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The Thinking Skills of Observing, Listening, and Comprehending (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

A term used to describe relating new ideas to experiences is schema. Schemata (the plural) are the various ways that we group ideas and knowledge in our minds. Our best chance at understanding new concepts is to tie features of those concepts to one or more of these schemata. To do this, we look for similarities, make assumptions, create analogies, and generally relate information to ourselves.

Another factor in comprehension is metacognition, an individual's awareness of his or her own thinking processes and of the thinking processes of the people with whom he or she is communicating. The term has come to be used to describe a person's awareness and understanding of the organizational patterns of reading material and of speakers. Research seems to support the notion that individuals who are able to form clear and accurate story maps of reading material or spoken material have a clearer overall understanding of that material. This, in turn, helps them to understand the meaning of specific parts of the communication as it relates to the organization and purposes.

To maximize student understanding teachers should provide story maps for students before they listen to, read, or view material. In effect, this means that teachers need to provide both sensitive and clear overviews of oral presentations, audiovisual programs, and reading material before students are exposed to it. Then, too, pointed reflective review of material will also help students develop their metacognitive skills. This may, in part, be why the body of research and experience in teaching has already demonstrated that such reviews increase learning and retention in a clearly measurable way. Such reviews generally involve teacher questioning, so that students become intellectually involved and, therefore, active in forming clearer cognitive maps of material covered.

Generally, teachers can help children to understand and remember information by following a few simple principles.

  • Associate the new information with experiences that the children have had in the past.
  • Connect each piece of new information to other pieces of information using a pattern that children can follow. (Sensory or visualizable patterns are best.)
  • Repeat the information and the patterns often.
  • Provide a shared purpose or use for the learning.
  • Give opportunities for practice with feedback.
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