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The Background Knowledge Webinar will begin at 2:00 PM Eastern Time.

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1 The Background Knowledge Webinar will begin at 2:00 PM Eastern Time.
Add your name and institution to customize your presentation. It is also helpful to include photos of students and teachers from your school or district. This personalizes the presentation. Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2009). Background Knowledge: The Missing Piece of the Comprehension Puzzle. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

2 Webinar Background Knowledge: The Missing Piece of the Comprehension Puzzle
Add your name and institution to customize your presentation. It is also helpful to include photos of students and teachers from your school or district. This personalizes the presentation. Fisher, D. & Frey, N. (2009). Background Knowledge: The Missing Piece of the Comprehension Puzzle. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

3 Background Knowledge Is Like a Teenager’s Closet…
Just because the backpack is in there, doesn’t mean he can find it! Many of us have had experiences with sending an adolescent to his or her room to retrieve an item, say a backpack. Now, you know they own a backpack—you paid for it yourself. But whether that teenager can locate it is another matter all together. The problem may be that the closet, which holds the backpack, is completely disorganized. On the other hand, the issue may not be organization, but rather knowing when it’s needed. Further, there may be an issue of motivation in that the teenager doesn’t yet care that he has his school stuff with him.

4 How People Learn Organized: Knowing where to find it
Conditionalized: Knowing when it is needed Transferable: Knowing how to apply it to new situations (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 2000) National Research Council. (2000). How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Committee on Developments in the Science of Learning, J. D. Bransford, A. L. Brown & R. Cocking (Eds.), Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. Have you found yourself reminding that adolescent every school day that he needs to get his backpack before leaving the house? He knows where it is, but for some reason isn’t conditionalized to when he will need it. It’s also possible that he shows the same tendencies at school—he leaves his belongings behind in classrooms and rarely arrives at a new activity with the tools he needs to complete the task. In this case, he’s not transferring from one situation to the next, especially when they are new activities. The inability to use one or more of these factors—knowing where to find it, knowing when you need it, knowing how to use it in a new situation, or wanting to have it available—interferes with performance. In other words, possession alone isn’t enough. People don’t learn something by merely memorizing—true learning occurs when a person is able to access information, understand when it is useful (and when it is not), and apply it to new situations.

5 3 Practices Linked to Background Knowledge
Assess what students already know Plan lessons and activities that build background knowledge Design ways to activate students’ knowledge by having them interact with content We need to go far beyond reading textbooks, to have students manipulate and apply information, wrestling with it enough that they come to own it, so that it becomes permanent understandings. Along the way, we hope that students engage in critical and creative thinking and gain new types of literacy skills, including those of the 21st century.

6 Assessing Your Practice
Ask participants to assess their own practice once again. In what ways has there been growth in your background knowledge? What are your next steps?

7 Assessing Background Knowledge

8 Assessing Your Practice
Use the rubric to determine your goals for addressing misconceptions and assessing background knowledge. Ask participants to assess their own practice as it applies to background knowledge. This needs assessment will serve both as an advance organizer for future professional development, as well as a tool for you to analyze to determine needs and strengths.

9 Comparing Incidental and Core Knowledge
Foundational to understanding main concepts Representation Interesting, but incidental Requires multiple exposures and experiences Transmission Can be explained or defined easily (label, fact, or name) Needed again to understand future concepts Transferability Specific to this concept; unlikely to be used later Will be remembered after details are forgotten Enduring Not likely to be recalled later Explain that it is helpful to have a decision-making model to determine what is core and what is incidental. It is especially useful for departments to hold discussions about core and incidental knowledge. The method we use to determine what is core knowledge, and what is incidental knowledge, is based on four criteria: 1. Representation: Is it essential? 2. Transmission: Can it be easily explained, or must it be taught? 3. Transferability: Will it be used for future understanding? 4. Endurance: What will be remembered after the details are forgotten?

10 The Cask of Amontillado (Poe)
Core Incidental Knowledge of the era regarding the importance of maintaining reputations. Importance of revenge to resolve grievances. Role of family reputation through generations. Symbolism of the Montressor coat of arms. The unreliable narrator as a literary device. Impunity: getting away with something with no punishment. Carnival celebrations. Amontillado is a kind of wine. Wine cellars and catacombs are underground. Freemasons are a secret society. This is an example of core and incidental knowledge needed for Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Cask of the Amontillado.” Remind participants that we’re talking about background knowledge (what you need to know in order to profit from future instruction.) Too often, the items featured on anticipation guides focus on incidental knowledge, not core knowledge.

11 Core Concept in Middle School Plane Geometry
Provide paper and scissors for participants to try as you explain that in order for students to understand how supplementary and complementary angles work in geometry, they must first understand that the sum of the interior angles is 180 degrees, which is also the measure of a straight line. However, many students try to memorize this, rather than understand it. Invite participants to first cut a triangle (right, equilateral, or isosceles) and then to snip the three angles off. Now line those three clipped angles up so that they form a straight line. If you label one angle as 50 degrees, and another angle as 60 degrees, then the final angle equals 70 degrees ( =180).

12 Cloze Assessments Originally developed for readability
Now used to assess content knowledge Teacher-made 250-word passage Every fifth word deleted Scoring Independent level: 60% correct or above Instructional level: 40-59% correct Frustration level: 39% or below The MSI is useful in an English class because it is reflective of the content taught. That being said, there isn’t a similar instrument for every discipline. This doesn’t mean that content knowledge can’t be assessed in other ways. One of the most useful and easily analyzed assessments for determining background knowledge is the cloze procedure. Originally developed as a measure of determining readability of text (Taylor, 1953), the procedure was soon being used to determine levels of comprehension (e.g., Shanahan, Kamil & Tobin, 1982). A cloze procedure, so-named because of the closure effect prompted by the task, consists of a teacher-selected passage of 250 words. Every fifth word is deleted, and the first and last sentences are preserved in their entirety so that the reader can draw on context. This means that a variety of words end up being deleted—articles like a and the as well as content vocabulary. Students read the passage and fill in the missing words. Scoring is straightforward as well, with most sources recommending that a word be marked as correct only if it is an exact match. This may seem counterintuitive, but it really does make scoring easier and consistent across students. The scale reflects the variation in word selection that will occur: キ Independent level: 60% correct or above キ Instructional level: 40-59% correct キ Frustration level: 39% or below

13 Interest Survey in Biology
This survey was based on the reported findings of the international Relevance of Science Education (ROSE) survey conducted with over 1200 European adolescents (Elster, 2007). The findings confirmed many observations she had made on her own through her years of teaching—namely, that the girls in the study showed a higher interest in life sciences topics related to health (especially cancer, AIDS/HIV, and bulimia), while boys as a group were more interested in physical and technological science topics (especially atomic bombs and explosive chemicals) and had less interest in the life sciences overall (Elster, 2007). Ask participants about the kinds of topics their students find to be of interest in their courses. How do they capitalize on these interests?

14 Opinionnaire in History
Anticipation guides work well in content areas like science, history, and mathematics, but are a bit more difficult to use in English and the humanities. That’s because misconceptions, per se, are less clear in these disciplines. Rather, students are drawing on their personal experiences to formulate opinions. These are often informed by belief systems, cultural traditions, and values. For that reason, labeling such beliefs as “misconceptions” would be inaccurate. However, it is helpful to learn about the opinions of students in order to craft new learning. An opinionnaire, an instrument used widely in social sciences research, is useful for locating the perspectives of students on topics that don’t have a “right” answer (Smagorinsky, McCann & Kern, 1987). Like anticipation guides, they consist of 5-10 statements. In contrast, they feature a Likert-type scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. We do not include a “neutral” response since this is not consistent with the intent of this assessment (Fisher, Brozo, Frey & Ivey, 2007).

15 Activating What Students Know

16 Assessing Your Practice
Use the rubric to determine your goals for building Background knowledge in your classroom. Ask participants to discuss how they encourage transfer in their classrooms. Many will offer suggestions such as group projects, research papers, and labs. Remind them that one overlooked practice is in coordinating with teachers in other disciplines to build knowledge across content.

17 The Role of Establishing Purpose
Establishing purpose is key to activating background knowledge Include: Content: “We’ll be learning about how fear outweighed justice when Japanese-Americans were sent to internment camps in World War II.” Language: “What words would be seen and heard that would make people more fearful?” Social: “You’ll be working in small groups to analyze newspaper headlines from the weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor.” Activating background knowledge should occur throughout our teaching. Remind participants that we can activate background knowledge by asking students to think about what they already know, letting them know what they will be learning about, and alerting them about how they will apply this new information.

18 Text Impressions Make a list of key words from a passage students will be reading Ask them to write their own passage using the terms in order Great way to assess background knowledge, and activates students’ Text impressions are a variation of a diagnostic reading assessment called story impressions (McGinley & Denner, 1987). The teacher extracts a list of words from a passage the students will be reading and invites them to write using their own passage using the terms. This is an excellent way to assess background knowledge in advance of a reading and activates the background knowledge students already possess. This is a useful approach for content-area teachers. For instance, develop a text impression using a summary paragraph at the end of a chapter in the textbook that students will be studying to find out what they know.

19 Quickwrites Brief written response to a question
Should be a thought-provoking question Gives students a psychologically safe environment to speculate Avoid questions that are too simplistic Extend these quickwrite questions by inviting students to engage in structured partner discussions One of easiest ways for teachers to activate the background knowledge that students have is through quick writes. Writers can’t help but think while they write. By crafting a thought-provoking question and then asking them to write a brief (1-5 minute) response, students begin to notice what they know about a topic, as well as what they don’t know. Quick writes, when implemented properly, also allow for a psychologically safe environment that allows a student with space to explore what they believe they know about a topic.

20 Sentence Frames Feature academic language in a cloze format to promote
background knowledge Cause/effect: Because _____ occurred, the results included _____. Compare/contrast: _____ and _____ share several characteristics, including ______. Sometimes students have a lot of information in their minds, but don’t know how to organize that information. Simply providing them with a sentence or paragraph frame can unlock the information students have in their heads. When students are provided this type of structure, the content follows. Think of it as a scaffold. The frames reduce some of the cognitive demand of the task while also provoking background knowledge. Dutro (2005) noted that writing frames are especially effective with English language learners who often get tripped up with grammar and vocabulary despite the fact that they understand the information.

21 Paragraph Frames There is a lot of discussion about whether ______. The people who agree with this idea, such as _____, claim that ____. They also argue that _____. A further point they make is _____. However, there are also strong arguments against this point. _____ believes that _____. Another counterargument is _____. Furthermore, _____. After looking at the different points of view and the evidence for them, I think ____ because _____. David Wray, University of Warwick

22 Building Background Knowledge

23 Assessing Your Practice
Use the rubric to determine your goals for building background knowledge in your classroom.

24 Building Background with Think-alouds
Teacher modeling of comprehension skills is effective with adolescents (Alfassi, 2004) Provides students with insights into the ways that an expert makes cognitive decisions An opportunity to profile discipline-specific expertise

25 Virtual Frog Dissection Lab
A biology teacher can model his or her thinking while performing a virtual frog dissection lab through specialized software. The teacher explains what he is looking for, how he makes decisions, and when he knows he has made an error.

26 Thinking Aloud with a Calculator
A math teacher can think aloud while operating an online scientific calculator. She explains how she sets up the problem and checks her answer.

27 Other Examples Annotating a piece of text in English
Interpreting a piece of sheet music in band class Reading and interpreting an editorial cartoon in history Others? Think-alouds can be used across disciplines to show students how information is understood and interpreted.

28 Other Methods for Building Background Knowledge
Wide reading Graphic organizers to strengthen schema Guest speakers Field trips and experiential learning

29 Background Knowledge in a Classroom

30 Activating and Building Background Knowledge in One Classroom
8th grade social studies Core knowledge for the course is on growth and conflict Major theme for the course: This period of U.S. history was marked with successes and failures brought about by the decisions of leaders and citizens.

31 Assessing Background Knowledge: Opinionnaire
What’s your opinion? SA A D SD A patriot is heroic. Sometimes the only thing left to do is fight for what you believe in. The American Revolutionary War could have been avoided if both sides had compromised on taxes. All the colonists were in support of the war. The teacher wanted to get a “general read” on the entire class--find out about their impressions of this time period in general--so she administered a short opinionnaire that contains four statements. She assured them that there were no “right” answers. The code in the columns is as follows: SA=Strongly Agree; A=Agree; D=Disagree; SD=Strongly Disagree.

32 Assessing Background Knowledge: Cloze Passage
She also wanted to learn about their content knowledge and selected a pivotal paragraph from their textbook to use as a cloze assessment. She chose this passage because it contained previously learned information that they would need to leverage as background knowledge, as well as new content. Ask participants to take this assessment. Here are the correct answers: 1. Rebels who 2. Britain of 3. stay that 4. did against 5. and Britain 6. Rebellion and 7. the with 8. officeholders 9. positions the Adapted from: Appleby, J., Brinkley, A., Broussard, A. S., McPherson, J. M., & Ritchie, D. A. (2003). The American republic to New York: Glencoe McGraw-Hill (p. 145). Used with permission.

33 Activating Background Knowledge: Role Play
“Loyalists” and “Patriots” use a list of reasons offered by each to produce a broadside (newspaper) Posted the broadsides in the hallway Read and debated The teacher planned a lesson wherein she placed students in groups of five and assigned them the role of either Loyalist or Patriot. Since she knew that the students did not possess much specific background knowledge about these groups, she gave them a list of reasons why the Loyalists and Patriots aligned themselves to their positions. Students were given the task of reading and discussing the position statements, then creating a broadside on poster paper to hand up in the “town square”—the school hallway. Students discussed why Loyalists and Patriots might see war with Britain might as a good or bad idea and then listed these reasons for others to see. For example, one Loyalist group’s broadside said that, “We are the business owners of the town. If we can’t trade with Britain and other countries, we won’t have anything to sell you.” A group of Patriots prepared a broadside that read, “When we were a poor colony, Britain left us alone. They just ignored us. Now that we are getting more rich, Britain is interested all of a sudden. They just want to put their hands in our pockets.” The broadsides were posted in the hallway, and all the groups read each one.

34 Building Background Knowledge: Think-aloud
She reads, “The colonists objected to paying King George’s taxes without having a voice in Parliament. They called it taxation without representation. And while the tax on tea was a small one, just three cents a pound, it was regarded as a symbol of British tyranny” (p. 2). She says, “I’ve heard about Parliament before. That’s the name of the group of representatives in Britain that made laws. I learned about Parliament when I read about England taking over the colonies from the Dutch one hundred years earlier. I recall now that Parliament also came up with the plan to ship prisoners from English jails to the colonies. Hmmm…it seems like Parliament didn’t always have the colonies’ best interests in mind when they made decisions.” Ms. Oxford begins class with a think-aloud reading of Give Me Liberty! The Story of the Declaration of Independence (Freedman, 2000). It’s a dynamic text that will further her students’ understanding quickly, and she can model for students the way she uses her own background knowledge to solve for comprehension and vocabulary. [MN: Modeling] She projects the book on the document camera and opens to the first page. “Follow along with your eyes and your mind while I read. I’ll stop from time to time to tell you what I’m thinking about,” she tells them. She reads to them from the first chapter, entitled “The Night the Revolution Began” and looks at the picture on the left page. “I read the title, and my eyes immediately popped over to this painting,” she explains. “The caption says that it’s about the destruction of tea at Boston Harbor, and I can’t help but notice that there are a lot of cheering people on the dock. The people on board the ship look like Native Americans, but I know they’re not. I am using my background knowledge to remind myself that they were really Patriots disguised as Mohawk Indians.” [MN: Models use of background knowledge]

35 Building Background Knowledge: Independent Reading
Teacher provides a range of reading materials Differentiated texts reflect the range of readers in the room Wide reading is effective for building background knowledge IF the text isn’t too difficult The readings she has selected for this unit are meant to build background knowledge among students who have gaps in their understanding and to reinforce what they have been learning during this unit.

36 Building Background Knowledge: Guided Instruction
While other students read these selected readings, the teacher meets with small groups of students to read and discuss a passage from the textbook on the Intolerable Acts. From past experience, she knows that students often struggle with the terminology and so she has developed a graphic organizer for them to use. As the students read and discuss the passage, she reminds them to use the graphic organizer to not only name the acts, but also to consider why the colonists would be so angry about each new law.

37 Questions for Analyzing Your Unit
Have I determined core versus incidental background knowledge for this topic? Have I assessed students such that I can recognize common misconceptions? Have I established a purpose that makes learning relevant for students? Am I regularly activating background knowledge? Have I modeled and demonstrated my own understanding before requiring students to complete learning tasks? Have I focused on background knowledge that moves beyond facts and isolated skills? Have I provided students with wide-reading opportunities to facilitate background knowledge gains? Have I planned live and virtual experiences to build background knowledge?

38 Assessing Your Practice
Ask participants to assess their own practice once again. In what ways has there been growth in your background knowledge? What are your next steps?

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