This post is part of an ongoing series on the topic of Eliminating the Achievement Gap for Latino Students.
Latino students can and will learn if we, as educators, meet their language and learning needs. Latino students may lack the vocabulary and background knowledge needed to access academic content. The most effective and direct way to build background knowledge is to provide students with experiences outside of the classroom such as field trips. While these exploratory experiences are meaningful, schools may lack the funds to provide students with these powerful activities. In his book, Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement, Marzano provides an indirect approach to building background knowledge that schools can implement to enhance Latino students’ academic achievement. According to Marzano, background knowledge is stored visually and linguistically. Teachers should, therefore, provide Latino students with opportunities to visually and linguistically process big ideas of a unit before delving into an area of study. Before I start a unit of study, I provide my students with multiple opportunities to think critically about the topic at hand, engage in collaborative conversations with their classmates, and communicate their thoughts of the big ideas.