Connect, Extend, Challenge Teaching Strategy | Facing History & Ourselves
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Teaching Strategy

Connect, Extend, Challenge

Deepen students' understanding of a topic by having them connect to their prior knowledge.


  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies




English — US
Also available in:
English — UK




Teaching Strategies

Use our student-centered teaching strategies to strengthen your students’ literacy skills, nurture critical thinking, and build a respectful and collaborative classroom community. These strategies can be paired with any academic content.

What Is the Connect, Extend, Challenge Protocol?

Use this strategy to help students connect new ideas and information to their prior knowledge about a particular topic. The protocol described here engages students in metacognitive reflection by asking them to identify ideas and pieces of information that are consistent with their prior understanding of a topic, those that cause them to revise their thinking, and those that are confusing. This process helps students both deepen their understanding of a topic and become more thoughtful and independent learners.

This strategy works best after students have already been introduced to an idea or topic and are receiving new information or perspectives that might challenge their initial understanding. 1

  • 1Connect, Extend, Challenge is adapted from a thinking routine developed by educators at Harvard University’s Project Zero.

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How to Use the Connect, Extend, Challenge Protocol

Choose a reading, video clip, or other resource about a topic that students already have some basic or working knowledge about. The topic could be one you have previously introduced in class, or it could be one with which students are generally familiar from beyond the classroom. Regardless, the source you select for this activity should provide new information or perspectives that have the potential to complicate students’ thinking about the topic.

Provide students with copies of the source for this activity, and then give them time to read or view the source. You might have students read the source multiple times, once together as a class and again independently. Then prompt students to go back to the source one more time and respond to the following three questions. You can also distribute the accompanying handout, Connect, Extend, Challenge Chart, and have students write their answers to the questions there.

Connect: How do the ideas and information in this reading connect to what you already know about ______________?

Extend: How does this reading extend or broaden your thinking about ______________?

Challenge: Does this reading challenge or complicate your understanding of ______________? What new questions does it raise for you?

After students have completed their responses, you might debrief the activity with paired or whole-group discussions to reinforce both students’ understanding of the content and their reflections on the learning process.

Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

The handouts below are used in this Teaching Strategy.

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