This month’s beginning literacy tip is taken from an article written by Akimi Gibson from the Reading Rockets website. It’s about using your student’s prior knowledge and context clues in order to help promote comprehension.
Activating prior knowledge
Tina, the tutor, invites her student, Allison, to read the title of the book, M&M and the Bad News Babies, and then preview the book.Tina: What does the title tell you about the story?
Allison: It’s about babies who get into trouble.
Tina: Let’s take a look at the first chapter and see what we can find out.
Allison: Look, they have a fish tank. I have fish, too. My fish live in a fish bowl, not a big tank. (Allison points to the picture of the tank on the page.)Tina continues to preview the first chapter with Allison. They notice pictures of a mother dropping off two young children and a lively discussion about babysitting ensues. She then explicitly explains the strategy:Tina: Allison, you are doing exactly what good readers do before they read. Good readers preview the book and think about what they already know about the topic. As we continue to read, keep in mind what you know about babysitting and doing chores. This may help you understand the story.Why It’s Important
Good readers make use of their prior knowledge and experiences to help them understand what they are reading. When a student activates her prior knowledge, the resulting connection provides a framework for any new information she will learn while reading (Graves, Juel, & Graves, 1998). This also helps ensure that the reader will remember the text after reading.How to Support Your Tutee
Before your student reads, preview the text and help her make a connection between what she already knows and the new text.Page through the book and ask students what they already know about the topic, broad concept, author, or genre. For example, Tina learns that Allison has a fish tank, like the characters in the story.
Draw the student’s attention to key vocabulary or phrases. Tina draws Allison’s attention to topic words such as fish tank, babysitting, and twins.
Talk about print and text features and the way the text is organized. For example, Tina points out that the text is divided into four chapters.
Another strategy for activating prior knowledge: K-W-L Chart. In addition to previewing the book with Allison, Tina decides to use a K-W-L chart(an example follows) as a way to explain the strategy further. K-W-L charts are especially helpful with nonfiction or expository text.
Before reading, draw a K-W-L chart like the one below on a sheet of paper.
What I Know
In the K column, list what the child already knows about the topic. If necessary, model a response to get the conversation started.
What I Want To Know
Then point to the W column and ask the student what he would like to learn by reading the text. Write responses in the form of questions. Use the questions to help set a purpose for reading.
What I Learned
While reading, turn the student’s attention to the W column. As he discovers the answers to his questions, record them and any new learnings in the L column. After reading, help your student summarize the text using all three columns.