Call it schema, relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain memory; readers bring a lifetime of past experiences to a text that both enhance and influence comprehension. Schema is the backbone of our ability to fully and deeply understand. We use our schema to make connections, monitor meaning, pose questions, make predictions, draw conclusions, create mental images, synthesize, and ultimately determine how new information is stored in our long term memory.
//Schema Theory// address the knowledge and experiences represented in our minds and the importance of this prior knowledge as we seek to learn and understand something new. In schema theory, prior knowledge is packaged into organized structures or "files". These schema files contain not only knowledge, but situations, events, memories, experiences, and understandings.

Readers and learners rely on their existing schema or files to relate and connect to new or deeper knowledge. Our brain is not just simply a "storage" center for files. Schema exists as a "work house" in a constant state of action.Each day and every minute we are adding to, revising, merging, discarding, and building new files.
We access and use multiple kinds of schema to make meaning:
  • Experiential schema
  • Knowledge or Content Specific schema
  • Author schema
  • Text or Genre schema
  • Culture Schema
In a classroom setting, I'll use folders to represent the "categories" of schema organization. In demonstrating with students, I bring in a filing cabinet using these individual folders, files and sub-files to model schema as - not just a storage unit for data - but rather a dynamic, flexible, and ever-changing resource of prior knowledge and experience which we constantly manipulate and use to make sense of all we do as learners.
Each "file" represents a pattern of associated concepts, beliefs, expectations that is used to comprehend the nature of things and events. Explicit strategy demonstration shows students that schema in reading and learning is an active, self activating, self revising process:
  • always organized meaningfully, can be added to, and, as we gain experience, our schema changes
  • Each schema file contains subschema.
  • Schemata change moment by moment as information is received.
  • Our files are "reorganized" as incoming data reveals a need to restructure the concept or idea
We are collages of all that we have seen, heard, wondered and dreamed about. How has your schema enhance or influenced your own reading and learning experiences?