Activating Prior Knowledge and Interest

In reading this Chapter I expect to learn how to activate students’ prior knowlege and interest to engage them in reading and to help them feel capable of learning from what they read.

The text stated that learning is rooted in what we already know.  I think this is true.  It is easier to understand something if you have a prior knowlege or background with the subject.

While I was in Hungary, I was learning to speak Hungarian.  I obtained about an intermediate level of proficiency.  This is about what it takes to order a pizza, take a cab home or ask directions.  It was not enough to understand native speakers in the capital city conversing socially.  My boyfriend was Hungarian and sometimes when we went out, he would talk with his friends in Hungarian.  The interesting thing and how this ties into the chapter is that if he was telling them something that he had already told me in English, I could understand the conversation.  If it was something completely new, I could only grasp the topic and not the details.

I imagine that reading difficult texts can be somewhat similiar.  If you know something about the topic, it will be easier to read the text.  If you know nothing about the topic, you may just be able to pick up some main points, but not the details.

I liked what the text said about about activating prior knowlege and interest creating a context in which students will read with purpose and anticipation.  I tried this with a class I was substituting in.  The teacher’s guide had notations for where the answers for questions would be found in the text we were reading.  I broke the reading up into segments and before each segment, I told them what to think about using the questions and then asked them to expound a little after the segment.  I don’t know how well they did answering the questions in their follow up work.  I do know that the class was engaged and well-behaved during the reading which is quite an accomplishment for a sub.

The text indicated how one teacher held a discussion about what it means to read like a historian.  I think this is an important point in whatever discipline a teacher is teaching.  If we can help students understand the purpose and perspective of the discipline and use those as guiding principles, they will be much more able to draw the key points from the text.

I understood what the author was talking about when sharing his experience with his doctoral research class.  Right now, I am struggling with my Principles of Educational Research course.  The reading and writing is more difficult than what I have had to do in any course so far.  I am learning though and keeping up with the other students.  Not only is the text seeming less difficult, but the reading for my other courses is starting to seem easier.  I think a challenge is sometimes good to stretch our abilities.

Alot of the strategies look really effective.  I like the anticipation guides especially when predicting who would be likely or what would be likely or unlikely.  I can see myself as a student making a guess based on some kind of logic and then wanting to find out whether or not I was right.

I would like to try the ReQuest strategy as well.  It would give the students a chance to clarify the meaning of the text and identify the parts they had trouble understanding.  In a group setting it would be good as all the students would see that even the “smart kids” have questions when reading.  They would all learn from the questions.  Once their questions are answered the teacher can ask questions to draw out any key points that weren’t already discussed.  It would take the pressure off of the kids.  They wouldn’t have to answer anything until after they were sure they understood the meaning.  They also would be warmed up to discussion after getting a chance to talk.  I think it would be a more supportive learning environment because the students would know the teacher was there to help them not just drill them for answers and grade them.

The expectation outlines and helping students to think about questions they want answered from the text is good as well.

I guess I am thinking about language learning tonight, but as a foreign language learner and an ESL teacher, I have both taught and learned using similiar techniques.  I know that it is very important when reading text in a foreign language to have an idea what it is about, what the context is, and what information you are looking to learn from the text.

I am seeing that the same things are important in order to make meaning of any new information or subject.


About susanm2012

I am a teacher licensure candidate at University of St. Thomas. This blog is an assignment in my Reading for 5-12 students.
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