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        Using Prior Knowledge from Personal Experiences - Understanding Duke Ellington

        Students use prior knowledge to compare their own experiences to those of Duke Ellington.

        Lesson Summary


        Students use prior knowledge to compare their own experiences to the experiences of Duke Ellington learning the piano when he was a boy.

        Why is this an important concept?

        What a learner already knows about a topic acts as a foundation upon which to build and store new knowledge. Learners comprehend new knowledge effectively when they can connect it to something they already know. Activating prior knowledge is a reading strategy that helps learners comprehend, adapt, and accommodate new information about a subject.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time


        Media Resources

        • Duke QuickTime Video


        The Lesson

        Part I: Learning Activity

        1. Before viewing the video segment, make a copy of the Duke Writing Prompt handout for each student. They will be used in the Assessment activity.

        2. Explain to students that they are going to listen to a biography about the great pianist, musician, and band leader, Duke Ellington. Brainstorm what they know about Duke Ellington.

        3. Purpose for viewing: explain to students that Duke was just like them in many ways. As they view the video, ask them to think about experiences they have had that are similar to Duke's experiences as a child.

        4. After viewing the video segment, discuss how Duke must have felt about practicing the piano when he was young. Then discuss why they think Duke did not want to practice playing the piano.

        5. In small groups, ask students to discuss experiences they have had that help them understand how Duke felt about practicing the piano. This idea could also be related to skills students have to practice at school that they may not want to do.

        For students who need additional guidance

        For students who need additional teacher support, you can share an experience that reminds you of Duke's experience and how you felt. If students need more examples, share an example of a skill or procedure they may have practiced at school and later became very good at. Then encourage students to share a few experiences with the class. Help students relate their feelings with those Duke must have had about practicing the piano.

        Part II: Assessment

        1. Using the Duke Writing Prompt handout, ask students to write a short description of how they think Duke felt about practicing the piano when he was young. Then, students describe an experience they have had that made them feel like Duke did.

        2. Allow time for students to share their writing in small groups.


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