September 21, 2017

What is schema?

We had an important talk on Wednesday. We talked about schema.  

What is schema? 

I use a book by literacy expert, Debbie Miller as my guide. Reading With Meaning is one of those books I come back to time after time in my literacy instruction. Debbie Miller is *that teacher*. When I was a kid, I wanted hair like Blair from Facts of Life. As a teacher, I want to be just like Debbie Miller. 

Schema is all the stuff in your head. It's your experiences, your likes, your dislikes, your friends, your knowledge, all that good stuff. Basically, it's the prior knowledge that you bring to the table when you read a book, watch a movie, have a conversation, just about any experience you have. 

When we read, we use our schema to connect with the text. It's really the deciding factor in whether or not we like a book. If you can't connect to a text on some level, you likely won't enjoy it.  Without our schema, we're just reading words and not relating, we're not constructing meaning and having a conversation with our self.

You have more fun with a text when you can relate to it. We can likely all think of a story that we just never got "into" (hello Harry Potter...I'm looking in your direction).

When you use your schema, you say to yourself, "Hey, that happened to me once" and you can appreciate how the character must feel, you can put yourself in their shoes.  

So now that the boys and girls know what we mean when we talk about schema, we say it a lot. In fact, even when dealing with challenging situations that arise throughout the day, I might say to a child, "Now you can add this to your schema, so you'll know what to do next time." We don't only use our prior knowledge to assist with reading. I get a lot of mileage out of this word! 

As a youngster, I loved reading Judy Blume books because I could so easily relate to many of the themes in her stories.  I didn't realize it at the time, but that connection, that use of my schema, is why I devoured every one of her books. When we use our schema, we tend to see reading as a more pleasurable activity.  

The boys and girls learned and reviewed all kinds of new words: schema, connection, relate and prior knowledge. It was a great Literacy Block and as we move through the year, my hope is that the students will see how using their schema takes reading to a whole new level.

Reading With Meaning by Debbie Miller  


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