Creating Engaging Units of Study For Your Students - Developing Backgr
Aug 28, 2009 Lesson Planning 2968 Views
Activating, developing, and building upon students' background knowledge is essential for learning to take place. How do you develop and build upon your students' experience and previous learning? Considering this question is a key part of your unit planning.
The ideas that you create for developing and building students' background knowledge can be used during any part of your unit. Building you students 'schema' (defined as cognitive structures or conceptual frameworks for understanding) should not be confused with "pre-assessment." Excellent teachers have specific ways that they determine what their students know - and then once they have made this determination, then they can begin to building on their students' knowledge and develop it further, as it relates to the unit objectives.
Here are steps to consider as you are thinking about activating, developing, and building upon students' knowledge and conceptual structures for your instructional units of study:
- Review the Content Outline and the Objectives that you generated at the start of your unit planning.
- For each aspect delineated in the content outline and objectives, ask yourself one (or all of these three) questions: ** How could I activate what students already know about this concept? ** How could I build about students' current understanding of this concept? ** How could I expand students' knowledge, as related to this unit and that will serve them in future learning experiences? You will want to check to make sure you have addressed all three of these aspects in one or more ways throughout the course of your unit. You will also want to assess whether you have used multiple means of learning - knowing that you have students with a whole host of learning styles and preferences.
- Next, ask yourself if you could justify in a few sentences each of the ideas you've developed. It is important to have the justification for learning experiences for ourselves as teachers, for our administrators, for the students, and also for parents or other community members.
- Look back through each of your ideas and make sure that the activity is not "assessing" in nature--or at least not primarily "assessing" in nature. Each learning experience in this section of your unit plan should be designed to BUILD UPON background knowledge that students already have, DEVELOP background knowledge that students do not already have, and ACTIVATE the pertinent knowledge for a given day's learning.
- For a one-three week unit, you will want to have at least 5-10 activities, depending on the complexity of the activity. Some of your learning activities may be quite involved and will BUILD UPON and/or DEVELOP your students' knowledge for more than one of the concepts to be taught in this unit. Others may be less involved.
As you are making a judgment about whether the activities included would be adequate to BUILD UPON and/or DEVELOP the your students' experiential and conceptual knowledge, think carefully about whether students would be engaged with the learning and whether the activity is worthy of their time, energy, and attention. In today's classroom, there is no time to waste on meaningless activities.
Skipping the 'background knowledge' component of your unit planning guarantees that you are going through the motions of teaching...but that the learning is not going to occur for the students. That may sound harsh, but it's true, as the premier teachers know.
If you'd like to access multiple free resources to support your teaching (including ones to activate, building upon, and extend your students learning, you'll find them at both of the following websites, which you are welcome to access: