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Students build knowledge from their experiences both in and out of school. This knowledge includes their everyday cultural experiences and interactions within personal communities. As one is presented with new information, whether it is academic or cultural, these experiences may be stored in memory. Students later draw upon this information to help them connect to texts and make inferences about what they are reading.
Reading comprehension is dependent upon readers' use of their Background Knowledge to create a mental representation of the texts they read. Older readers typically have more Background Knowledge to draw upon, especially for content area reading. As adolescents progress through school, their need for Background Knowledge increases with the need to integrate more content into their existing knowledge and make deeper connections with texts. Increased Background Knowledge may also facilitate online reading comprehension by aiding in Internet navigation to find topic-specific information.
A few key components of Background Knowledge are essential to literacy success:
When annotating, students engage deeply with a text and make their thinking visible while reading.
Audiobooks allow students to hear fluent reading and experience books above their reading skills.
When adolescents can connect and communicate with authentic audiences about their interests and values, reading and writing become more personally meaningful and relevant.
Students practice making and finding meaning in texts through book discussions moderated by teachers to varying degrees.
Building positive and trusting relationships with learners allows them to feel safe; a sense of belonging; and that their academic, cognitive, and social and emotional needs are supported.
When students express information visually, they are activating more cognitive processes while problem solving and increasing their experience with alternate texts.
Seeing and using new words repeatedly and in many contexts is critical for Vocabulary acquisition.
Interpreting and composing discipline-specific texts requires tailoring literacy strategies, like annotating or asking questions, to the disciplinary goals and practices.
Visiting places connected to classroom learning provides opportunities to deepen understanding through firsthand experiences.
Visualizing how ideas fit together helps students construct meaning and strengthens their recall.
During guided inquiry, teachers foster student autonomy by designing lessons centered on meaningful questions in which students locate, analyze, and present relevant information on their own or in small groups.
Learning about students' cultures and connecting them to instructional practices helps all students feel like valued members of the community, which improves Motivation and can mitigate Stereotype Threat.
By observing, rereading, and closely analyzing published writing, students see examples and learn the strategies of good writing that they can integrate into their own Composition.
Creating patterns for remembering content information, important Vocabulary, narrative structures, etc.
Instruction in multiple formats allows students to activate different cognitive skills and Background Knowledge that are necessary to remember procedural and content information.
Providing multiple texts on the same topic or theme allows students to interact with multiple perspectives and develop their critical thinking skills.
When students write from a non-dominant or marginalized perspective, they consider and give voice to points of view that are often missing.
Providing guiding prompts and questions for students to use when reading or participating in discussions deepens their understanding of texts and gives them space to question and grapple with issues of power, justice, and equity.
Reading aloud to adolescents models Reading Fluency as texts become more complex and disciplinary in nature and therefore, more difficult to understand.
Teachers can provide individualized support through one-on-one conferences to assess reading comprehension, understanding of content, and spark further interest in reading.
Having culturally relevant reading materials, including multicultural and diverse texts, are critical for supporting all students.
Providing access to a variety of multimodal texts that align with the interests of learners allows them to practice digital, information, and Critical Literacy.
When students monitor their comprehension, performance, and use of strategies when reading and writing, they build their Metacognition and actively participate in the reading process.
Providing a story or concept map prior to lessons or having students create their own maps during or after reading helps learners identify and organize key elements of a text.
During reading, giving students the opportunity to explain their thinking process aloud allows them to recognize the strategies they use, solidify their comprehension, and move knowledge into their Long-term Memory.
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