Helping Students Build Background Knowledge

When you are learning a new topic what do you do? You probably jump on google and look at some resources to get a general overview of what you are learning. This is building your background knowledge. Eventually, we want our students to become autonomous learners who know to look up and research information on their own.

In order to help our students, we must model how to do it. The first step to help students build their background knowledge is by first curating it. When we curate and explain why the item was chosen, students understand what to look for on their own.

When building background knowledge, we want to include:

Vocabulary words that are important
Primary Sources
Various perspectives on ideas, theories, events

We can find examples of these on the internet to include such as relevant articles, journals, books, websites, movie clips, videos from youtube, songs, etc.

I have created a simple building background knowledge freebie for you so that you can organize your curated information in an appealing manner and share it with your students via google slides.

I like using the internet but you can also create physical stations with books, realia and other physical artifacts for students to explore. Making a connection with the material helps comprehension and motivation.

No matter what subject and what grade you teach, you can find a great picture book to read. This also builds background knowledge and opens the class to a discussion. A discussion will also activate schema and identify gaps or clarify any misunderstandings.

There is so much research that proves the importance of knowing background knowledge before tackling a new topic. It will help with comprehension and recall. It is the basis for learning new material and making it stick. I hope your students enjoy their virtual bookshelf of building background knowledge for whatever topic you are tackling!