Saturday, August 18, 2012

SIOP Saturday 3: Building Background

It's Saturday again!  That means time for another installment of SIOP Saturdays!

We're up to the second component: building background.  Here's where we stand within the SIOP model:

Lesson Preparation
Building Background
Comprehensible Input
Lesson Delivery

Building background emphasizes the need to connect what students will be learning with what they already know, and filling in the gaps before teaching the lesson so that they will be successful.  This component contains the next 3 features:

7. Concepts explicitly linked to students' background experiences
As educators, we know that students come to school with previous background experiences and schemata that may be different from ours, especially if students come from a culture that is different than that of the teacher's or the general school culture.  Students' backgrounds influence the way they perceive information, and the way that they may process problems or generate solutions.  Thus, it is important for teachers to try to connect the concepts that they will be teaching to relevant background experiences that students have, or if there is no connection that can be made, teachers have to create the learning experiences to build the background knowledge for the students before teaching the new information.

It is important to note that there is a distinction between "activating prior knowledge" and "building background".  Prior knowledge is what students already possess, and thus activating it means that you are reminding students of what they already know.  When "building background" is mentioned, this refers to the need of teachers to front-load information that students will need to know before beginning the lesson in order to be successful.

8. Links explicitly made between past learning and new concepts
Teachers should explicitly build a bridge between what students have previously learned and connect it to what students are GOING to learn.  This way the teacher can explicitly explain how the concepts are related, and help the students make connections between what they know and what they are learning, which allows them to adapt new information into their schemata more easily.  This can be done by simply asking "Who remembers what we learned about _____?" or can be done by reviewing graphic organizers or classroom notes.  When possible, teachers should have and display the item/knowledge being referenced (i.e. show the graphic organizer from yesterday, or put yesterday's powerpoint up again, etc).

9. Key vocabulary emphasized (e.g. introduced, written, repeated, and highlighted for students to see)
This feature actually includes 3 types of academic vocabulary that students need explicitly emphasized:

CONTENT WORDS: the key vocabulary terms and concepts relating to a particular topic (for example, in geometry: circle, square, cube, sphere, vertex, side, face, etc, etc).

PROCESS/FUNCTION WORDS: the words that have to do with performing certain processes or tasks (for example, discuss, graph, classify, share with a partner) and language processes (for example, skim, argue, summarize, question, etc).

WORDS AND WORD PARTS THAT TEACH ENGLISH STRUCTURE: the words that allow students to learn new vocabulary, based on English morphology.  Also known as root words and their affixes.

*Journaling - students can write about their own personal experiences with a certain topic.
*Quick-writes - students can write what they learned, or what they still have questions about.
*"Tired" words - students can identify synonyms for words that are common and over-used to expand vocabulary.
*Word walls - choose words from each topic to highlight, discuss, and display for student use.
*Word sorts - students can organize words based on structure, meaning, or sound relationships.
*KWL chart - the old teacher stand-by. :)

What are some ways that you build background with your students before teaching a new topic?

Next Saturday's topic: Comprehensible Input

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