Building Background Knowledge

Focusing on SIOP Component #2

All learning needs a solid foundation from which to build upon.

Our Objectives:

Content Objectives:

  • I can identify the second component of sheltered instruction and its three features.
  • I can identify ways to build students’ background knowledge on a topic.

Language Objectives:

  • I can name and describe the three features of this component.
  • I can list 3 ways to build students’ background knowledge on a topic.

What is "Building Background Knowledge"?

  • "Effective teaching takes students from where they are and leads them to a higher level of understanding.” (Krashen, 1985)
  • ELLs, whether from a consistent or inconsistent educational background, have a world of experiences different from students growing up in American culture and American schools. It is important to bridge those gaps in their background knowledge.

Three Features of Building Background Knowledge

Feature 7: Concepts Explicitly Linked to Students’ Background Experiences

Feature 8: Links Explicitly Made between Past Learning and New Concepts

Feature 9: Key Vocabulary Emphasized

#7 - Concepts Explicitly Linked to Students’ Background Experiences

“Individuals with knowledge of a topic have better recall and are better able to elaborate on aspects of a topic than those who have limited knowledge of the topic.” (Vogt, 2005). P. 54

“Schemata are the reader’s concepts, beliefs, expectations, processes – virtually everything from past experiences – that are used in making sense of things and actions. In reading, schemata are used in making sense of text…” p. 54

For an Example...Huh????

Try to  make sense of the following paragraph.  Do you have the background knowledge needed to create meaning?

"If the known relation between the variables consists of a table of corresponding values, the graph consists of only the corresponding set of isolated points. If the variables are known to vary continuously, one often draws a curve to show the variation."

Basic College Math, M. Michaelson, 1945

Activating Prior Knowledge vs.
Building Background Knowledge

Activating Prior Knowledge - Activating a student’s prior knowledge is helpful because when new learning is connected to what they already know there is a better chance of them understanding it and storing that information in the permanent memory for later recall.

Building Background Knowledge - Essentially we experience life through our mind’s representation of reality via the working memory. Therefore, anything that creates representations in the working memory has potential to become background knowledge.  Some examples would include: reading, talking and listening to other's stories, educational television, etc. Virtual experiences can be as effective as direct experiences in developing background knowledge.  The more authentic and relevant an experience is, the greater the likelihood of the information being stored in the permanent memory.

# 8 - Links Explicitly Made Between Past Learning and New Concepts

Building a Conceptual Framework

The teacher must build a bridge from previous lessons and concepts to today’s lesson. Many students do not automatically make such connections, and all students benefit from having the teacher explicitly point out how past learning is related to the information at hand. (Tierney & Pearson, 1994)

In this video, did the father have a conceptual framework for using the iPad?

Feature 9: Key Vocabulary Emphasized

Vocabulary is introduced, written, repeated, and highlighted for students to see.

Under development for the spring semester.


1) Please read the  2 articles in the Edmodo folder, posted for the Margaret S. McWhirter Community.

2) After reading, choose one of the following questions for reflection and respond on Edmodo so we can learn from each other:

  • What are some things we do to build background knowledge?
  • What are some things we do to link past learning to new learning?

3) Go back to Eduphoria to complete the assessment for credit.