Know the Community; Know the Student

The term “funds of knowledge” refers to a community’s “historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge” (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 2001). Regardless of the location, a school’s community has many funds of knowledge.

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Funds of knowledge are found throughout the community in the “lived text” of the community, such as:

  • text and oral biographies, stories, and songs of the community
  • home language of the community
  • names
  • local monuments
  • architecture
  • geography and geology
  • newspapers
  • signage
  • galleries and craft stores
  • occupations

A community’s funds of knowledge provide authentic anchors for lessons in all subject areas. We start with the familiar, link the familiar to subject area content, and engage learners in extended learning and applications of the familiar.

To learn about a community’s funds of knowledge, one must be present in the community, so take advantage of opportunities to:

  • walk through the community, notice the scenery, and listen to the sounds
  • buy your groceries at the community grocery store and chat with the folks in the store
  • attend local sporting and cultural events
  • read local publications
  • have coffee in a local coffee shop
  • ask questions

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Once folks are used to seeing you out and about, take some pictures of the community and bring the pictures into the classroom. Begin the day with a picture of a local monument, store, an empty space, playground, or office space and ask the students to tell you what they know about it and what they don’t know about it.  This provides the students with an opportunity to develop oral language skills by sharing information about something that’s familiar to them and to search for answers to questions about the unfamiliar.  Post these images on the class website and ask parents to contribute information and answer the student’s questions.

Search for community members who have knowledge of local history or search archival sites for historical photos of the area. Build these stories and images into social studies, reading, and writing lessons.

Ask community members or search the archives for biographies of community members. Link the person’s life experiences to a practical application of a curriculum area.

Ask community members to share songs or stories that were important to their families. Use these songs and stories as anchors for reading and writing workshop mini lessons.

Arrange for class tours or local businesses or industries. Ensure the tour includes information about the skills needed to find employment in those fields and what education is needed to achieve those skills. Develop a class chart of occupation / skills / education. Use the skills needed section of this chart as an anchor for mini lessons in science, art, health, etc.

Specific suggestions about linking funds of knowledge to curriculum areas is found in Engaging the Disengaged.

The benefits of using the funds of knowledge go well beyond anchoring learning in the familiar. Using a community’s funds of knowledge is the foundation of a culturally inclusive classroom.

Culturally Inclusive Teaching and Learning

  • Builds respect among all members of the classroom and school community
  • Honours the funds of knowledge of all members of the classroom community
  • Uses home language as a foundation for learning additional languages
  • Maintains high expectations for all
  • Focuses on effective communication: teachers and students develop their skills of listening through a appreciative perspective
  • Values oral language: time is provided for students to talk about topics that are authentic and meaningful to their lives
  • Understands the reciprocity of teaching and learning – everyone in the classroom community has a role as a teacher, learner, and provider of feedback
  • Uses information about a wide range of cultures in purposeful and authentic ways:
    • Fiction and nonfiction student reading materials are intentionally chosen by the teacher to provide a “sample of the world”
    • Classroom projects extend the sampling of the world to deep learning about the people of the world
    • Teacher read alouds reflect the literature of the world
    • Community members are invited to share their stories and knowledge
    • Global current event discussions do not perpetuate “single stories” about people and cultures
    • A wide range of oral and written languages are introduced, sampled and discussed in authentic ways
    • Genre studies include text and videos from a wide range of authors and cultures

For more professional conversations about education, please visit: Beyond the Apple . . . Reframing Conversations in Education or contact us at Beyondtheapplecontact@gmail.com

About Beyond The Apple

Beyond the Apple provides everything a Professional Learning Community needs! Designed to follow Beyond the Apple's Tenets of Adult Education, our videos re-ignite the excitement of professional conversations among educators in the classroom, university, colleges and professional training. Our free teaching and learning resources provide a follow up with more information that is current, research based and practical.
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