Senior 2 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation

Implementation Overview: Senior 2
Planning, Teaching, and Learning with Learning Outcomes - Part 5

Phases of Learning

When preparing instructional plans and goals, many teachers find it helpful to consider three learning phases:

  • activating (preparing for learning)
  • acquiring (integrating and processing learning)
  • applying (consolidating learning)

These phases are not entirely linear, but are a useful way of thinking and planning. A variety of activating, acquiring, and applying strategies are discussed in Success for All Learners: A Handbook on Differentiating Instruction (Manitoba Education and Training and Training, 1996).

Activating (Preparing for Learning)

One of the strongest indications of how well students comprehend new information is their prior knowledge of the subject. Some educators observe that more student learning occurs during this phase than at any other time. In planning instruction and assessment, teachers develop activities and select strategies for activating their students’ prior knowledge. These activities provide information about the extent of students’ prior knowledge of the topic to be studied, their knowledge of and familiarity with the forms or genres of the texts to be used, and their knowledge of and proficiency in applying skills and strategies for learning, using these forms or genres.

Prior knowledge activities

  • help students relate new information, skills, and strategies to what they already know and can do (e.g., if a text includes unfamiliar vocabulary, students may not recognize the connection between what they know and the new material being presented)
  • allow teachers to correct misconceptions that might otherwise persist and make learning difficult for students
  • allow teachers to augment and strengthen students’ knowledge base in cases where students do not possess adequate prior knowledge and experience to engage with new information and ideas
  • help students recognize gaps in their knowledge
  • stimulate curiosity, and initiate the inquiry process that will direct learning

The suggestions for instruction and assessment in the four-column section of this document contain numerous strategies for activating prior knowledge, such as Gallery Walks, brainstorming, concept maps, and PreReading Plans (PreP).

Acquiring (Integrating and Processing Learning)

In the second phase of learning, students engage with new information and integrate it with what they already know, adding to and revising their previous knowledge. Part of the teacher’s role in this phase is to present this new information, or to help students access it from other human resources or from oral, print, and other media texts.

Since learning is an internal process, however, facilitating learning requires more of teachers than simply presenting information. In the acquiring phase, teachers instruct students in strategies that help them make meaning of information, integrate it with what they already know, and express their new understanding. These include strategies for active listening, reading, and viewing, for exploring ideas, and for representing emerging understanding orally, visually, and in writing. In addition, teachers monitor these processes to ensure that learning is taking place, using a variety of instruments, tools, and strategies such as observations, conferences, and examination of student work.

In practice, within an actual lesson or unit, the acquiring phase of learning may include a series of steps and strategies, such as

  • setting the purpose (e.g., lesson overviews, learning logs, admit slips)
  • presenting information (e.g., guest speakers, mini-lessons, active reading, viewing, and listening)
  • processing information (e.g., note making, group discussions, journals, visual representations)
  • modelling (e.g., role-playing, think-alouds, demonstrations)
  • checking for understanding (e.g., Think-Pair-Share activities, quizzes, informal conferences)
  • practising (e.g., guided practice, rehearsals)
  • (The above examples of instructional strategies are elaborated in the four-column section of this document.)

Applying (Consolidating Learning)

New learning that is not reinforced is soon forgotten. The products and performances by which students demonstrate new learning are not simply required for assessment; they have an essential instructional purpose in providing students with opportunities to demonstrate and consolidate their new knowledge, skills and strategies, and attitudes. Students also need opportunities to reflect on what they have learned and to consider how new learning applies to new situations. By restructuring information, expressing new ideas in another form, or integrating what they have learned in language arts with concepts from other subject areas, students strengthen and extend learning.

To ensure that students consolidate new learning, teachers plan various activities involving

  • reflection (e.g., learning logs, exit slips)
  • closure (e.g., sharing of products, debriefing on processes)
  • application (e.g., performances, publications, new inquiry cycles)

Fourth Week

As Leslie moves into an elaboration of her unit overview, she organizes lesson plans around three learning phases: activating (preparing for learning), acquiring (integrating and processing learning), and applying (consolidating learning). Her first lesson plan looks like this:

Activate, Acquire, and Apply: Lesson Plan
Learning Outcomes
to be Assessed
Instructional Strategies Assessment Tools and Methods Learning Materials and Resources

3.2.2 Identify Sources

  • Think-Pair-Share: Students work in pairs to list three library systems and describe how they go about locating information in each (3.2.4)*

  • Teacher augments information
  • Each group shares one library system with the class


3.2.2 Identify Sources

3.2.4 Access Information

  • Information scavenging (3.2.4)*
  • Students report to the class on information found through each system regarding news maker


3.2.2 Identify Sources

  • Groups create a poster about assigned information system
  • Students report to the class on information found through each system regarding news maker

  • Gallery Walk
  • Form for identifying, locating, and evaluating sources (3.2.2)*

* This strategy is found with this specified learning outcome in the four-column section of this document.

Although the work students do will involve many other learning outcomes, Leslie will focus her assessment on the targeted learning outcomes. As students move into the "News Makers" unit, Leslie draws up a summary assessment sheet listing targeted learning outcomes across the top, and student names along the side. Noting students who are "below level," "at level," and "above level" in attaining each of these learning outcomes will help her in future planning. (This summary assessment sheet is discussed in learning outcome 1.2.1.)

An example of an Assessment Summary Sheet can be found on p. Planning-19 of Senior 2 English Language Arts: A Foundation for Implementation (1998).

Purposes of Ongoing Assessment

Ongoing assessment helps teachers decide

  • Whether students have mastered certain learning outcomes
  • Whether they are making progress in attaining other learning outcomes
  • Which learning outcomes need to be the focus of further instruction and assessment
  • Whether instructional resources, activities, and strategies need to be modified
  • What tools would be most appropriate for assessment
  • Whether individual students need alternative learning experiences or further support


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