Background Knowledge

Knowledge begets knowledge. Students draw upon what they already know to master new vocabulary and content. The articles in this section discuss why background knowledge is so important and offer ideas you can use to build upon a student's knowledge.

Use Easy Nonfiction to Build Background Knowledge

By: Elaine K. McEwan (2007)

A Texas librarian shares his strategy of using nonfiction picture books to introduce new concepts to struggling adolescent readers and to build their background knowledge. Once students have been exposed to academic content in easy reading material, they are more confident in making the transition to textbooks.

How Knowledge Helps

By: Daniel T. Willingham (2006)

The author, a professor of cognitive psychology, notes, "it's true that knowledge gives students something to think about, but… knowledge does much more than just help students hone their thinking skills, it actually makes learning easier." Factual knowledge enhances cognitive processes like problem solving and reasoning, and once you have some knowledge, the brain finds it easier to get more and more knowledge.

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