SIOP Feature #7: Explicitly link concepts to students' backgrounds & experiences

The first feature that falls under this component of SIOP asks the teacher to explicitly begin a lesson by linking the concepts of the lesson to the students and their lives.  Taking time at the beginning of a lesson to do this supports the learner in a variety of different ways:

  • Building background mollifies anxiety.
  • ​It also helps students draw connections between their lives and school content.
  • It gives the teacher a great chance to assess where the students are in relation to the lesson.
  • Building background engages students as their curiosity builds. 

It's interesting to note that this feature begins with the phrase:  "explicitly link".  This is a challenge to the teacher to make things as transparent as s/he can.  Some students need the transparency more than others;  all students benefit from it.  Some actions we take as teachers are more explicit than others.

  • Not Explicit:  The teacher writes the topic on the board and tells the students what they should have already learned about it in previous classes.
  • Explicit:  The teacher shows students the topic and a list of vocabulary terms associated with it.  S/he then, asks students to share one thing they know about the topic with a partner.

Ways to explicitly link concepts in the classroom

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  • Class Web.  Creating a web on the board with ideas the entire class has is a safe way to take the pulse (globally) of the student body.  Students write anything they know about the topic on a post-it note and stick it on the board.  As class, the teacher can review the web, add any information, and then dive into the lesson.
  • Predicting. Anytime students predict, they ante up.  Their interest spikes as they begin to focus on whether or not their prediction was right.  With vocabulary, pictures, or
  • Word Splash.  A word splash is a set of key vocabulary words and phrases from the lesson.  In addition to reviewing the vocabulary, students can use these terms to
  • Carousel.  A carousel is an activity where students move from statiuon to station completing some kind of task.  As a way to build background, students form groups and carousel around the room.  At each station there is is flip sized piece of chart paper and markers.  Each paper has a different question (what is something you know about ‘x’?).  Students discuss the question, write down an answer and move to another station repeating the task.
  • Turn and Talk.  Students can turn to a partner and discuss a question or set of questions related to the topic.  They may do this orally, or they may even jot down a few of their partner’s responses to share with the class later on.
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