How Schema Affect Students’ Reading Comprehension?

Ever wonder what’s the most valuable asset a student brings with him or her when reading?  It’s nothing that comes from our reading lessons or centers.  It’s not something we can even take a lot of credit for!  So what is it?  It’s their schema!  A student’s schema is their key to a deep understanding of a text.  It gives them their ability to connect, build upon past learning and experiences, and visualize.  A teacher’s understanding and usage of schema can truly impact students’ comprehension in a most positive way.  Let’s find out how!

Understanding Schema

One thing I try to do every year is head to the bookstore and pick out a book or two on a subject I know absolutely nothing about.  Most recently it was a book for nursing students.  I sit and spend a solid chunk of time reading chapters.  I focus on the emotions I’m feeling during this experience.  Why?  Because this is what it feels like to read a text without any prior schema.  I want to empathize with my students and remember how it feels so that I keep the importance at the forefront of my mind at all times when planning.  I encourage you to try this too!

Let’s take a quick deep dive into why schema is so important!

  • Schema helps make meaning and understanding of what we read.  One of the FIRST things that happen inside your brain is it decides whether or not the information you’re receiving while reading is relevant or not.  If it is relevant, your brain actually works stronger and harder.  You have increased focus and memory of what you’re reading.  If your brain decides that the information is not relevant, it shuts off, works slower, and has a lower recall.
  • Our schema grows and changes.  Students need to realize that their brains, their schemas are super important to activate every time they read.  Not only to help them make accessing schemameaning of the current text but also to help grow their schema and add new information to it.  Without connecting the new learning to the old learning, the new learning won’t stick!
  • Without accessing our schema, our other strategies are negatively affected.  Research shows that reading strategies actually have MORE impact on a student’s ability to comprehend than skills do.  And what do almost all reading strategies have in common?  Schema!  Think about it.  If we want our students to be able to visualize, ask questions, infer, and make connections, it is a key ingredient to them all.

Tips for teaching schema!

  • Don’t just explain that schema means ‘what’s already in our brains’.  Break that down more for students.  Explain that schema is our experiences, our knowledge, our emotions, and our understandings of the world around us.  Allow students to constantly share from their schema and connect books to their prior knowledge.
  • Let students experience reading with no schema.  How does it feel?  Why was it hard to read and remember?  Let them see and feel the power behind schema!
  • Get the conversation going before each book or text!  Ask questions, go over vocabulary words, show images to help battle the lack of schema students may have!
  • Teach students to access before, during, and after they read.  Before, have them focus on the two questions of:  What do I already know about this topic?  How will this impact my understanding?  While reading, have the students focus on the questions: Is this new information?  What do I want/need to remember?  After reading focus on the questions:  Do I have questions?  What did I add to my schema?

Schema isn’t something to just throw around because it’s a buzz word.  It’s truly one of the most important concepts we can teach our students to utilize when reading.  As teachers, we need to not only be aware of this but use this information day in and day out to help our students become the best readers they can be!  If you would like to save this post, please pin the image below!

understanding schema



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I’m a wife, a mommy of 3, blogger, and a full time teacher author and presenter. I love to read, shop, and spend time with my family! My hands are always busy, but my heart is so full!

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