Building Background Knowledge

How to activate students' prior knowledge and build background

(Echevarria, Vogt and Short, 2008, p.65) point out that,“Schemata, knowledge of the world, provides a basis for understanding, learning and remembering facts and ideas found in texts”. The more connections made, the better the understanding and remembrance of a topic. There are three fantastic ways to build background knowledge through the SIOP model which are:

1. Connecting students’ experiences to a text

2. Prior knowledge from past learning

3. Introduce explicitly and teach the key vocabulary terms

1. “Connecting students’ experiences to a text is a very effective way to increase comprehension and achievement.” (Echevarria, Vogt, and Short, 2008, pg.65) One way that teachers can assist their students in making these connections is to use techniques in lessons which will help the students to begin developing a framework for their learning and understanding.

2. (Echevarria, Vogt and Short, 2008, p. 68) argue that, “Research clearly emphasizes that in order for learning to occur, new information must be integrated with what students have previously learned.” So, the best way for students to succeed at new material is to link it to what they have already learned. Some of the best ways to make the links between new concepts and old ones are as simple as discussions in which the teacher can ask questions such as, “Who remembers the three reasons….?” And so on.

3. Introducing and teaching the key vocabulary terms explicitly is also very important for a student when activating prior knowledge and building a background. “Vocabulary development, critical for English learners, is strongly related to academic achievement.” (Echevarria, Vogt and Short, 2008, p. 68)

Connection to past learning

A connection that I can make with my past learning would be my small amount of knowledge that I have about the RTI process from school and my time teaching in B&M. I have been able to apply this to my teaching in a new, virtual setting. It has been very helpful, when there is so much to learn about teaching online, to already have a grasp of RTI and how it should work.

Key Vocabulary Words

In the video, Lesson Preparation, Vogt (n.d) insists that the key academic vocabulary are to be explicitly taught to the students multiple times, and that we as teachers need to have a strong grasp of the words before teaching them. Key vocabulary words found in texts need to be taught to students, we cannot just expect them to know the meanings of the words, especially if they are English learners.