Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cultural Differences Influence Background Knowledge

How much do you take into consideration how a child’s culture can influence their background knowledge?  I always thought I tried to be aware, but since arriving in Morocco, I find myself more and more acutely aware of how life experience can change the way we look at the world, and thereby affect how we learn.  I am sure as I move through the year I will meatfind more examples of this and will post again about it.  However, right now it is as simple as looking through clipart pictures and deciding which ones would be recognizable to students in Morocco vs. which ones would be recognizable to the students I taught in Georgia.  For example, when looking for a picture of the word meat for a student in GA, I always tried to find a steak or a hamburger already cooked.  I would never show a picture of raw meat or a butcher, because so few students have background knowledge to connect that to the meat they eat.  However, I am realizing students in Morocco almost always see meat as a part of a meal, like a tagine, or cous cous.  Students in Morocco WOULD recognize raw meatbutcher, at least as seen in (or outside) a butcher, as you regularly see butchers here and often there is half a cow hanging outside. 

The country you live in is not the only thing that affects your background knowledge, social status, family income, travel, and media influence (t.v., music, video games) can all have impacts too.  What examples do you have of where background knowledge has been different or unique for a student due to their cultural difference?  How much should we be taking this into consideration on a day to day basis with our students?  Food for thought – but I’d love to hear what you think.