Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools

Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools

Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools

Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement: Research on What Works in Schools

Synopsis

In Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement, Robert J. Marzano shows how a carefully structured combination of two approaches'sustained silent reading and instruction in subject-specific vocabulary terms'can help overcome the deficiencies in background knowledge that hamper the achievement of many children. Readers will learn?The principles that underlie an effective sustained silent reading program?A five-step process for using sustained silent reading to enhance background knowledge?The defining characteristics of effective vocabulary instruction ?A six-step process for direct instruction in vocabulary in each discipline?The vocabulary terms critical to students? success in every academic subjectVignettes suggest how the recommended reading and vocabulary instruction programs might be implemented in elementary schools, middle and junior high schools, and high schools. The book also includes a list of 7,923 vocabulary terms culled from the national standards documents and other publications, organized into 11 subject areas and 4 grade-level categories. With its research-based recommendations and step-by-step approach, Building Background Knowledge equips educators with the tools they need to help close the achievement gap and enable all students to succeed.

Excerpt

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2003), every day from September to June some 53.5 million students in the United States walk into classes that teach English, mathematics, science, history, and geography and face the sometimes daunting task of learning new content. Indeed, one of the nation’s long-term goals as stated in the The National Education Goals Report: Building a Nation of Learners (National Education Goals Panel, 1991) is for U.S. students to master “challenging subject matter” in core subject areas (p. 4). Since that goal was articulated, national and state-level standards documents have identified the challenging subject matter alluded to by the goals panel. For example, in English, high school students are expected to know and be able to use standard conventions for citing various types of primary and secondary sources. In mathematics, they are expected to understand and use sigma notation and factorial representations. In science, they are expected to know how insulators, semiconductors, and superconductors respond to electric forces. In history, they are expected to understand how civilization developed in Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley. In geography, they are expected to understand how the spread of radiation from the Chernobyl nuclear accident has affected the present-day world.

Although it is true that the extent to which students will learn this new content is dependent on factors such as the skill of the teacher, the interest of the student, and the complexity of the content, the research literature supports one compelling fact: 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. Commonly, researchers and theorists refer to what a person already knows about a topic as “background knowledge.” Numerous studies have confirmed the . . .

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