Determining How Much Background Knowledge to Provide for ELLs

The topics of this blog post, written by ELL and literacy expert Diane Fenner, relate to close reading, Common Core, background knowledge, and English language learners (ELLs). There has been considerable debate regarding how much background knowledge is appropriate for ELL students, and this post offers two tools for helping teachers determine how much background knowledge to provide for their ELL students. The blog post also gives important background and context about close reading, shifts in instruction for English language arts under the Common Core, and background knowledge.

Content Comments 

Posts from Colorin Colorado provide much-needed attention and voice to issues related to ELL instruction and the Common Core. This post is no different. Fenner acknowledges the controversies related to background knowledge in the instruction of close reading, but extends the conversation to instruction with ELLs. Additionally, Fenner nicely summarizes the issues, quoting Timothy Shanahan's work extensively (see the related resource below). A steadfast practice in reading instruction for ELLs is to provide frontloading, or pre-reading, activities to prime English learners about the topic of the text (see here for a related Colorin Colorado post). In the era of the Common Core and reading instruction, frontloading will still be a necessary practice although it will need to be modified to fit the new demands of the Common Core. The guidance (a checklist and a decision tree) that Fenner provides can help teachers think about the amount and appropriateness of the background knowledge that they make available to their ELL students.