Receive all updates via Facebook. Just Click the Like Button Below

Powered By | Blog Gadgets Via Blogger Widgets

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Building Background Knowledge - Charlotte's Web

Earlier this week, my students participated in a Building Background Knowledge (BBK) activity for Charlotte's Web. I learned about this type of activity at the SCCOE Curriculum Leadership Council seminars that I have been attending all year. The main purpose for this type of activity is to enable the students to be successful in reading more complex texts. This experience creates a natural and safe environment for students to use their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. This type of experience also provides multiple opportunities for students to interact with the new content knowledge. This is extremely important for my students (85% ELs) because it allows them to have different exposures to the content besides listening to me ramble.

Here is how it went...

Step 1: Mystery Picture
Each group is given one picture to get their juices flowing. They are to carefully look at the picture and discuss with their group what they think it might be.

I also included a spider glyph to get students' initial ideas about spiders. 

Step 2: Collection of Artifacts
For this step, I put together all types of artifacts including photos of farm animals, spiders, and friendship items, drawings, a farm animal matching game, a friendship spelling list, non-fiction pieces on spiders and farm animals. The students spread everything out and silently viewed all of the artifacts and wrote down any questions that they had about the artifacts.  

Step 3: Common Text
Each student received the same non-fiction text about spiders and insects. They all read the text on their own, answered 3 questions, and drew a picture of an insect and a spider and labeled each drawing.

Step 4: Expert Texts Jigsaw
For this step, each student read a different texts to read on their own. I had four different levels in each group and they were each assigned a color prior to this step. They then shared out what they read with the rest of their group.

We then created a class chart of their ideas about what our subject or themes might be based on their BBK experience. They came up with farm life, spiders, and friendship. Pretty good, huh? It was exactly what they needed to build schema and to get them excited to read Charlotte's Web!

And I am so excited... tomorrow is Friday and I survived my first field trip! Yay!


  1. Hi Dani

    Thanks for sharing all of these ideas for Charlotte's Web. We are about to start reading so I would love to do some of these things with my class. Do you have files with more details? I would love to know what you did for the spider glyph and what your stimulus pictures were.

    The Learning Curve

    1. Hi Jane,
      I'd be happy to send you my files. It's quite a bit of stuff, so is there an email address I can send a zip file to?

    2. Thanks Dani
      I found a spider glyph on line that I think is the same one you used. I am thinking of making my own that will be more cutting and pasting (if I get the energy to think about it) otherwise the colouring in one still does the job.
      I would love copies of the pictures you used so if you could email them to that would be great.
      One of the teachers in my team did a drama activity with her class prior to starting the reading. she has offered to do this with my class too. I hope to blog about what she does once I know what it is.


      The Learning Curve

  2. I would love the files you used for this activity! Would you be able to send them? It looks like exactly what I've been searching for!

  3. I am not sure if this activity is still active. I would love this file if you still have. ... thanks so much!

  4. Hi Dani,
    I love your ideas as well! Could you also send me the zip file? My e-mail is We will start this novel study next week.