Building Background

By Fabian Meraz

1. If you were creating a SIOP lesson, how will you activate students’ prior knowledge and build background?

In the SIOP model, there are three features to building background. In the building background video, Vogt (n.d) states that these three components are using and connecting students’ background to the lesson, to explicitly link past learning to the current lesson, and to give a focus attention to key vocabulary. I believe the easiest way to refresh students memory is by asking, “do you remember that we learned…?… well today..”


I would also use the warm up activity as a way to activate students’ prior knowledge and build background. I would have a problem of something that we have learned in the past, yet relates to the topic we will cover today. By doing this I can make sure students use their prior knowledge during the lesson.


I believe that it is very important to know our students. Once we know our students, we will be better at proving for background knowledge. Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2008) state that “many English language learners emigrate from other countries and bring an array of experiences…” (p. 66). If we can make sure to think of ways to connect new information to our ELLs’ prior knowledge, we can help them make critical connections.

2. What connection to past learning can you make?

Like Vogt (n.d) states in the building background video , we should try to connect to any background. We should try to always connect to our students’ past learning. Sometimes students do not see the connection between a previous lesson and the current lesson, that is why we have to explicitly try to make that connection.


I am currently tutoring a student that moved here from Cuba one year ago. She was having difficulty understanding how her teacher performed division problems. This made keeping up with the lesson difficult for her. Before I showed her how the division algorithm is carried out here in the United States, I had her do it as she had done it in Cuba. Once she had done that, I did the same problem as her teacher would do it. The division algorithm they use in Cuba is very similar to the one we are used to. I showed her the connections, and how most of the steps are the same in both versions. She did not have trouble learning to divide in this new way because she related it to her past learning.

3. What are key vocabulary words and how will you teach them?

Key vocabulary words are words that will help students' understanding of content. We should focus on three vocabulary groups. According to Echevarria, Vogt, and Short (2008) these groups are Content vocabulary, General academic vocabulary, and word parts (p. 70). My favorite strategy for teaching new vocabulary is using the four corners vocabulary chart. This chart allows students to see a visual, the definition and gives them an opportunity to practice using the word.