Relating your past experiences and knowledge to what you are presently reading is one important skill of an efficient reader. These past experiences and knowledge are collectively called schemata. With schemata, you are certain that there is something you already know and experienced that will help you make sense of a new reading material. Therefore, when you are about to discuss a new reading material in class, pay attention to the instructions and reminders of your teacher before reading the text.
Usually, your teacher will say something like, “You are about to read a story about _____________.” Upon hearing this, mentally recall any experience or knowledge that you might have related to the topic of the text. Also, pay attention to the title of a reading material. Try to guess/predict what the material will be all about based on its title and similar to the previous advice, try to connect the topic of the text with an experience and/or knowledge you have. You may also pose questions that you hope the new reading material will be able to answer in connection to what you already know about its topic.
However, you have to remember that in some cases, your previous experience or background knowledge will not be totally similar to what is discussed in the reading material. In the paragraph about Rocky, perhaps the word “mat” confused you because you have never associated this word with a wrestler. You might say that a wrestler plays or works in a ring, but not on a mat. But after reading the material, you now know that a mat is a thick pad placed on a floor to protect wrestlers, tumblers, etc. Remember that when we read, we should be ready to adjust our background knowledge to accommodate new information we can get from the material.
This is especially crucial when we read materials that have culture-specific content. For instance, if a Filipino reader comes across “Thanksgiving” while reading a story, would he/she easily understand the significance of the event among the American characters in the story? In the same way, would an Ameri-can reader easily connect his/her previous knowledge of religion/spirituality upon reading about Filipinos’ devotion to the Black Nazarene?
To summarize, when reading, always start by activating any previous knowledge that you have about the topic/material that you are about to comprehend. Search for possible connections by reflecting on the title and reading the first few sentences/paragraphs. Be open to the possibility that the material might give you a different aspect or different information from what you already know.
Using Graphic Organizers to Enhance the Use of Content Schema in Reading
Reading experts suggest that learners are able to maximize the use of their content schema by using graphic organizers. Graphic organizers or visual presentations of overall related concepts, which are based on how a reader makes sense of the reading material. Through the use of these organizers, a reader is able to examine his/her understanding of the text. It is to be expected that if a material is familiar to a reader in content and in structure, reading comprehension would be better. Moreover, using graphic organizers allows a reader to see the similarities and differences between the information presented in the text and their previous knowledge. This way, he/she develops the important skill of evaluating given information.
The usual graphic organizers used to enhance the use of content schema are concept maps, double-entry journals, KWLH chart, flowcharts, Venn diagrams, semantic feature analysis charts, and spider, tree, and fishbone graphic organizers among others. Try to think of the type of informo+’on and text structure/format that will go with each kind of graphic organizer.