We describe a collaborative project in which university researchers, teachers and Grade 4–5 English language learners (ELLs) investigated the sociohistorical contexts and practices in which the ELLs participate, through a ‘community scan’. Many observers have argued that schools and teachers have such minimal knowledge of the outside- school lives of their multilingual and multicultural students that they are unable to build upon the ‘funds of knowledge’ that students and other members of their communities have. In particular, a large body of recent literature argues that school literacy education should be linked to literacies that children develop in their homes and communities. We present here a study centred on a public school located in a Canadian Punjabi-Sikh community. For our scan we collected census and other demographic representations of the community, as well as media reports and academic literature concerned with Punjabi-Sikh immigration. In addition, our scan included interviews with teachers, principals, parents and community leaders. Students’ investigations and representations of the community and of out-of-school multiliteracies were also collected. The authors argue that such information is crucial in the development of pedagogy that values and promotes the reworking of the practices, images, texts and symbols that children already use.