Building Background Knowledge Essay

BUILDING BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE CHAPTER 4: Characteristics of Effective Direct Vocabulary Instruction Characteristic 1: Effective vocabulary instruction does not rely on definitions. Definitions are conventions we use to talk about words. Students’ ability to construct a definition was related more to their familiarity with the structure of definitions than it was to their comprehension ability. Recommendation: Words’ meanings be presented to students in everyday language. Characteristic 2: Students must represent their knowledge of words in linguistic and nonlinguistic ways.

The (DCT) dual coding theory explains that for information to be anchored in permanent memory, it must have linguistic (language-based) and nonlinguistic (imagery-based) representations. Recommendation: Teachers should highlight nonlinguistic techniques. Students should be asked to represent words they are learning using graphic representations, pictures, and pictographs. Characteristic 3: Effective vocabulary instruction involves the gradual shaping of word meaning through multiple exposures.

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Vocabulary knowledge also appears to deepen over time. Students are quite capable to obtaining an idea of a word’s meaning with minimal (e. g. , one) exposure to a word. This is called “fast mapping. ” To understand the word at deeper levels, however, students require repeated and varied exposure to words, during which they revise their initial understandings. Such exposure is referred to as “extended mapping. ” Without experiences that allow for extended mapping, word knowledge remains superficial but useful.

Recommendation: Teachers should vary the type of interactions students have with vocabulary terms. One technique is to use both linguistic and nonlinguistic representations. Some activities should involve writing; some should involve constructing graphic representations, others should involve drawing pictures. A second way to vary how students interact with vocabulary words is to use the various forms of identifying similarities and differences. Four types of instructional activities that require students to identify imilarities and differences: comparing, classifying, creating metaphors, and creating analogies. Comparing = the process of identifying similarities and differences among or between things or ideas. Technically, comparing refers to identifying similarities, and contrasting refers to identifying differences. Classifying = the process of grouping things that are alike into categories based on their characteristics. Creating metaphors = the process of identifying a general or basic pattern that connects information that is not related at a surface or literal level.

Creating analogies = the process of identifying the relationship between two sets of items—in other words, identifying relationships between relationships. Characteristic 4: Teaching word parts enhances students’ understanding of terms. Teaching of roots and affixes has traditionally been a part of regular vocabulary instruction. Teaching older readers about roots & suffixes of morphologically complex words may be a worthwhile challenge, teaching beginning or less skilled readers about them may be a mistake. Affixes include prefixes and suffixes.

Prefixes commonly augment the meaning of the words to which they are attached. Suffixes commonly change the part of speech of the words to which they are attached. Recommendation: A sequence of six lessons. In the first lesson, the teacher explicitly defines and teaches the concept of a prefix by presenting examples and nonexamples. The goal of this first lesson is for students to understand the difference between genuine prefixed words like unkind and refill as opposed to “tricksters” like uncle and reason.

In the second lesson, the teacher explains and exemplifies the negative meaning of the prefixes un- and dis-. The third lesson addresses the negative meanings of in-, im-, ir-, and non-. In the fourth lesson, the teacher explains and exemplifies the two meanings of re (“again” and “back”). The fifth lesson addresses the less common meaning of un- and dis- (“do the opposite”) and the less common meanings of in- and im- (“in or into”). Finally, in the sixth lesson the teacher explains and exemplifies the meanings of en-, em-, over-, and mis-.

In the first lesson on suffixes, the teacher explains and exemplifies the concept of a suffix using examples and nonexamples. The next two lessons present suffixed words that show no spelling change from the base words: blows, boxes, talking, faster, lasted, sweetly, comical, rainy. Next, the teacher presents one or more lessons illustrating each of the three major kinds of spelling changes that occur with suffixes: (1) consonant blending (thinner, swimming, begged, funny); (2) y to I (worried, flies, busily, reliable, loneliness); and (3)deleted silent e (baking, saved, rider, believable, refusal, breezy).

Finally, a number of lessons provide examples of three inflectional endings (-sl-es, -ed,-ing), and the following derivational suffixes: -ly, -er, -ion, -able, -al, -y, -ness. Characteristic 5: Different types of words require different types of instruction. Four categories: object terms, action terms, event terms, and state terms. Recommendation: Teachers can use the Categories and Semantic Features of Words Figure 4. 8 to help them determine which characteristics they might emphasize in an initial description of the word presented to students.

Characteristic 6: Students should discuss the terms they are learning. Discussion helps students encode information in their own words, helps them view things from different perspectives, and allows for self-expression. Characteristic 7: Students should play with words. Games. Games have at least three distinguishing characteristics. First, they present manageable challenges for students. Games provide tasks that “challenge the individual’s present capacity, yet permit some control over the level of challenge faced”.

Second, games arouse curiosity by “providing sufficient complexity so that outcomes are not always certain. ” Finally, games involve some degree of fantasy arousal. Characteristic 8: Instruction should focus on terms that have a high probability of enhancing academic success. CHAPTER 2 SUMMARY Six research-based principles underlie many of the recommendations made in this book. The six principles suggest an approach for enhancing student background knowledge even without enhanced direct experience.

This is not to say that direct experiences such as field trips and mentoring relationships should be avoided. Indeed, the more of them the better. However, schools are limited in their ability to make such offerings. They can, however, offer a comprehensive set of indirect approaches. Such approaches would have the following characteristics: *They would have the goal of installing background knowledge in permanent memory. *To facilitate the storage of information in permanent memory, they would ensure that students have multiple exposures to the target information. They would focus on the development of surface-level but accurate knowledge across a broad spectrum of subject areas. *The instructional techniques they use would focus on the linguistic and nonlinguistic aspects of background knowledge. *They would focus on developing labels for packets of experiential knowledge in the tradition of direct vocabulary instruction. *They would rely on the generation of virtual experiences in working memory through wide reading, language interaction, and educational visual media. CHAPTER 3 SUMMARY

A five-step approach to using sustained silent reading to enhance academic background knowledge. The approach incorporates the eight principles of an effective SSR program. Although individual students might select fairly narrow topics for SSR, the breadth of knowledge so important to academic success is addressed in the program of direct vocabulary instruction. In the SSR program, teachers should allow and encourage students to seek information on whatever topics they desire, regardless of how narrow or specific those topics may be. CHAPTER 4 SUMMARY

A strong rationale supports the use of direct vocabulary instruction as a means to enhance academic background knowledge. That rationale encompasses erroneous assumptions about the adequacy of wide reading as a means to enhance academic background knowledge as well as the impressive track record of direct vocabulary instruction. Effective vocabulary instruction involves *Descriptions as opposed to definitions *Use of linguistic and nonlinguistic representations *Gradual shaping and word meanings *Teaching and using word parts *Different types of instruction for different types of words Students interacting about the words they are learning *Use of games *Focus on terms important to academic subjects CHAPTER 5 SUMMARY The six-step process for direct vocabulary instruction. The process involves the teacher describing vocabulary terms; students constructing their own descriptions of terms, students constructing nonlinguistic representations; the teacher providing opportunities for students to review and add to their knowledge of the terms; students interacting about the terms; and students playing games involving vocabulary terms.

This process, combined with the approach to SSR described in Chapter 3, constitutes a powerful way to enhance academic background knowledge. CHAPTER 6 SUMMARY Subject-specific terms are the best target for direct vocabulary instruction. Previous efforts to identify subject-specific vocabulary terms have been inadequate. The standards movement, with its unprecedented emphasis on specifying what students should know and do in the various subject areas, has produced documents that serve as valuable sources for vocabulary terms. CHAPTER 1: THE IMPORTANCE OF BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE

What students already know about the content is one of the strongest indicators of how well they will learn new information relative to the content. Background knowledge refers to what a person already knows about a topic. The reported average correlation between a person’s background knowledge of a given topic and the extent to which that person learns new information on that topic is . 66 Academic background knowledge affects more than just “school learning. ” Studies have shown its relation to occupation and status in life.

A significant relationship has been shown between knowledge of academic information and the type of occupation and overall income. How We Acquire Background Knowledge We acquire background knowledge through the interaction of two factors: (1) our ability to process and store information, and (2) the number and frequency of our academically oriented experiences. The ability to process & store information is a component of what cognitive psychologists refer to as fluid intelligence. Fluid intelligence is innate.

One of its defining features is the ability to process information and store it in permanent memory. Our ability to process & store information dictates whether our experiences parlay into background knowledge. The second factor that influences the development of academic background knowledge is our academically oriented experiential base—the number of experiences that will directly add to our knowledge of content we encounter in school. The more academically oriented experiences we have, the more opportunities we have to store those experiences as academic background knowledge.

It is the interaction of students’ information-processing abilities and their access to academically oriented experiences, then, that produces their academic background knowledge. Differences in these factors create differences in their academic background knowledge and, consequently, differences in their academic achievement. Limited access to academic background experiences, then, represents “the great inhibitor” to the development of academic background knowledge. Schools Can Make the Difference

A second type of intelligence is referred to as crystallized, or learned, intelligence. Crystallized intelligence is exemplified by knowledge of facts, generalizations, and principles. Although a certain level of innate intelligence is important to academic success, learned intelligence is the stronger correlate of success in school. A study found little relationship between academic knowledge and fluid intelligence, but a strong relationship between academic knowledge and crystallized intelligence.

Academic knowledge is more highly associated with crystallized abilities than with fluid abilities. Fluid intelligence can be altered. What is most interesting about the rise in IQ scores is that it is at least as strong in terms of fluid intelligence as it is in terms of crystallized intelligence. That is, a systematic increase has occurred in the type of intelligence that is assumed to be innate as well as in the type that is assumed to be learned. One of the strongest explanation for this is the influence of effective schooling.

Actual performance on intelligence tests is more closely related to years of schooling that it is to chronological age. If the knowledge and skill that students from advantaged backgrounds possess is learned rather that innate, then students who do not come from advantaged backgrounds can learn it too. Schools must be willing to dedicate the necessary time and resources to enhancing the academic background knowledge of students, particularly those who do not come from affluent backgrounds. Direct Approaches to Enhancing Academic Background Knowledge

The most straightforward way to enhance students’ academic background knowledge is to provide academically enriching experiences, particularly for students whose home environments do not do so naturally. Those efforts referred to as “direct approaches” to enhancing academic background knowledge. A direct approach to enhancing academic background knowledge is one that increases the variety and depths of out-of-class experiences. Such experiences include field trips to museums, art galleries, and the like, as well as school-sponsored travel and exchange programs.

Another type of direct approach is to help students establish mentoring relationships with members of the community. A mentoring relationship is a one-to-one relationship between a caring adult and a youth who can benefit from support. A more viable solution is to focus on indirect approaches. Indirect Approaches: A Viable Answer CHAPTER 2: SIX PRINCIPLES FOR BUILDING AN INDIRECT APPROACH 1. Background Knowledge Is Stored in Bimodal Packets Background knowledge is stored in “packets” of information. Packets are sometimes referred to as “memory records. The packets containing our background knowledge are initially linguistic descriptions of what we have experienced. The packets begin as specific information about specific learning episodes but become more generalized over time. Our memory packets have a linguistic and nonlinguistic form. Our memory packets are bimodal; they have a linguistic mode and a nonlinguistic mode. 2. The Process of Storing Experiences in Permanent Memory Can Be Enhanced If academically oriented experiences are not stored in permanent memory, they are not added to academic background knowledge.

The three functions of memory: sensory memory, permanent memory, and working memory. Sensory memory deals with the temporary storage of data from the senses. It is a very temporary repository for information from our senses. We cannot process all of the information from the senses. Rather, we pick and choose. Permanent memory contains information that has been stored in such a way that it is available to us. All that we know and all that we understand is stored in permanent memory. Permanent memory is the repository of our background knowledge, academic and nonacademic.

The information in permanent memory is frequently activated even without or awareness. Memory packets in permanent memory are activated by any related item in working memory. Once information resides in permanent memory, it is useful to us even when we are not aware of it. Students who have a great deal of background knowledge are making connections even when they are not consciously trying to do so. Working memory is the third type of memory. Working memory can receive data from sensory memory (where it is held only briefly), from permanent memory (where it resides permanently), or from both.

The amount of time data can reside in working memory has no theoretical limit. As long as we focus conscious attention on the data in working memory, it stays active. Working memory can be considered the “seat of consciousness. ” Our experience of consciousness is actually our experience of what is being processed in working memory at any given point in time. It is the quality and type of processing that occurs in working memory that dictates whether the information makes it to permanent memory. IF processing does not go well, information does not make it to permanent memory.