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What I think I know….What I know now!

This is so simple and ensures that you, the students (and any observer) are absolutely clear about prior knowledge (so you can adapt your lesson accordingly) and progress made....

…….. you will also have a starter and a plenary as a bonus!

I find it especially useful when starting a new topic. I can find out, in two minutes, exactly what the pupils know about this topic and thus what they don’t know! I have even done this with Sixth form classes – it works very well.

You can use this to show progress after one activity or at the end of the whole lesson………….. or both! Make sure it is done in their exercise/workbooks so that afterwards they will have a simple summary diagram of key words/ideas.

  • At the beginning of the lesson ask them to draw a spider diagram like this example....

Give them a minute or two (in silence) to add as many lines and facts/ideas/thoughts as possible. If some of them are totally blank give some clues that might help them to focus their thinking……………. Pupils often don’t know how to start thinking about something. Assure them that it really doesn’t matter if they are wrong……..

They might come up with anything………

  • ACTIVITY (see below)

The final step is to have another spider diagram with “what I know now” in the middle. The “attachments” will definitely be correct this time … and there should be LOADS of them.

How you develop the lesson/ activity to get to this second diagram is really your choice – I do it in different ways…depends on the class, the topic, the mood of the class etc.

Some options are:

  • Talk about what they thought they knew – as a whole class – this is usually a lively discussion which “busts some myths” – the second diagram can then be done after 15/20 minutes as a mini plenary.

  • Do your planned lesson after the discussion and then use the second diagram as your main plenary

  • Give them time to research after the first diagram – checking their own knowledge (independence) – limited time – then feedback to the whole class so that everyone can add all the extra information to the spider diagram.


  • Build in “RESILIENCE” - make a real point about “having a go” and “being prepared to be wrong” or “being brave”

  • Insist on silence for the first bit – you need to know what each pupil knows not the class as a whole (every child matters/differentiation)

  • I really like this activity as a “Myth Buster” – I tend to do it when I KNOW that many of them will have inaccurate knowledge about a topic. They THINK they know something but it is not correct.

  • It is really good for drawing out exceptional knowledge/ideas from pupils who lack confidence.

  • It is extremely useful when the specification requires you to revisit a topic that they have already studied (with someone else) lower down the school – you can quickly judge their prior knowledge levels.

  • The pupils who don’t like it are the ones who want everything VERY NEAT (they won’t write things down in case they have to cross them out later) … all sorts of ways of dealing with that issue– you know your pupils and the strategies that will work – working on paper? Doing it in back of book? Putting a ruled box round it and using colour to make it look neater……

  • There are so many ways of adapting this activity to suit you, your pupils, or the topic. Put your own mark on it!

  • You can have just one massive spider diagram – just add to it in a different colour (we use the Purple Pen of Progress)

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