Schema theory: the benefits and limitations of teaching the reading comprehension strategy of Making Connections to fourth grade students

Reading is an essential component of student learning. Researchers have studied proficient readers to find out various strategies they use to make meaning from text. Findings suggest that the most proficient readers use multiple and particular strategies to comprehend text. One such effective strategy used is "schema theory" or activating prior knowledge while reading as a means of connecting to text. This study documents the impact of teaching primary students to make personal connections to text they read through activating prior knowledge with the goal of increasing reading comprehension. Students are taught to use "sticky notes" or "post it notes" to mark connections while reading independently so they can refer to those connections during group discussion. The findings of this study support the teaching of the strategy of "making connections" to text through activating prior knowledge as a way to create deeper understanding of text and facilitate richer discussion of text. The findings of the study also caution about limitation of using this strategy. Students must be monitored for understanding at the beginning and gradually allowed to work more independently until they are able to use the strategy without teacher support. Students also go through stages of hyper awareness and superficial connections as a natural part of learning to use schema to make sense of text. Keywords: reading comprehension, schema theory, making connections