Back to Basics: Making Connections and Existing Knowledge

Welcome to our new Back to Basics series! In this series we will be exploring some of the foundational methods, practices and terminology for teaching reading. This series is for those new to the field of literacy, beginning tutors or those who would just like a refresher. This week we are discussing the reading comprehension strategies of making connections and using existing knowledge.

Making connections and using existing knowledge are closely related strategies literacy learners use to increase reading comprehension. These two strategies can be used together. It’s quite common for emerging readers to read an entire page of text but forget what they’ve read by the time they reach the end. These two strategies together will help readers pull the meaning from the text.

Using Existing Knowledge

Existing (or prior/background) knowledge, also called schema theory, is closely related to making connections. Good readers look for meaning and interpret the text as they read. Using existing knowledge about the subject helps them to predict what might come next. Learners may already have prior knowledge that they don’t yet recognize, or for English language learners, that they may not be able to communicate in English. Existing knowledge of the topic can be discussed before reading to help set the stage for what is coming. While reading, learners should be encouraged to make connections to their prior knowledge and the teacher can model this as well. After reading, discuss with the learner how making those connections helped them to better understand the text.

Making Connections

This strategy is another way to ensure learners understand what they are reading. Readers connect the text to themselves, to other texts and to the world around them. Learners who make connections while reading are better able to understand the text. Making connections enables the learner to activate existing knowledge. Here are example questions to help learners connect to the text:

  • Does anything in this story remind you of something in your own life? (text to self)
  • How is this text similar to other ones you have read? (text to text)
  • What does this remind you of in the real world? (text to events/world)

The video below helps to explain the concept further.

Learn More

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