Before I read the book, says Kelly Gallagher in his book Deeper Reading, I need to activate any background knowledge I can about the topic, which Gallagher likens to warming up a car before driving it. This is designed to “get the students ready and focused for the upcoming reading” (Gallagher 21). He goes on to say, “By activating their schema… a sense of anticipation is built before they begin to read” (21).
Gallagher goes on to explain the importance of setting up the book before the students start reading: “…reading comprehension is tied closely to what the reader brings to the page — to what the reader knows before reading” (26). He cotinues: “Having context helps immeasurably” and “…our students often lack prior knowledge in many of the areas they are to study” (27). Gallagher then quotes a brain guru, David Sousa, who says, “past experiences always influence new learning” and Gallagher continues: “When we read something new, we are much more likely to understand it if we see connections that make it relevant” (Gallagher 27).
Not to belabor the point, here are some other points he makes:
- Teachers should do more “…frontloading of the text so that students could get past the unfamiliarity of the story and begin seeing the beauty and the universal truths inherent” in a novel (28).
- “If we expect students to find meaning, ‘we need to be certain that today’s curriculum contains connections to their past experiences, not just ours’ (Sousa 2001, 49) (28).
- “When we teach difficult literature and challenging nonfiction to our students, we need to work hard to frame the text for them. Remember, adolescents often bring very limited prior knowledge to the page, so we need to be the equivalent of that guided audio tour” (37).
- “As the teacher, what you do (or don’t do) before your students read a major literary work will determine their level of motivation and interest. This in turn will have a direct effect on their level of comprehension” (37).
- “What can (the teacher) do to shore up those gaps in the prior knowledge of… students?” (38).
Gallagher then goes on to suggest a number of strategies, including the K-W-L-R (K: What they know already; W: What they want to know; L: What they have learned; and R: Post-reading research), the “K” of which I explored in the last post.
But Gallagher also suggests additional ideas for preparing students, such as:
- a related story or article
- an art experience
- a video clip
To frame Wuthering Heights, I explored the internet and what I found is in the next post…