Some students have had This article reflects the following This We Believe

Some students have had this article reflects the

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knowledge and experiences. Some students have had This article reflects the following This We Believecharacteristics:Meaningful Learning, Challenging Curriculum, Multiple Learning Approaches
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23gaps in understanding. In addition, quick assessments of background knowledge alert learners to their misunderstandings and may make the content a little more relevant. Attending to background knowledge is like getting inside students’ minds, which is a great place for middle level teachers to be. Amal’s teacher was providing instruction that made effective use of the appropriate knowledge the student had to support her new learning (Gatewood, 1973). Determining core background knowledgeThe first step in addressing background knowledge is to determine what core background knowledge (as opposed to incidental knowledge) students will need to understand the new information to be learned. Teachers can distinguish between core background knowledge and incidental knowledge by answering the following questions:1. Representation: Is the information foundational or essential to understanding the main concept (core), or is it merely interesting but peripheral (incidental)?2. Transmission: Does the information require multiple exposures and experiences (core), or can it be easily explained or defined using a label, fact, or detail (incidental)?3. Transferability: Will the information be required to understand future concepts (core), or is the information specific to one topic and not likely to be used in the near future (incidental)?4. Endurance: Will the information be remembered after the details are forgotten (core), or will it likely not be recalled in the future (incidental)?In other words, all background knowledge is not equally relevant. For example, when his teacher announced that his group’s book club would be reading The Circuit(Jimenez, 1999), one student shared an experience from a middle level science project on electrical circuits and went on and on about how they work. The story, however, was actually about a family of migrant farm workers. Yes, the student had extensive background knowledge, but it was not relevant to the content to be studied. More important, this student’s activation of irrelevant background knowledge might actually have interfered with his understanding experience with snow and winter storms; others have not. Some students have seen governments collapse; others have not. Some students have been taught multiplication facts; others have not. Some students have been to every museum in the community; others have not. Some students have access at home to new media texts, while others must depend on schools and libraries for Internet access.Continuous learning is about validating and extending one’s background knowledge. An individual's background knowledge develops through interaction with people, places, experiences, Internet sources, texts, and content formally taught. As Marshall (1996) reminds us, “Learning is controlled as much by experiences students bring to the learning situation as it is by the way the information is presented” (p. 81); and this is as true today as it was in the last century (Prensky, 2008). The example of Amal, a seventh grade immigrant student who had come from Afghanistan two years earlier, illustrates the importance and complex nature of background knowledge. When Amal’s seventh grade teacher read aloud The Breadwinner(Ellis, 2000), about a young woman’s life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, Amal had a great deal to contribute because she had immigrated from the very country highlighted in the book. She participated in whole-class and small-group conversations, wrote reactions on a Moodle discussion
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