Learning always proceeds from the known to the new.
Good teaching will recognise and build on this connection.
A metaphor that has been used to describe this kind of teaching is ‘scaffolding’. The student is seen as constructing an edifice that represents her cognitive abilities. The construction starts from the ground up, on the foundation of what is already known and can be done. The new is built on top of the known.
The teacher has to provide this scaffold to support the construction, which is proceeding from the ground into the atmosphere of the previously unknown. The scaffold is the environment the teacher creates, the instructional support, and the processes and language that are lent to the student in the context of approaching a task and developing the abilities to meet it.
Scaffolding must begin from what is near to the student's experience and build to what is further from their experience. Likewise, at the beginning of a new task, the scaffolding should be concrete, external, and visible. Vygotskian theory shows that learning proceeds from the concrete to the abstract. This is why math skills are learned from manipulatives, and fractions from pies and graphs. Eventually these concrete and external models can be internalised and used for abstract thought. One of the problems with reading is that the processes are internal, hidden, and abstract. There are many strategies (protocols, drama and visualisation strategies, symbolic story representation) for making hidden processes external, visible, and available to students so that they can be scaffolded to use and master new strategies of reading.