How to Connect to Prior Knowledge and Experiences While Teaching

Years ago Dale Carnegie made famous an approach to communication that emphasized the power of making people feel valued. Carnegie’s insight led to various techniques for remembering and repeating people’s names, asking questions about their interests, and resolving conflict with empathy for others. I raise that perspective to back up what good teachers know instinctively: we must build bridges that help learners see what’s in it for them if we want them to engage in our teaching.

The bottom line is we want students applying what we teach, so we must build bridges to connect material to their lives. Click To Tweet

Connecting to Prior Knowledge and Experience

I grant that a gifted lecturer with immense knowledge of a subject and a talent for storytelling or sharing statistics can hold a large audience’s attention for a time. However, most of us don’t have the time and resources to achieve that level of public speaking and sustain it on a weekly basis. In either case, what can be more effective is to create for our students a reason to care about what we’re teaching so they invest themselves into the lesson without us resorting to magic tricks and sideshows to keep attention. The bottom line is we want students applying what we teach, so we must build bridges to connect material to their lives. This month’s video shares the technique of connecting to a learner’s prior experiences to help them get invested in a subject.

Resources and Links by Lee Ann Alexander

Teaching to Transform HeartsThis book makes the case for reviving the teaching ministry of the church. It challenges us to assess our current teaching methods and effectiveness. And it gives us a wealth of strategies for breathing new life into the classrooms of our churches. As we do so, we follow Jesus’ foundational call to “go therefore and make disciples . . . teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19–20, NKJV).

More Than Grasshoppers: Who are you? This age-old question haunts people of every walk of life as we seek to understand our identity and purpose. This book answers that question in a fresh, engaging approach. Theological topics such as being made in the image of God, navigating flesh and spirit tensions, and living out holiness in a healthy body image and in our social media are tackled in an easy-to-read, non-technical format.

This book will help you discover your identity as an Apostolic child of God. By seeing ourselves as Jesus sees us—loved by Him, made in His image, empowered by the Holy Ghost, and equipped with spiritual gifts—we can triumphantly live out the purpose He has for our lives.