Examples of Building Background Using the SIOP Model


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Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Are you looking for SIOP strategies for building background? This guide provides clear instructions to help you build a solid foundation.

Building background knowledge is essential to THE SIOP Model, a research-based approach to teaching English learners.

Through this guide, you will find clear instructions on how to effectively use activities and strategies to build background knowledge and ensure students understand the content being taught in class.


The SIOP Model, or Sheltered Instruction Observation Protocol, is an evidence-based method for culturally responsive teaching of English Language Learners (ELLs).

I have become passionate about employing this model in my teaching in the past two decades.

Through experience teaching both adult and high school students, as well as having a Master of Education, a Master of Arts, and a TEFL Certificate, I am experienced in helping ELLs succeed.

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Rationale for Using the SIOP Model

When designing a curriculum around the SIOP Model, teachers plan explicit instruction and scaffold content based on the use of the second language, the primary language being English.

The SIOP Model includes eight components, which are systematically and sequentially implemented:

  1. Lesson Preparation
  2. Building Background
  3. Comprehensible Input
  4. Strategies
  5. Interaction
  6. Practice & Application
  7. Lesson Delivery
  8. Review & Assessment

These eight phases are applied throughout all subject areas and levels.

  • The SIOP Model components work for elementary school, high school, and beyond.
  • The components combine to meet the needs of individual learners and subject areas.

Instructional Strategies

Teachers use instructional strategies and encourage students to participate in meaningful interactions throughout the learning process.

They create grade-level lesson plans from unit planning, reflecting varying levels of complexity.

Simple lessons like scripted dialogue or role-play incorporating more complex activities such as relevant vocabulary, going on field trips, doing projects, or creating art are common using SIOP Model components.

The goal is to provide high-level instructional practices with formative assessments for student achievement. 

Lesson Planning

Student success through learning experience is achieved through both teacher-centered instruction and student-centered activities.

  • Lesson plans and learning topics are guided by unit planning with a theme, topic, or topic themes.
  • Activities are based on cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains.
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Building Background

Students enter classes with various backgrounds, curricula, and classroom experiences.

Building background provides opportunities for educators to link previous knowledge of students with their lessons.

This step helps educators to assess the level of implementation in a lesson.

  • Teachers use a student-centered approach in this stage to create engaging lessons for students. 
  • Teachers link previous knowledge, students’ learning in other subjects, and life experiences by building background. 
  • The data collected throughout assessments help teachers assess their current teaching strategies, student learning, and standards alignment.

How to Create a Comprehensive SIOP Background

To create a classroom environment promoting learning, educators must take the time to plan for ways to help students build their background knowledge and understanding of the content being taught.

This is accomplished through the following strategies:

  • Preparing a summary of the target group of students.
  • Examining academic standards and benchmarks.
  • Analyzing available instructional materials for ELLs.
  • Providing supplemental activities for scaffolding new learning.
  • Developing differentiated assessments utilizing multiple intelligence theory.

Prepare a Summary of the Target Group

Before starting to build background, it’s important to remember the target group.

What do they know about the topic?

To better understand students’ prior knowledge, gather demographic information about:

  • their native language,
  • interests, and
  • educational backgrounds.

This helps develop activities and strategies to match student needs. In addition, to create an effective instructional plan for teaching the content.

Examine Academic Standards and Benchmarks

Before getting started, examine the academic standards and benchmarks associated with the content.

This information helps provide guidance to ensure important content isn’t left out when building background.

For example, reviewing the biology standards will ensure essential information is included in the lesson about animal adaptations. The background knowledge instruction includes topics related to vocabulary words, habitats, and life cycles.

Analyze Available Instructional Materials for ELLs

Educators should analyze any instructional materials already available in their classrooms.

  • Review textbooks, handouts, and other resources to determine what to modify or explain further.
  • Examine materials with current state, district standards, and goals.

This helps guide decisions about what to add or remove from the SIOP background section.

Provide Supplemental Activities for Scaffolding New Learning

Providing activities to scaffold new learning is important to build a comprehensive SIOP background.

These activities provide additional instruction and examples for topics not covered in the original material.

The benefits of supplemental activities include:

  • They support deep understanding.
  • They provide students with opportunities to gain mastery of content or skills.
  • Learning is reinforced.
  • Encouragement for students to take ownership of their learning.

Develop Differentiated Assessments Utilizing Multiple Intelligences Theory

Differentiated assessments are a great way to help students understand the material in your SIOP lesson plans. Assessments also help gauge students’ level of understanding.

Utilizing multiple intelligences theory while creating assessments helps serve all learning styles.

Create tasks to challenge students with different strengths and weaknesses. This encourages students to interact better with the material and reach mastery.

Integrating multiple intelligences theory into assignments inspires creative and critical thinking skills. These skills are crucial for lifelong success.

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Examples of How to Build Background

This step helps link previous knowledge and students’ learning in other subjects and life.

For example, students learned about steam engines in their science lessons. Then, they use the science lesson to investigate the history of steam engines in their history and art lessons. Students who ride a steam engine apply that knowledge.

The assessment, monitoring, and evaluation of background activities help determine what students already know. Use the background to link previous content knowledge and experience with new lessons.

Sample Lesson with Building Background

The background helps align content and skills with lessons.

To help students better understand the steam engine’s role in history, the activities in this lesson involve thinking about how to apply scientific knowledge to understand history better.

This lesson focuses on the following concepts:

  • Energy is the ability to do work.
  • Energy is transformed from one form to another.
  • The steam engine converts heat energy from burning coal into mechanical energy that can be used to do work.
  • Coal is a key resource used to build economies.
  • Healthy economies, like in ________ (country of origin), developed using resources like _________.

Link lessons to build comprehensive knowledge about multiple subjects.

For example, introduce the steam engine lesson to students studying airplanes. Show them a steam engine model and ask them to explain the similarities and differences.

The model relates to what students studied but is different in its use and structure.

The purpose is to encourage students to think critically about the two machines.

Another lesson is for writing. Provide an activity for students to write a story and create a graphic or digital representation of when they traveled by airplane.

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The questions to build background are important for teaching and learning.

Focused questions for lessons help students engage and participate in their learning.

To build background with the SIOP Model, students learn a concept in one subject area and apply it in another subject.

Linking lessons using background helps students remember the concepts and lesson activities better.

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,


Want more about SIOP Model components? This article includes a catalog of articles about how to use the SIOP Model:

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