Building Background Knowledge with Oobleck? Part 1


I recently read Dr. Seuss’ 1949 prose book Bartholomew and the Oobleck to my 9-year-old and 7-year-old over a few nights as their bedtime story. I saw it at the library and was wondering if it might work for my 7-year-old, if the book was too difficult in terms of vocabulary and fantastical-ness. And she did report that she was confused by the book for the first part because it was a bit “weird”, but ended up loving it.

I choose to read this Dr. Seuss to them because of an article my Learning Coordinator colleague, A. Gilbert, introduced me to this year, written by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey. The article is entitled Building and Activating Background Knowledge and towards the end of the article, Fisher and Frey briefly touch upon the difference between building direct and indirect background knowledge. Direct building is when I, as the teacher, deliberately and explicitly build or activate background knowledge prior to reading a text, such as by providing vocabulary or by framing the text.

Indirect background knowledge, however, can be built in a number of ways, explain Fisher and Frey:

“Indirect experiences build background knowledge in more subtle ways. For example, teacher modeling (see our column in the November issue) shows students how teachers think aloud about content. In addition, reading a wide range of texts on a given topic builds background knowledge. When students read texts at their reading level, their understanding of the topic improves.”

They add in one other element:

“In addition to teacher modeling and wide reading, background knowledge can be built as students interact with one another.”

But I want to focus in on the ‘reading widely’ element of building background knowledge and had this question:

Might reading Bartholomew and the Oobleck help my girls indirectly build background knowledge? How? About what?


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