Culture & Language

Planned Language Approach: Background Knowledge

From birth, children have daily experiences with people, objects, and places that they store in their memory. Over time, these memories become more complex. This background knowledge is the basis for future learning, and children gain it through their wide and varied interactions with people. Background knowledge includes scientific awareness; cultural norms and expectations; and other information about the world. It expands as children connect new learning to their background knowledge. Explore these resources related to the development of these skills in young children, as well as strategies parents and families can use to support them.

Background Knowledge

Explore this resource to learn more about background knowledge—an important foundation for young children’s learning. Discover the research around why background knowledge matters and the roles language and culture play. Learn how children develop background knowledge and what it looks like at different stages in their development. Find examples of effective practices to develop children’s background knowledge in various early learning settings.

How Parents and Families Support Background Knowledge

Discover specific research-based strategies that help infants, toddlers, and preschoolers develop the key skills they need for later reading success. Find examples of how the strategies are used in daily life.

Funds of Knowledge

Watch as Luis Moll describes funds of knowledge. This concept involves the essential cultural practices and bodies of knowledge embedded in the daily practices and routines of families. Learn how to gather and use the funds of knowledge for children and families in the classroom. Find out how this approach will help staff ensure culturally relevant programming.

Joan Talks About the Big 5: Background Knowledge

Learn more about background knowledge as “Joan,” a kindergartener, shares her story about the language and literacy skills she has learned since birth. Joan's stories highlight how knowledgeable adults provided quality environments, resources, and intentional and planned instruction that supported her language and literacy learning. Reading Joan's stories are a fun and interesting way to learn about the Big 5.

Additional Resources

Review Exploring Joan Talks: A Resource Guide for Training and Technical Assistance Providers when using Joan Talks about the Big 5 to help Head Start and child care programs implement a Planned Language Approach.

Watch the Focus on Background Knowledge webinar to learn more about this topic.

Last Updated: September 19, 2019