Building Background Knowledge Teaching Strategy 

It is important for students to build background knowledge before they dive into new concepts. Use this strategy to help build students' schema.

It is important for students to build background knowledge before they dive into new concepts. Use this strategy to help build students’ schema/background knowledge.

How Does This Strategy Work?

  1. In the center of the chalkboard (or in some other place where all students can see it), write a topic on which you want to build background knowledge.  
  2. Have students think silently for one to two minutes about everything they know on the topic and write it down in their notebooks. 
  3. Have students share the things they have brainstormed about this topic.  For each thing, draw a line coming off the center topic and write the idea.  These ideas can also become their own central ideas with ideas branching off of them. Note: I often pick two students to act as recorders to record what classmates say so that I do not have to do all the writing and to speed up the sharing and recording process. This way I can focus on the class and what they have to say.
  4. Once students have nothing more to add to the brainstorming web, have students take a moment to look at it.  Then have students add the missing information to their initial brainstorm. 
  5. This can be completed digitally by using a collaborative writing document such as Google Docs where multiple people can share their ideas.

How Do I Use This Building Background Knowledge Strategy:

  1. At the beginning of a unit:  Students often have some or lots of background knowledge on a variety of topics. This strategy is a great way to tap into that knowledge.
  2. In literature class: When I teach a historical fiction novel, it can be immensely helpful to have students have at least some knowledge of the time period in which it is set.  
  3. If the topic of this brainstorming is going to become a lengthy unit recreate the brainstorming chart to hang up somewhere in your classroom for students to use as a reference. I usually use chart paper for brainstorming important units so I can hang it up. 

Why Do I Love This Strategy?

  1. Brainstorming is a great way to get lots of information in front of students in a quick and nonthreatening manner.  
  2. Every student is involved in this strategy. 

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