board and produced an outstanding essay filled with personal connections

Board and produced an outstanding essay filled with

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board, and produced an outstanding essay filled with personal connections. However, when the teacher read aloud the book Hattie Big Sky(Larson, 2006), about a young woman’s experience in rural Montana trying to make it on a farm, Amal was often confused. She asked questions of her peers (often while the teacher was reading) and did not participate in whole-class discussions. Fortunately for Amal, her teacher understood the profound impact that background knowledge has on understanding and provided Amal with a number of resources to build her background knowledge, including YouTube videos about life on farms and rural America and an e-pal from Montana, whom Amal e-mailed almost daily. These scaffolds supported her background knowledge, ensuring that Amal could participate in online discussion boards and produce another outstanding essay, this time filled with quotes from her Montana e-pal.By starting with what students already know, teachers can be more precise in their teaching. They do not have to make guesses about areas of confusion or
24 Middle School Journal January 2012(Alvermann, Smith, & Readence, 1985), at least for the first few chapters of this short story.To illustrate the ways in which teachers develop and activate students’ background knowledge, we share examples from many content areas, including one example about the study of Roman civilization. As noted earlier, the first step is to identify the core background knowledge necessary to understand the content. For example, a social studies teacher who is preparing to engage students in reading a textbook chapter about Roman civilization should identify the major ideas and the number of details the reading contains. The teacher should also understand that a significant amount of this core background information comes from previous chapters in the social studies textbook. Accordingly, the teacher would not need to build most of this informational base but, instead, activate it by showing students how to make text-to-text connections. This would model the importance of using one’s existing knowledge to construct new understandings. If the analysis of the core background knowledge required for understanding the Roman civilization chapter instead revealed a need to develop significant background knowledge, the teacher would have to implement certain strategies, which might include wide reading, direct experiences, virtual experiences, anticipating misconceptions, and assessing background knowledge.Wide readingReading is an excellent, indirect way to build background knowledge. Through books, readers meet people they otherwise would never have met, visit places and times that they would not have otherwise been able to visit, and interact with ideas that shape their understanding of the world. Of course, we are not just talking about paper-and-ink books, but the vast array of new media texts available for students that can be read on a Kindle, Sony Reader, iTouch, iPhone, iPad, or laptop. As a way to develop a

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