Building the Knowledge of Field

Building the field or context  

This stage focuses on establishing students’ shared understandings of the field of study as well as exploring the sociocultural function which different kinds of texts play. For example, narrative is quite important to our culture and how we see ourselves, and an appreciation of its place can be explored through a discussion about the kinds of stories students like to read and why.

Students can also be asked to consider ways in which authors build tension within the narrative, or how they make readers like or dislike particular characters. In a unit of work focussing on a selected narrative or an author study, attention is given to the characters, the setting and locations of the narrative, the events that characters take part in and the circumstances under which they occur and which shape the narrative and themes of the text.

Where the focus is on a curriculum area, this stage emphasises building understanding about the field or curriculum topic which is being studied, such as migration or life cycles. It is not a ‘one off’ initial stage, but rather one that is returned to throughout the TLC. 

Opportunities for dialogic talk are a feature of this stage, where knowledge is presented but also co-constructed. Teachers can establish students’ prior knowledge, build field knowledge and support students to move from common-sense to more discipline-specific, technical and abstract understandings. 

Common tasks in this stage include:

  • guided discussions about the area of study
  • hands on activities such as experiments
  • excursions
  • brainstorming, mind mapping 
  • research tasks such as jigsaw tasks, note taking  
  • vocabulary building. 

Derewianka and Jones (2016) include a stage in the TLC called supported reading, where a focus on reading skills is established through a range of supported activities and teaching practices. This offers differing levels of support as needed, from teacher-led to guided to independent tasks, all contributing to building common understandings about the field, and also about the genre in focus.

Throughout the building of field, students are engaged in extended discussions about their reading and provided with opportunities to use and reuse subject-specific language in supported and contextualised ways.