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Using Prior Learning in BJU Press Materials

Activating prior learning can be one of the most valuable teaching strategies for introducing new concepts or new subjects. When you apply prior learning to new concepts, your students will always be approaching learning from a place of strength. Because they already understand a part of what they’re learning, they can be more confident that they will understand the new material as well. Additionally, activating prior learning is a great way to help your students become more familiar with concepts and build automaticity. To support you in using this valuable teaching strategy, we’ve incorporated ways to activate prior learning throughout our materials.


Most BJU Press student texts, especially math courses, begin with a review section that goes back over concepts the students will have learned the year before. Textbooks that introduce a new, specific discipline, such as biology or economics rather than a broader science or heritage studies course, begin by reviewing what students should already know about the discipline. Within the textbooks, students will also have regular review sections. These take the form of section reviews in science or heritage studies courses, or as review problems within math assignments. While the primary purposes for those reviews are to encourage familiarity with the content and to develop automaticity, they also keep the content fresh in the students’ minds so that they’ll remember it when they need it. In reading courses, Look Again sections help students to apply familiar literary terms or observations from a previous selection to a new selection.

Visual Cues

Sometimes, students will learn something at the beginning of the year and then reuse it in lessons for the rest of the year. They don’t need a paragraph explaining it every time they use it. For those concepts, we use visual cues in the form of icons or theme characters to let the students know when they’re working with a concept that’s already familiar. For example, the Shorts, and all the other phonics characters, help students to know when a familiar phonetic rule applies to an unfamiliar word. In Bible courses, teachers can also use the colorful Bible timeline as a reminder of the content they’ve covered.

Scaffolded Instruction

When a new concept expands on something students have already learned, we start by reviewing the familiar concept before building on it with additional information. This practice ensures students have the support they need to master the new material. In math courses, we use spiral reviews in regular assignments to keep the content fresh so students are ready to build on what they already know. In Bible courses, middle school and high school grades use the foundational Bible truths that we teach in elementary grades to solidify Bible understanding. When students reach the Biblical Worldview course, they draw on worldview shaping foundations from science, heritage studies, and math to continue discussions on ethical and political issues that are relevant to the Christian worldview.

Real-World Connections

In early learning courses, students often have very little prior learning to activate. At least, they have little school-related learning to activate. But real-world connections are a simple way to use what students already know to help them understand a lesson. In early learning teacher editions, especially for Focus on Fives and Footsteps for Fours, suggested questions that introduce the lessons will encourage students to think of something they have seen or experienced. In elementary science courses, teachers can assign Look Ahead activities to prepare their students for a new chapter. These activities help teachers establish what students already know about the topic before they start to teach it. In secondary science courses, section openers in the teacher edition also give teachers opportunities to make real-world connections as well as to review content they’ve previously covered.

Activating prior learning encourages students to be confident learners, but it also performs a valuable function for you as the teacher. It helps you see whether all the building blocks you need to teach a new concept are already in place. We incorporate this strategy in our materials to help you prepare lessons that meet your students’ needs so you can be more effective teachers.

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Category: Teaching