Using Prior Knowledge to Make Predictions While Reading

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

Skilled readers make predictions and connect what they already know to what they're reading. In this lesson you'll learn how to activate your prior knowledge in order to make predictions about a reading selection.

Skilled Readers

Skilled readers are those who read and comprehend what they're reading at a high level. They improve their chances for comprehension by engaging in active reading, a type of reading that forces the reader to interact with the text. Even if you're not as skilled of a reader as you'd like to be, you can improve by practicing the techniques that great readers use. Two elements of active reading are activating prior knowledge and making predictions.

Prior Knowledge

Have you ever been to a movie or started reading a book, and you were confused at first? Imagine watching the television show Firefly. The characters are dressed like cowboys from the 1800s, but they live on a futuristic space ship. Most people probably couldn't figure out if the show was a western or science fiction. That confusion happens because your brain is trying to fit the new stimulus, in this case a TV show, into categories that have been already established in your mind. In education we call those categories schema. When reading a new story, book, essay, or article, one of the first things to do is to stop and think about which category the selection seems to fit. Once you have an idea, you can think about all the experiences you have with that category and use it to better understand the piece.

Here's an example. Imagine you've been given a reading selection. You see a bold title at the top, ''Medieval Weaponry'' and you scan the page for the text features, the elements on the page that help you understand what you're reading. You see pictures of swords, some captions, and bolded words. The text features and the title help you know that you're reading an informational essay on weapons from the medieval era. You've read informational essays before, and you've seen a couple of movies about knights. You know that informational essays usually have a main focus and paragraphs about different aspects of the focus. From your experience, you've seen knights wear armor and swing heavy metal swords, sometimes while riding horses.

Taking that moment to scan the selection is the moment your brain needs to fit it into existing schema. Now that you have an expectation that you're reading an informational essay about the weapons that knights used, it should be easier to fully comprehend the selection.

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