Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Activating Background Knowledge for Guided Reading—with FREE Download!


This is a guest post by Kathy Crane, one of our regular guest bloggers. If you like what you see here, check back frequently for more posts from her and  click here to read her blog


After the mini-lesson portion of a guided reading lesson, it is time to activate student’s prior background knowledge.   For example, since Thanksgiving recently passed, it will be fresh in their minds, and makes good background knowledge. 

Another example would be if the book is about turkeys, ask students what they already know about turkeys   (you can simply accept responses and make it an oral conversation, or you may want to record responses and make a list or a spider graph such as the one included below—you can download it at the bottom of the page). Next, make connections from their responses that will draw their   interest   toward the text that is about to be read. 

You may wish to follow student responses with a personal experience that you have had with the subject.   My students always love to hear my story as a young child growing up on a farm that not only had cows, horses, pigs, and sheep, but thousands of turkeys! I show them a old clip of when my brother put me in the pen with the turkeys and they chased me everywhere I went as I ran away from them. Next, I show them a turkey feather that I kept from my childhood days on that farm.

The kids are now ready! They want to know more about those fascinating birds!  Now it is time to show the students one book and take a "picture walk" (an important tool which builds confidence and support for the reading strategy of using pictures as context clues). To do this, turn through the book page by page calling attention to the pictures. Ask questions such as “What do you see on this page?”; “What do you think is happening on this page?” and “Do you know what this is a picture of?”

Before you turn the last page, allow students to predict what picture might be on the last page to represent the ending of the story.  Remember to guide this activity with great care and thought. Implanting important vocabulary words.

Kathy Crane holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction: Reading, is a published author of thirteen books, a freelance author and developer of teaching curriculum, has been a teacher of kindergarten for twenty-two years, and publishes the blog  Kindergarten Kiosk
For more information on the book used in this blog post, click  here  to visit our website, or click the image to the left below to download a series highlights sheet with key features. To download the background knowledge guided reading spider worksheet, click the image to the right.