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Reading Wonder Wednesday: Let’s Wonder about… Background Knowledge

EWC here with another Reading Wonder Wednesday tip!

The saying has always gone, “We don’t know what we don’t know.” Well, if we tell our kids to read a story about a family of pioneers, they might have difficulty understanding the text. Being that, of course, they never lived during the 1840s or 1850s. 😀

So, when beginning a story that includes content or experiences our children have never been in contact with before, it is critical to build up their background knowledge before reading.

That is, if you want to avoid your child erupting into a frustrated temper tantrum 😀 (we’ve all been there).

Background knowledge is the amount of information a child has on a topic based on their own life experiences and upbringing. Recent research by the Association for Psychological Science has suggested that building this knowledge “...plays a key role in students’ reading comprehension - if students don’t have sufficient related knowledge, they’ll probably have difficulties understanding a text.”

OK, we get it. Background knowledge is important. So, how do we build it?

  • Field Trips (in-person or virtual): Not only does this give you great ideas for fun activities to keep your children engaged this weekend, but these will also help them to learn, hands-on, about the unfamiliar information mentioned in the text. A great website to find some ideas is: www.weareteachers.com/best-virtual-field-trips/

  • Video Clips: If taking a trip or trusting your child with the computer for too long is out of the question, surf YouTube for some great historical and informational clips. There are tons of educational channels out there; NatGeoKids has some fantastic science clips.

  • Non-Fiction articles: Want something that will both provide your child with more information, but also help them to practice those reading skills? Check out CommonLit.org for short informational articles appropriate for your child’s grade level that you can pair with the text they are reading.

And if you want to see this process in action, our reading labs are coming up on October 3rd for 3-5th graders and October 6th for 6-8th graders, so make sure to sign up for our mailing list to get the Zoom links.

Happy Background Knowledge Building! 😀

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