Building Background Knowledge
Have you ever been caught off guard because you assumed that your students possessed the necessary background knowledge to interact and respond to a specific topic, only to find out that they have limited knowledge? Building background knowledge is critical to aiding students in acquiring new skills and concepts. Prior knowledge is the bridge that links and transfers new knowledge of skills and concepts. Schallert (2002) describes background knowledge as a collection of abstract residue created by life’s experiences (as cited by Cosset- Lent, 2012, p. 557). There is often a mismatch between the teacher and students’ background knowledge. Therefore we cannot assume that students have certain experiences in common with their classroom teacher (Cosset-Lent, 2012).
Supporting students’ background knowledge doesn’t have to be a major production, however it has to be intentionally planned and effectively support students’ understanding within the context of learning. It is important to apply the right amount of support, as not to stifle students’ natural ability to activate their prior knowledge. Meeting students where they’re ready to learn requires a proactive approach and willingness to explore what they already know. Students engage more readily in topics that they may not otherwise engage in, when teachers creatively anticipate their students’ experiences.