If students



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know more than we thought, we can go faster. If they lack some necessary prior knowledge, then we need to alter the lesson plan and fill those gaps.

Pre-assessment and the data we collect as a result serve as the foundation for critical planning decisions. This includes how we might want to differentiate in- struction; what we will address with whole-group instruction; how we can form flexible small groups to match teaching and learning experiences to student lev- els of readiness or need with particular skills and objectives; and how to identify confusion, misconceptions and other problems that might cause students dif- ficulty with mastering an objective.

The activators we described earlier, have the purpose of getting students’ minds engaged with a new topic. In addition to creating a desire to know and a sense of competence in students, some activators can also serve as assessments of stu- dents’ prior knowledge if completed individually by students, thus getting us two for the price of one.

An Anticipation Guide is one example; a Sort Card activity is another. In a math Sort Card pre-assessment, every student is given a set of cards each con- taining a fraction. Students are asked to sort them into categories based on their value. That can tell us quickly how well (and which) students understand and can identify equivalent fractions. Here is another example: give students a set of cards containing science vocabulary words, definitions, or sentences missing key vocabulary words. Ask them to create triads of cards that go to- gether. This will give us a quick sense of what terminology is familiar and what needs to be explained or studied prior to introducing a new science topic.

The main purpose of a pre-assessment is to find out what students know and to ensure that students’ prior knowledge gives them the readiness they need for the upcoming instruction. Thus an important distinction between an activa- tor and a pre-assessment is that an activator can be done with large or small groups of students working together, whereas a pre-assessment must be done as an individual activity in order to gather data from every student and to use the data to guide instructional plans. This enables us to give all students the addi- tional instruction they need to prepare for the new learning. This is particularly important with background knowledge that is going to show up in a text and is assumed by the author to be available to readers. Lemov (2017) emphasizes this point. In Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement (2004), Marzano discusses six principles we can apply to building background knowl- edge and delineates thousands of academic vocabulary terms that are founda- tional to understanding concepts in 11 different content areas.



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There are many other direct ways besides activators to find out what students know. A brief quiz the day before a lesson, a scan of the previous night’s home- work, a 3-2-1 self-assessment of students’ degree of familiarity or confidence with terminology or processes relevant to a topic, a quick-write: all these might serve as a tool for pre-assessments.

Anticipating Confusions

There are three forms of anticipating confusions. One of them means finding out what the misconceptions are and addressing them directly. Otherwise, they will linger and distort students’ assimilation of instruction (Eaton, Anderson, & Smith, 1984). Strategically designed pre-assessments or activating activities can serve as terrific resources for uncovering misinformation students have internalized. The Photosynthesis Anticipation Guide (Exhibit 11.3) is a good example of that. Can you find the untrue statements that are based on miscon- ceptions?

Two other forms of anticipating confusions are predicting in advance the mate- rial that will be hard to learn and noticing or perceiving on the fly that students might not understand.

1. Misconceptions A cartoon shows a little boy standing on his head on a bathroom scale. His friend reads the weight and says, “Your head weighs 43 pounds—same as your feet.” As in the cartoon, students bring many misconceptions to instruction, misconceptions that can be resistant to change and interfere with instruction if they are not recognized and contradicted.

A series of investigations by science educators (Eaton, Anderson, & Smith, 1984; Eylon & Linn, 1988) revealed many misconceptions students have about how the world works: for example, “air is empty space”, “my eyes see by direct perception” (rather than receiving reflected light), and “we have summer when the earth is closer to the sun.” They bring these misconceptions to instruction, and unless we discover them, surface them, and explicitly contradict them, stu- dents hold onto them and reconcile them with the instructional information. The resulting maps they create in their heads may seem logically consistent, but they’re wrong and present serious obstacles to learning. This can happen even when the instruction is ostensibly clear as a bell—because of the failure to ac- count for the misconceptions students bring with them to the instruction. And though the research is best developed for science concepts, there is no reason to believe the same thing does not happen with concepts from any discipline. We must be aware that students do not come to class as blank slates.



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2. Predicting in Advance In a second form of anticipating confusion, teachers use what they know about their students and their content to anticipate confusion and probable points of misunderstanding because the material is difficult to understand or easy to misinterpret. The teacher anticipates, for example, that when explaining free fall in physics, students might think free fall refers only to an object falling toward earth, straight down from a height. Free fall, however, means any situation in which an object is moving only because of the force of gravity. That includes the motion of an object in orbit around a central body, like the moon around the earth. It is accurate to say the moon is in free fall around the earth or that space shuttles are in free fall around the moon when they are in stable orbit. Free fall in these situations means “falling around,” that is, with circular motion of objects in orbit in space.

By anticipating confusions, teachers become aware of places where students are likely to have difficulty understanding and can spend time clarifying the mate- rial before students become confused. Science curriculum supervisor Jaunine Fouché (2015) describes a protocol she uses that includes “predictive question- ing” and “strategic discourse” to effectively uncover and clarify students’ mis- conceptions. The protocol has four phases where students predict (the outcome of a potentially discrepant event), explain (their reasoning), observe (the actual phenomenon or data), and revise (by engaging in small-group discourse that leads to them revising their explanations based on new evidence).

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