Teaching students to activate their schema in kindergarten, first, and second grade can seem abstract at first. Once I let students know they actually use their schema all the time, they become more comfortable explaining their thoughts! Both as a first grade teacher and a K-2 literacy teacher, I emphasized schema at the beginning of the year. Then, I would continue to use that term during our read alouds and guided reading groups throughout the year.
When planning lessons and activities, I like to focus on schema is three different ways:
(1) activating our schema before we read.
(2) observing how our schema can change.
(3) using our schema to make meaningful conneections with our stories.
To practice activating our schema before we read, I like to print out a bunch of fake book covers, like the ones shown above. Students look at the book cover and use their schema to predict what the story will be about. During this introductory activity, I like for students to share whatever comes to mind about the image and their previous experiences.
When learning how our schema can change as we learn more information, I love to use nonfiction books and/or passages. The ones above are examples from my Comprehension Strategies that Stick unit and they have “activation” questions to ask students before we read the passage. I will usually stop half way through the passages to see if anything in our schema has changed. That quote “you don’t know what you don’t know” rings true in this lesson and I love seeing students’ faces when they’ve gained a new understanding of something they thought they knew.
Lastly, I want my students to understand that their schema is what helps them relate to the characters and their problems in the stories we read. We connect with our characters and their feelings as we make our own connections to our lives. To help practice this, I wrote a few different connection passages for students to practice using their schema!
All the activities show in this post (and many more) are included in my Comprehension unit below: