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Activating Schema

Activating schema can help your students better comprehend as they read.

activating schema

This is another free resource for teachers from The Curriculum Corner.

The process of activating schema is a tool that will help students build their comprehension.

What is Schema?

Schema is the background knowledge that readers have.

This schema helps readers comprehend what is happening in a book.

Why should I teach children how to activate schema?

Helping children learn to activate their schema can be a great tool in developing comprehension skills.

Many readers need direct instruction on how to use their knowledge to help them build an understanding of what they are reading.

We often start helping our children with the concept of schema by teaching making connections. The Curriculum Corner provides a free collection of Making Connections Graphic Organizers and Lessons.

Once students are familiar with how to make connections, we move onto other ways to activate schema.

acivating schema

How can I help students activate schema?

Many of these graphic organizers are designed for students who already have some background knowledge about the focus of your reading.

If you are reading about an animal who lives in the forest, students can pull up their experiences to help them get started. Maybe they have gone on a hike in the woods. Or they could have watched a movie that takes place in the woos. Students could also recall trips to the zoo or other books they have read.

When you are introducing a concept that students might not have much background knowledge to pull from, think of ways to help student build this before you begin reading.

You might find short videos to share in class. Another idea is to find photos that you can share.

activating schema thinking stems

Introducing the skill

We suggest beginning with a book that you feel your students have some background knowledge of. This will give your students concepts to share when talking about the schema they bring to the reading.

At one point my class was working on a project on chickens. We had chickens at our school and so students could make observational drawings and talk about the chickens before they began reading.

As the class moved into more difficult reading, they had great background knowledge to pull from.

While focusing on activating schema, one tip is to use high interest topics for your students. Chickens were an obvious starting point in my classroom at the time. Other topics of interest included animal camouflage and the weather.

Focusing on weather gives you a range of outside resources to pull in. Students can use observation by simply looking outside. They can read the weather forecast and even watch a weather segment on the local news.

Resources for Activating Schema

Anchor Chart

This anchor chart can be used to introduce the idea of schema during your mini-lesson.

Schema might seem like an unknown concept to students but once the word is explained, many students will quickly catch on.

Activating Schema Thinking Stems

These are provided as an anchor chart and as quarter sheet pages that could be used in a reading notebook.

Our thinking stems will give students ideas for how to start sentences when writing or talking about schema.

Graphic Organizers

The free graphic organizers we have created for activating schema can be used in a variety of ways. You will find single and double sided options.

You can download our free activating schema resources here:


As with all of our resources, The Curriculum Corner creates these for free classroom use. Our products may not be sold. You may print and copy for your personal classroom use. These are also great for home school families!

You may not modify and resell in any form. Please let us know if you have any questions.