321: Background Knowledge

  • What do you consider the three (3) critical aspects of reading complex texts within the discipline you will or may be teaching? Why?
  1. Allow the students to ask questions about the text (the concepts and the writing style) at various “stopping points throughout the text.
    • This allows students to clear up any confusion relevantly close to the time that it occurs. If I were to wait until we were done reading, most students would either forget their questions from earlier in the reading or they would focus so much on their question that they wouldn’t listen to anything we read after their question occurred in their head.
    • Allowing the students to ask questions out loud can stimulate further thinking on the text and prompt “digging deeper” into what we have read and the true meaning. Group discussion about questions allows students to learn from one another.
    • One student may have a better understanding of the text and may know the answer to a question that another student has. I will allow students to help me answer questions that occur. This will boost their self-esteem regarding their performance and understanding of a text. Furthermore, the student with a question is more likely to listen to a peer than to listen to their teacher that they listen to all day. I will moderate these discussions to ensure that correct information is being relayed and questions are being answered completely and appropriately.
  2. Identify unknown terms/keywords and what they mean in the text.
    • One major difficulty that students face is a lack of understanding of a text due to the vocabulary. If a student does not know a word, they are going to get hung up on the word and this will hinder their reading and understanding the text (p. 72).
    • I will have a prepared list of key terms that I pull from the text that I will discuss with the students before they read the text.
    • I will ask students to raise their hand or write down unknown vocabulary as they read. I will identify the meaning of these terms and what they mean in the context of the reading assignment.
  3. Allow time for group discussion and debriefing at various “stopping points” throughout the text (p. 77).
    • I will have designated “stopping points” throughout the text in which the students will take a break from their reading and engage in group discussion.
    • The group discussion can be the whole class or I may divide the students into smaller groups.
    • The group size will depend on the reading assignment, the class size, and the class dynamics.
    • Students feed off of one another, so group discussions allow students to clarify, dig deeper/elaborate, and pause to consider what they just read and what it means in relation to the topic and to the text as a whole (p. 77).
  • Identify two (2) ways a teacher prepares students to read and comprehend complex texts in your content discipline?
  1. Review key vocabulary words that the text will be using.
    • Before assigning the reading, I will go through and select key terms and terms that I think are more difficult.
    • I will prepare a list of these words and hand it out to the students before they read.
    • As a class, we will fill out the “vocabulary list”.
    • I will allow students to define terms if they think they know them.
    • As a class we will build onto this list throughout the reading assignment. I will provide space on the sheet for additional vocabulary words that need to be defined during the reading.
    • I will be sure to keep in mind that some students may not be familiar with discipline-specific vocabulary. I will make a “cheat sheet” of this vocabulary for the students to refer to as they are reading, should they have questions about discipline-specific vocabulary used in the text (p. 72).
  2. Use a KWL (already know, want to know, learned from the text) chart to allow students to reflect on previous knowledge, prepare for the reading, and debrief and review after the reading.
    • The use of this chart will encourage the students to begin thinking about the topic that the reading is addressing. This will get them in the mindset of thinking about the topic and reflecting on information they have previously learned.
    • I will ask the students what they hope to learn from the text. This will help students reflect even more on the topic, what they do know, discuss what they’d like to learn, and come up with any questions they have about the topic.
    • I will ask the students to leave the last column (learned) blank. This will be used for a post-reading activity I which the students will write the answers to the questions they had in the “want to know” column and any additional information they obtained from reading the text.
    • Filling out this chart as a class will help stimulate the student’s thoughts on the topic that the reading will cover. It will serve as a review and clarification regarding any confusion or questions that the students have.
  • How will you address text dependent questioning techniques as you develop your Designing Backwards Unit Plan?
    • I will provide gaps throughout the lesson for students to ask unexpected questions and schedule in time for “stopping points” designated for discussion throughout the reading.
      • I will be sure to place these gaps after long sentences that may be overwhelming or confusing to students. As Zygouns-Coe states, sentence length can be overwhelming and spur questions (p. 74).
      • By allowing time for discussion following these sentences, I will be providing students with time to reflect on the information conveyed within the sentence and ask questions.
    • I will read the text before assigning it to the students and make a list of possible questions they may have. I will fit these questions and time for discussing them into my lesson plan in areas that I deem appropriate.
    • I will encourage students to ask detailed questions regarding both the topic of the text and the style of writing.
    • I will create study guides for the students to fill out while we are discussing a text.
      • This will help them pay attention and they can write down any questions/comments they have regarding the text on the study guide.
      • Additionally, the study guide will help the student when they wish to review the text/concept in the future. All of their information will be in one place and will be concise with the main points identified.
    • I will develop questions based on my goals and learning targets for the lesson, the text, and what I want my students to understand (p. 80).
    • I will think about the text and what I want my students to be thinking about as they read it and after they read it (p. 80). I will encourage them to make inferences based on the text and to include portions of the text in answer questions on their study guide 


      Zygouris-Coe, Vicky I. Teaching Discipline-Specific Literacies in Grades 6-12. New York: Routledge: Taylor & Francis Group, 2015. Print.