SIOP Lesson: How to

Activate Prior Knowledge and Build Background

Building Background

EL Students have all kinds of different backgrounds and academic experiences. According to Echevarria, Vogt and Short (2013), it is important to remember this as part of the SIOP model, we have to build our lessons around student's prior knowledge and experiences. One way to do this is through the use of scaffolding. "...Scaffolding provides students with access to grade-level content concepts," (Echevarria,Vogt and Short (2013). This is simply the practice of building the lesson step by step, starting with knowing what the students' current knowledge base is and building from there. Anticipatory sets, early assessments, and perhaps a cloze reading passage may help the teacher discover students' present levels and allow for future planning around these results. In the video, Building Background, Vogt (n.d.) explains that there are 3 features in the SIOP model that address this. The first involves activating prior knowledge as part of building background. Vogt (n.d.) stresses that it doesn't matter if that prior knowledge is something that they learned as part of their cultures and backgrounds or if it is newly acquired information. The important thing, is making that light turn on...making the connection between the newly-learned and their past experiences is a sign of success.

Activating Prior Knowledge

With the great number of students coming from all different cultures, it's impossible to know exactly what each students' prior academic experiences have been. The teacher can help to activate prior knowledge as part of the building blocks of a new lesson, in order to help that student. Some subjects may be more difficult than others when it comes to accessing prior knowledge. For example, Echevarria, Vogt and Short (2013) mention that students may have just a general understanding when it comes to certain specifics within a discipline, however, they may have a general idea. This leaves the teacher with the responsibility to discover what exactly a student is lacking and what is stopping that student from making the connection. From here, the teacher can help determine what needs to be taught or re-taught. In Vogt's (n.d.) video, Lesson Preparation, teaching, re-teaching, assessing and reassessing are so important to making sure the connection was made. Teachers will continue to try to make the lessons meaningful and relevant by activating prior knowledge, but we cannot assume these connections are made immediately.

What connection to past learning can you make?

I would avoid giving students access to academic definitions for their challenging word lists and use words they can understand and are meaningful to them. According to Echevarria, Vogt and Short, (2013), we could do "digital Jumpstarts". These activities are meant for small groups of students who the teacher suspects may have difficulty with the upcoming lesson. These can be presented in video format geared to the students who the teacher feels will need to use prior knowledge and where making connections to their past is vital for understanding. The teacher can create the videos using the cultural references as represented by the make up of the EL students in her class.

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

These are the critical words the student needs to know in order to be successful in that course,. These words can be the key terms from the textbook or lesson. They could be words that are anticipated necessary for the student to comprehend passages from a standardized test. Also considered key words, is the "academic language, which includes the language for reading and writing," (Echevarria, Vogt and Short, (2013).The authors go on to describe this as including not just the "academic Vocabulary," but also the "roots and suffixes of words. In the video, we learned that key vocabulary will be taught and retaught until students reach a level of understanding. I like the idea of using games to teach key words and promote understanding. During our seminar, it was brought up that teachers can put their students into groups of 2-3. One student reads clues on the definitions of words from a list. The students then switch off and the other student is quizzed on a different set of words. In a short amount or time, students will learn twice as many words and will probably retain them better. Games are great at any level. I believe it should be reserved for reviewing purposes. Word lists should be introduced periodically. Students will discover the meanings of the words by giving them definitions or access to information that is relevant and understandable, not necessarily the Webster's Dictionary definition but one they can relate to.