Today I taught a lesson on “activating schema”.  I taught the same lesson to three different second grade classes. It still amazes me how the same text, the same activities are received and responded to differently by different classes.  It’s a lesson that really could be done with children of any age. 

Here’s the lesson:

Materials:  4 file folders, sticky notes, text Where Fish Go In Winter And Other Great Mysteries by Amy Goldman Koss.

1.  Introduction:  Show the children a file folder and explain that our brains are like filing cabinets.  There is lots of information, and we don’t think about all of the information we know at the same time.  For example, if the teacher mentions the topic “butterflies”, we immediately start to retrieve the information on butterflies from our mental filing cabinet.  Everything that’s in our mental filing cabinets – everything we already know – is called our SCHEMA.  (One child today suggested that our brains are like computers.  That might be an even better analogy to use with the children, depending on their level of technology knowledge).

2.  (Give each child 3 sticky notes)  Here’s a topic.  (Hold up a file folder with “Do islands float?” written on it).  A minute ago you weren’t thinking about islands and whether or not they float.  Now that I’ve held up this folder, though, you’re beginning to ACTIVATE YOUR SCHEMA.  That means you are thinking about the information you already know about islands and whether or not they float.  On one of your sticky notes, write down something you already know about whether or not islands float.  (Wait for children to write)

3.  Have children share their schema about islands floating – then have them bring their sticky notes up and place them on the file folder with the question “Do islands float?” 

4.  We read and research to find out whether or not our schema is correct and to gain more schema about a topic.  Sometimes our schema is correct, and sometimes it isn’t.  I found this wonderful book.  (Hold up the book and read the title and author and illustrator).  It gives the answers to a lot of questions.  It has a page that answers the question “Do islands float?”  It’s written as a rhyme.  As I read it aloud to you, I want you to decide which information from our schemas about islands is true – and which is not true.

5.  Read p. 10 in the book.  Then go over the sticky notes and decide which schema is correct and which isn’t.  You can remove the sticky notes that aren’t accurate.  Emphasize that it’s a good thing to find out that our schema is not correct,  because then we know the correct information about something.  We replace incorrect schema (knowledge) with correct schema (knowledge).  That’s why

6.  Repeat the exercise with other questions from the book such as: Why does popcorn pop?  Why do leaves change color?  Why do onions make you cry?

7.  Review the meaning of schema and how it is helpful in reading, in school and in all subjects to really THINK about what we already know – to activate our schema – when we’re learning.

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2 Responses to ““Activate Your SCHEMA” – Reading Comprehension Lesson”

  1. amy goldman koss Says:

    Hey! I think it’s FANTASTIC that you are using one of my books in such a creative way! THANKS!
    Best Fisher….er…WISHES! Amy g Koss

  2. I Speak of Dreams: “Activate Your SCHEMA” - Reading Comprehension Lesson at The Median Sib Says:

    Kramer auto Pingback[…] “Activate Your SCHEMA” – Reading Comprehension Lesson at The Median Sib. Today I taught a lesson on “activating schema”.  I taught the same lesson to three […]

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