September 16, 2013

Teaching Kids about SCHEMA!

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Coming to you with another great Comprehension Connections lesson today!  Last week I shared about Tanny McGregor's awesome lesson on Visualization.  I can't wait to tell you about another great lesson I borrowed from her book, this one focusing on teaching Schema.
To get the lesson started, I show a simple T-Chart.  I tell the kids that when I write the label on the 1st column, they will have 1 minute to shout out any thing they know about that topic, or thoughts that pop into their head.  I chose "Great America," our nearby Six Flags amusement park, for this because I figured most kids would have some schema about the topic from commercials even if they had not been.  I wrote down the words and phrases kids shared until the 1 minute timer went off.

Next, I wrote the name of the next column.  In the book, McGregor chose an obscure town in Florida with a unique name that she had schema about.  I chose Marseille, France, a town I was able to visit on an exchange trip in high school.  Obviously, the kids had pretty much no schema about this topic!
After the minute passed this time, I asked them why they had less to say about Marseille.  We processed for a minute, and then I wrote the word "SCHEMA" in caps down the left side, as McGregor instructed.  I explained what schema is, and explained why schema made the difference.

The thing that makes Comprehension Connections lessons really great is that they all have a concrete link--in this case a lint roller.  I showed it to the kids and told them that our brains are like this lint roller--anything we come in contact with gets stuck in our brains and becomes part of our mental filing cabinets, our schema!  I then shared the slips of paper I'd prepared--on each one I'd written someone either unique about me or that I'd experienced.  I read them to the kids and modeled dragging my lint roller over the slips.  Obviously, they stuck!
I talked with the kids about how we are all so very unique--there is no one in the world with the exact same experiences as each one of us.  That means our schema is unique too!
Just like in the Great America v. Marseille activity, when we read, it's our schema that makes a difference.  Schema allows us to make connections as we read.  Next, I revealed the connections anchor chart modeled after McGregor's that shares the different levels of connections as well as sentence frames.  I had created the bones in advance, but we added in the details in pink together.
Last, I kept the chart displayed as I read aloud from a picture book and asked the kids to share their connections with their Turn & Talk partner and the class.  A great beginning of the year literacy lesson!

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