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February 22, 2019

posted Mar 3, 2019, 1:19 PM by Christine Roman
Dear Parents and Guardians,

This week, we had our literacy consultant, Dr. Carol Tolman, working with our faculty and staff. Our focus was on writing. One key quote from Carol was, “If you have nothing to say. You have nothing to write.” Her comment had me thinking about our students in the classroom and the importance of background knowledge.

Background knowledge or prior knowledge is what someone already knows about a subject that will help him/her gain new information. Children begin to develop their background knowledge long before they enter school. Their interactions with parents and other caregivers help to establish what they think about the world and the things in it. Children who are read to about a lot of diverse subjects, who are engaged in conversations on a regular basis, and have the opportunities to visit different places, tend to have high background knowledge.

So, as a parent, you may ask, “How do I build my child’s background knowledge?” Well, that can be done in several ways. One way is to build the knowledge before the child needs it, by exposing him/her to different things, talking to him/her about new ideas, reading about various topics and researching interesting topics. Another way is to give your child background knowledge that he/she may be missing, prior to him/her learning a new concept in school. For example, if your child is going to begin a science unit about the respiratory system, you can build his/her background knowledge by helping him/her connect the term “respiratory system” with the lungs and the act of breathing, by showing him/her pictures of the respiratory system, by reviewing new vocabulary words and their meanings, or finding short video clips on the Internet about the respiratory system.

In education, background knowledge is an essential tool to help students comprehend and learn the material. If a child doesn’t have the background knowledge in a topic that is being covered in class, we as educators and parents, need to help him/her build that knowledge. If we do that, it will lead to much greater success in comprehension and in school.

Have a great vacation! Read, read and read to grow that background knowledge!