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

By Robert J. Marzano | Go to book overview

7 Setting Up a Schoolwide or Districtwide Program

Chapters 1 through 6 have presented the rationale and recommendations for a comprehensive approach to enhancing students’ academic background knowledge. I have proposed two basic interventions. The first is a sustained silent reading (SSR) program that focuses on students reading nonfiction and fiction materials in a variety of formats (e.g., books, magazines, information from the Internet) on topics of their choice. Key to the success of this approach is to systematically engage students in sustained reading, reflection, and interaction with other students. I proposed using the academic notebook for students’ written reflections regarding their readings. To implement such an intervention, schools must schedule appropriate time for SSR, gather the reading material identified by student interests, and then follow the suggested steps outlined in Chapter 3. Although these steps are not easy tasks, they are relatively straightforward.

The second recommended intervention is a program of direct vocabulary instruction focusing on the terms and phrases that students will encounter in their academic subjects. This intervention also uses the academic notebook. Students record their understandings and representations of the terms presented in their subject area classes in the academic notebook. To help implement a program of direct vocabulary instruction, I have identified 7,923 terms in 11 subject areas; these terms appear in the Appendix. They were extracted from national standards documents and two documents that synthesize the national and state standards documents. Although these terms represent a useful resource, 7,923 terms are still too many to teach directly. Consequently, to implement an effective program of direct vocabulary instruction, a school or district must first identify the terms to target.

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