Building Background

Teachers can build background connections for English Language Learners by making purposeful connections to prior learning, by teaching the most important vocabulary, and by trying to connect the content to something the student may have already experienced.

  • Explicitly link concepts to students’ background experience
  • Make clear links between students’ past learning and new concepts
  • Emphasize key vocabulary
  • Activities

    • Anticipation Guide – graphic organizer that is used prior to instruction to activate student’s prior knowledge of a topic. It provides explicit links to background knowledge and links prior learning to new learning. It can be a list of yes/no questions that students answer before the lesson and the answer again after it is taught to see if their learning has changed their answer. Another example, provide a list of words and pictures and students need to review the list and choose the ones that relate to the topic.
    • A Predict-O-Gram is a list of words that pertain to the lesson that is being taught. Students will take those words and sort them into categories based on similar traits. Similar to the yes/no questions you could also have an anticipation guide that has a list of questions with a multiple choice answer. The students answer the questions before the lesson and then answer the same questions after the lesson to see what they have learned.
    • Four Squares Vocabulary (Frayer’s Model) – paper folded into 4 parts: an illustration, a sentence, a definition, and the vocabulary word.
    • Guided Comprehension – students learn comprehension strategies in a variety of settings using multiple levels and types of text. It is a three-stage process focused on direct instruction, application, and reflection. Current studies demonstrate that when students experience explicit instruction of comprehension strategies, it improves their comprehension of new texts and topics (Hiebert et al., 1998).
    • KWE Charts – What I think I KNOW, what I WONDER, and after reading/learning what ELSE would I like to know
    • Making Predictions – students survey the text and predict what they think they will be learning.
    • Pre-Reading Activities – Walk through the text discussing the topics and photos before reading, or looking through a chapter backwards for the big picture view of the entire text.
    • Personal Dictionaries – Add new definitions before the lesson
    • Text to Self Connections – while reading, students share or record their personal connections.
    • Text to Text Connections – while reading, students are shown or individually make connections to previous texts.
    • Using Symbols – students use sticky notes with check marks, question marks, and plus signs to label a new text during the first reading. Check marks mean, ”I understand this part.” Question marks mean, “I need help with this part.” Plus signs mean, “This is something new I’ve learned.”
  • Vocabulary

    1. Pronounce the word (but only to differentiate the word from similar sounding words).
    2. Provide a definition (show, paraphrase, act out, create experience, realia).
    3. Use their first language to clarify. Every Langley school iPad has a great Microsoft Translation App.
    4. Create a Frayer model Vocabulary Square: this includes the word, definition, use in a sentence, synonyms/antonyms, examples/non-examples, pictures, personal connections/experience with the word or more. They must write it down.
    5. Add it to a Word Wall, word webs, or Anchor chart even in Secondary classes! Make sure to touch the word anytime it is said aloud in class.

    BONUS: Generate and record sentences (building from original context or familiar context)

  • Concepts (Can I teach these?)

    Here’s a great resource on Frontloading ELLs.

    Tell the student the word and move on if:

    • The word does not represent a new concept
    • Students need to understand for this activity but are not likely to need it again

    Teach the student the word if:

    • The word represents a new concept
    • The word crosses content areas or has multiple uses
    • The word is important for students outside of this activity

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