Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Build Background Knowledge Prior to Reading

Learning takes place when learners attach what they know, to what they’re learning. In order for children to read about ideas or a particular topic, they must bring in their own background knowledge to the lesson.

One of the best ways to activate students’ background knowledge is to engage students in classroom discussions. During these discussions, when students share what they already know, the teacher becomes aware of how knowledgeable students are on particular reading materials and topics. With this knowledge teachers can create connections, that is, provide more background information to aid comprehension. Concurrently, students are sharing the knowledge they have with their peers, who may be less knowledgeable. Most importantly, teachers should also write the knowledge students are sharing on their Smart-boards, blackboards, Over-head Projectors—whatever the case may be. This visual list of facts will then be available for students to refer to while they’re reading.

Once teachers know what students know, and do not know, during classroom discussions they can fill in the gaps, of missing information. Helping children connect their existing background knowledge will help them improve their reading comprehension—as they read.

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