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Activate Prior Knowledge

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20 Best-practices
Reading Strategies
Readers have personal experiences, knowledge of the world, and previous experiences with text. They bring this prior knowledge to the text to help them understand. Readers connect new information to their existing knowledge base.

Readers activate relevant prior knowledge before, during and after reading. They decide if they need additional information about the topic, format, or language of the text they will be reading. They use their knowledge as a framework for learning new information. Readers add to or change their thinking as they discover new ideas and/or information in their reading.

Prior knowledge is a combination of the reader’s preexisting attitudes, experiences, and knowledge:

  • Attitudes include a reader’s beliefs about themselves as learners/readers, an awareness of their interests and strengths, and their motivation to read a particular text.
  • Experiences include any activities that provided a reader with a base of understanding.
  • Knowledge includes that of the reading process, content, topics, concepts, text structures, text styles, and reading goals.

Questions to help students activate their prior knowledge:
  • What knowledge will help you understand the information in this selection?
  • Which details from the text connected to your life experiences?
  • What background knowledge would help a reader to understand this text?
  • Would you recommend this article to readers? Why? Why not?
  • What connections did you make with the information revealed in this selection?
  • What other selections did this article remind you of? (Text-to-Text Connections)
  • What personal connections did you make with the information?
  • What did you learn about the world from this article?
  • Where would you find additional information for the topic of this article?
  • Based on the topic, what information would you expect to read in this selection?
  • What details did you add to your knowledge of this topic based on this article?
  • How are the events described in this article related to your life? Are there similarities? Are there differences? How are the events similar or different to the life of people you know?

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