Accessing prior knowledge

Using an idea I found on Pinterest, I started new units today with a collaborative poster. Each table had a large sheet of butcher paper and each student in the group had a different colored marker.

In Spanish 3, we are preparing for a unit that compares biodiversity, deforestation, and habitat destruction in our community with similar issues in Panama. In order to acces prior knowledge, I asked them to create a poster that represented all of the words and phrases that they already knew about the world and nature…



After 10 minutes, they had exhausted all they knew so I asked them to use the first few pages of our book.

Then they had another 15 minutes to explore the text and come up with new things they could say about the rainforest and nature in general.

The text is easily accessible at level 3 with lots of cognates and visuals!




Now they’re all geared up to head into the rainforest tomorrow and our posters look great in the hallway! Hooray to Pinterest for another great idea!!

We did a similar activity in Spanish 4 as we activated last year’s knowledge of the Spanish Civil War before beginning our unit on imagery in art and film!

Author: senoracmt

I began teaching Spanish in Illinois in 1994. I have taught levels 1-4 in a small rural high school, 8th grade introductory Spanish, Biology 1, and 101 and 102 at the community college level. My Spanish classes are partnered with the community college to offer students 8 semester hours of dual credit on completion of Spanish 4. In 2011 I met Carol Gaab and Kristy Placido and have since co-authored the book "La hija del sastre" with Carol Gaab and authored the novels "La Calaca Alegre", "Bianca Nieves y los 7 toritos." "Vector," "48 horas" and "Bananas" through Fluency Matters. In 2006 I became National Board certified and I have been serving as a mentor both for candidates seeking certification in world languages other than English and a virtual mentor for candidates in all certificate areas. I completed my Masters degree in Spanish education in 2011 and did my research on the use of Understanding by Design to create meaningful cultural units for the language classroom. I am a frequent presenter on this topic, please consider me if you are interested in a workshop on backward design. In 2013 I was named the ICTFL Foreign Language teacher of the year and in 2014 I was selected as CSCTFL's teacher of the year. In November of 2014 I was lucky enough to be one of the five finalists for the ACTFL National Teacher of the Year in San Antonio, TX. What a "Cinderella" experience! You can reach me via email at senoracmt at

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