Priming as a Teaching Strategy: Definition & Examples

Instructor: Abigail Cook
Teachers usually know before they present a lesson how certain students will react. Some students, who need routine and predictability, are more successful when they are prepared for what's coming. Let's look at a strategy called priming and how it may be implemented in your classroom.


Brian is a fourth grade student in Ms. Marvel's class. He has been diagnosed with high-functioning Autism, and often needs additional academic supports to help him through certain activities. Brian enjoys learning about dinosaurs, cars, and reptiles. He is able to keep up with his peers in math, but has trouble with reading and writing.

Ms. Marvel understands that structure, routine, and predictability are important for Brian to succeed. He becomes anxious when the class schedule changes or when new material is being presented. For these reasons, Ms. Marvel has decided to build a teaching technique called priming into her lesson plans.

Priming involves introducing new material before the lesson occurs. It is a way to prepare students for an activity with which they usually have difficulty. This often happens the day or morning before the lesson and can be done with one student or as a class. Sometimes, teachers prime students right before their lesson, like when they show students pictures from a book they are about to read. Priming is an effective strategy for several different reasons:

  • It reduces anxiety for students who need predictability.
  • It often results in higher achievement in learning.
  • It can be done quickly and with little preparation.
  • It helps students transition from one activity to another.

Priming in the Classroom

Keep in mind, while priming is effective for students with Autism, it has also been proven to be effective for students with and without a variety of disabilities. Many teachers build priming into their lessons for the entire class.

Sometimes teachers do the priming, and other times a peer may be trained to prime another student in his or her class. It is up to you, as the teacher, to determine how the following examples may be applied in your classroom.

Examples of Priming

Let's look at some specific ways Ms. Marvel implements priming in her classroom.

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