As much as 60% of successful comprehension is tied to background knowledge.
Prior knowledge about a topic is the strongest predictor of whether a reader will understand reading related to that topic. However, the surprising thing is the extent to which background knowledge influences other reading behaviours, such as problem-solving when meaning breaks down.
“While it is difficult to teach comprehension, there is one thing we can count on. All comprehension strategies require readers to access and apply background knowledge. In this sense, comprehension is a single strategy—that of applying your experience to construct meaning.” – Gerald Duffy, Explaining Reading: A Resource for teaching Concepts, Skills and Strategies (2009)
Most of our students know about making connections to prior knowledge during reading. But too many struggling readers make superficial or inappropriate connections that don’t support comprehension of the text, and may even compound their confusion.
Check out the blog Joy in 6th to read one teacher’s thoughts on teaching students to make connections during reading and to download anchor charts such as the one on the right.