For 17 years I grew in my expertise as a literacy specialist.

I remember a distinct planning session with a colleague about building background, (BB is how we labeled it on our lesson plans)

I spent a lot of that year figuring out and identifying just what was BB.

I was working in an urban school, deep in an urban school, if you know what I mean.  There was plenty of poverty, free school lunches, a transient community, struggle, second-language learners, and students who required background knowledge.

Background knowledge is information that is needed in order to access text. It is information teachers must incorporate into lessons, when necessary.

Here are 3 big takeaways for BB.

ONE

You must provide an entry to text or books for students who may have little to no idea about the content or ideas in the book you’re about to read.  You’ve got your class or group book selected, it is called, “The Amazing Ocean: Sea Animals that Rule the Deep”  You live in the middle of the United States or in the center of the United Kingdom. You get where I’m going with this…

You’ll want to build entry points to the text through:

1) A video of the ocean with sea life in action (you might even keep this video running) I’ve vetted this one – it is mesmerizing and could give students a real sense of being in the ocean witnessing sea life. Sure to spark conversation.

2) Pictures

3) Book selection with plenty of pictures to spark questions and curiosity; this will offer plenty of discussions to organically BB

4) Your shared experiences of the ocean

5) Families shared experiences of the ocean

TWO

Which directly piggybacks on ONE: BB is always on the move, as the literacy teacher to your students, you must continually look down the road to the next read, have your month mapped out, know what kinds of books, conversations, videos, pictures, and home connections you want to have in motion to integrate BB.

THREE

If possible, string BB through the content areas.

1) Math: insert ocean vocabulary; orca, squid, whale shark, plankton for example: Instead of Sally has… say or write in, Orca has… (do it, your students will love it!)

2) Science: draw the ocean and or sea life and label the parts or make a life cycle

3) Art or Music: include art or musical activities around sea life, act like sea life

4) Gym: incorporate some ocean language or movement into physical fitness for example: swim like a whale, move like a jellyfish

When you take the time to map out your month, you are better equipped to forward feed the information that will provide better access and successful reading to your students.

You won’t always need to BB.

Be mindful of when BB is needed and warranted to inform students for successful access to text, in a fun, active, and engaging way; across the student’s world – school, home, and social.

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