Building Background Strategies

What Is It?

Background knowledge is the experience and knowledge that learners bring with them into the classroom.  When we learn something new, many times we connect the new idea or concept to our prior knowledge.  For English language learners, they may not possess the same background knowledge as their English speaking peers; therefore, it is essential for teachers to create opportunities that assess, activate, and build background knowledge at the beginning of every lesson presented to ELLs.  Through building background, we are able to identify misconceptions and holes in students’ learning.


1.  Show a video clip related to the book, concept, or topic you are about to study.

2.  Allow students to do a quick write to relate prior knowledge to new content.

3.  Guide students on a “tour of the text” and a “picture walk” through the text before reading it.

4.  Bring in realia and pictures for the students to view.

5.  Identify key vocabulary students need to understand the text or concept.

6.  Find cultural connections for students.


1.  Graffiti Boards

2.  **Anticipation-Survey

3.  **List-Group-Label

4. Four Corners

Examples of Graffiti Boards


Picture 016 Picture 015 Picture 019

**Resource: Fresno Unified School District – English Learner Services

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