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We all bring our own Background Knowledge, that is what we know and have experienced, to what we read. This knowledge includes their everyday cultural experiences and interactions within personal communities. Helping students build and apply their Background Knowledge can ensure they have and use the information they need to understand increasingly complex texts.
Understanding a text can be difficult without basic Background Knowledge in the topic for several reasons:
The reliance on Background Knowledge grows as students progress through school, and they are required to build upon prior Background Knowledge to acquire new Background Knowledge. Specifically, the comprehension of informational texts requires students to have and apply more Background Knowledge relative to storybook texts, as informational texts typically use more complex vocabulary and require students to apply information from prior lessons.
However, Background Knowledge goes beyond Vocabulary learning because Background Knowledge refers to a deeper understanding of a topic. For example, a child who has never been to the beach before may know the relevant Vocabulary (e.g. waves, seaweed, sand) but may not immediately understand metaphors used in a story in the same way as a child who has experience going to the beach. Students also have everyday practices and life experiences, or funds of knowledge, that come from their participation in different cultures and communities.
Teachers support language development by using and providing Vocabulary that is appropriately leveled (e.g., using word wall words).
Advance graphic organizers link prior knowledge to upcoming learning to help students anticipate and understand the structure of new information.
Audiobooks allow students to hear fluent reading and to experience books above their reading skills.
Building positive and trusting relationships with learners allows them to feel safe; a sense of belonging; and that their academic, cognitive, and social and emotional needs are supported.
Daily review strengthens previous learning and can lead to fluent recall.
With this interactive technique, teachers help students become storytellers by listening and questioning.
Dictionaries and thesauruses can serve as resources for students to expand their Vocabulary knowledge.
When teachers provide explicit instruction in comprehension strategies and model when to use them, students learn how to flexibly apply them to make meaning of texts.
Seeing and using new words repeatedly and in many contexts is critical for Vocabulary acquisition.
Visiting places connected to classroom learning provides opportunities to deepen understanding through firsthand experiences.
Adding motions to complement learning activates more cognitive processes for recall and understanding.
Visualizing how ideas fit together helps students construct meaning and strengthen recall.
In guided inquiry, teachers help students use their own language for constructing knowledge by active listening and questioning.
Spending time with new content helps move concepts and ideas into Long-term Memory.
Learning about students' cultures and connecting them to instructional practices helps all students feel like valued members of the community.
Independent reading promotes reading development by emphasizing student choice with teacher support in selecting books, as well as by making time for free reading.
Practicing until achieving several error-free attempts is critical for retention.
Literacy centers with reading games, manipulatives, and activities support learner interests and promote the development of more complex reading skills and social interactions.
Providing physical representations of concepts helps activate mental processes.
By talking through their thinking at each step of a process, teachers can model what learning looks like.
Teachers sharing text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections models this schema building.
Instruction in multiple formats allows students to activate different cognitive skills to understand and remember the steps they are to take in their reading work.
A parent evening meeting about how to support literacy at home with one follow-up meeting with each family has shown strong results for students' reading development.
Reading aloud allows students to hear and practice reading and fluency skills.
Talking with students about what they know about the topic of upcoming work helps activate their Background Knowledge or reveals gaps.
Reading aloud regularly exposes students to new and familiar vocabulary and texts.
Reading aloud books about skills children are learning provides another model for their development.
Students build their confidence and skills by reading and rereading books.
Books for vision differences support reading development for learners with visual needs.
Books of varying complexity and reading levels are necessary for all students to experience reading success.
Multicultural and diverse books are critical for supporting all students.
With rhyming and creative word use, poetry is a genre that supports the development of early literacy skills in particular.
Students who have had little exposure to the school's language can benefit from having books in their Primary Language in their classroom.
Books with SEL topics, such as developing friendships and identifying emotions, help teach these skills.
Providing a story map ahead of time or having students create a map during or after reading helps learners understand and practice narrative skills.
Transforming written text into audio activates different parts of the brain to support learning.
Providing visuals to introduce, support, or review instruction activates more cognitive processes to support learning.
Web-based dictionaries and thesauruses can serve as visual and audio resources for students to expand their Vocabulary knowledge.
Students with strong early literacy skills benefit from a literacy-rich approach.
A word wall helps build Vocabulary for reading fluidity.
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