My students have heard the word, schema since they were in Pre-K. At our school, it’s common vocabulary. However, as my students advance in grade levels, they tend to use their schema less and less. Is this a development thing? Are they being lazy? Did they forget how to access their prior knowledge on topics?
There is not one correct answer to the above question. From my observation, it’s a combination of all the things mentioned above (and more!) that lead students to shy away from activating and using their schema.
I always end the year with my sixth grade students reading The Diary of Anne Frank (the play version). Because this play requires A LOT of background knowledge about the history of the time period, I spend about a week activating my students’ schema and building background knowledge about the Holocaust.
This year, before we started any work on the Holocaust, I gave students 3 pictures from the time period. This was their grapple problem and it was up to them to make inferences based on what they saw in the picture. Students had some think time on their own, then were able to talk in groups to sort-out their inferences. Finally, their brainstorming was shard with the entire class. I created the chart below based on this blog post.
While students shared their schema and inferences, I addressed and charted misconceptions. I then explained that students were welcome to chart new learning and other misconceptions they gain as we read the play.
I love this visual representation of student thinking. However, my students have not been very active in charting their thinking on my gorgeous (ha!) chart. Perhaps I need to remind them and reference the chart more, as they ALWAYS have questions and insights about Anne, her family and the Holocaust.
How do you chart student thinking? Let me know in the comments!