If a student knows something about a topic or has experienced (even seen) something related to the topic of a book, he or she will better understand what is happening in the story.
While observing in a classroom a few weeks ago, I saw a quite interesting way of building some background knowledge …
In a first grade class, the teacher was reading Silvie. One of the main characters in this book is a flamingo “of a different stripe”. Flamingos are not something that many of these students knew anything about. So the teacher showed the students the #1 Wonder of the Day on Wonderopolis to help them discover why flamingos are pink. After they explored that site for a few minutes, the teacher switched to a Smithsonian Zoological Park animal webcam showing flamingos. That was a new experience for most of these students!
After finishing that book, the teacher pulled out another short book to read with the students, Shark vs Train by Chris Barton and Tom Lichtenheld . The teacher had the Monterey Bay Aquarium webcam site ready to show students sharks, turtles, and stingrays to help build some background knowledge. Before she was ready for the students to view that site, they heard a voice talking. On the animal webcam she was going to show, they were preparing for an live afternoon feeding of the sardines.
Even though that was not a planned experience, the teacher took advantage of a teachable moment by bringing the outside world into her library through a webcam! She and the students got to see the live feeding!
Since students did not get to see the things she has planned for them to see on the webcam, the teacher showed still images of sharks, turtles, and stingrays. She was prepared and had a backup plan ….which is always important especially when using technology.
Look at the ways technology was used to help provide background knowledge crucial for student understanding and comprehension.