A Division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Heinemann

Background Knowledge

The Missing Piece of the Comprehension Puzzle

Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey
Foreword by Donald J. Leu

ISBN 978-0-325-02655-8 / 0-325-02655-6 / 2009 / 200pp / Paperback
Imprint: Heinemann
Availability: In Stock
Grade Level: 6th - 12th
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“Background knowledge is too often neglected in our push to raise test scores, despite the fact that we know background knowledge is a critical component of comprehension. Background knowledge simply has to become an instructional focus if we want to help students make sense of school. We will lose a generation of learners if we don’t act now.”

—Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey  


Why background knowledge?

  • Because the Grapes of Wrath is dry reading if students don’t know about the Dust Bowl.
  • Because the Boston Tea Party is a non-event if students don’t know loyalists from patriots.
  • Because knowing a triangle has 180 degrees isn’t the same as knowing why.

Because content-area comprehension depends on it, you and your students need Background Knowledge. 

Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey help you develop lasting subject-area understanding with ideas for modeling, guided practice, productive group work, and independent work that effectively engage adolescents. You’ll learn to:

  • distinguish incidental knowledge from core background knowledge
  • check students’ understanding prior to a unit with tools such as opinionnaires, interest surveys, and anticipation guides
  • model how to activate and apply prior knowledge so kids can wrestle with new content
  • build up students’ background knowledge through virtual fieldtrips, YouTube, guest experts, and more
  • provide collaborative ways for students to develop expertise, show what they know, and own their learning.

Doug and Nancy also build your background knowledge with multimedia book-study resources at www.heinemann.com/backgroundknowledge.

“As teachers our job is not to simply fill students’ heads with facts,” write Doug Fisher and Nancy Frey. “We need to have students manipulate and apply information so that it becomes a permanent understanding.” That’s why the time is now for Background Knowledge.

1. The Missing Piece of the Comprehension Puzzle

2. Placing Background Knowledge in Daily Teaching

3. Teacher as Archaeologist: Assessing Background Knowledge

4. Activating What Students Know: Teaching That Unearths and Upends Students’ Understandings

5. Quickening the Pace of Students’ Background Knowledge Acquisition

6. Critical Literacy: Helping Students Get Beyond the Sift-and-Surf Mode to Deep Synthesis of Texts

7. New Literacies, Old Standards for Excellence

8. Building and Activating Background Knowledge Is Our Job


In Depth

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Email planningservices@heinemann.com if you would like to contact Douglas Fisher directly about professional development support.

Email planningservices@heinemann.com if you would like to contact Nancy Frey directly about professional development support.

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