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Background Knowledge for Reading

Instruction should link current learning to prior knowledge and experiences.

Overview

The purpose of priming or teaching background knowledge is to increase the likelihood that students will be successful in a specific task by explicitly identifying the task's critical components. Another purpose is to increase student motivation to access information they already know to support learning the new task. By accessing or teaching background knowledge needed for the new task, we are reducing the cognitive demand on the student and increasing the likelihood of student success.

To address background knowledge, teachers must:

  • Identify the critical pre-skills or background knowledge that is most relevant to the new task and will ease acquisition of the new knowledge, task, or skill.
  • Determine if the background information needs to be primed (brief reminder) or taught through a more deliberate instructional sequence.
  • Provide prompts that elicit the necessary background information in preparation for the upcoming more difficult task.

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