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Teacher Guide to Student Interactive

Summary: In this interactive, students first use their prior knowledge of text features to decide on the genre of four text passages. Then for each text, they get to "look inside the head" of a reader and help her use her prior knowledge to understand parts of the passage. Audio feedback explains how each piece of prior knowledge helped to understand the text.

Tips for using the student site in your classroom or lab: Download Tips
Download the screen-by-screen preview: Download Preview

Before you start:

  • Remind students to read and listen carefully to the instructions starting on the first screen of the activity. They should also pay attention to the explanations of how the prior knowledge helps Maya and Devon.
  • Review genres. Students will be asked to use their prior knowledge to identify the genre of four texts (fairy tale, non-fiction, poem, and new article).
  • Review text features. What distinguishes non-fiction, realistic fiction, fantasy, poetry, newspaper articles, and so forth? Discuss physical features (arrangement of text, headings, illustrations, by-lines, etc.) as well as literary features (vocabulary, language style, rhythm or rhyme, literary conventions, etc.)
  • Let students know that the program will keep track of how many incorrect choices they make. They lose one point for each incorrect guess, and their score will appear on the printout at the end of the activity. This is to discourage students from randomly guessing, and to give you an assessment tool (a perfect score is 100, with one point lost for each incorrect answer).
  • The printout for this activity includes all four texts, with student underlining of text features, along with a bookmark. To save paper, you may wish to tell students not to print their work until they complete all four texts.
  • Tell students what you would like them to do when they finish a text.
    • Save your work, and then choose another text.
    • Print your work/don't print until you have finished all four texts.
    • Listen to the Prior Knowledge song.
    • Raise your hand and check in with me.

After you finish:

  • Review student printouts to see which genre features (Download genre features) they were able to identify.
  • Assess how well students were able to choose meaningful connections using the score printed on each bookmark.
  • As a class or in small groups, use students' print-outs to discuss the activity:
    • How does knowing a text's genre help with comprehension? (Gives you a schema for understanding; helps you know what to expect.)
    • What text features helped you decide the genre for each text?
    • How did Maya's and Devon's prior knowledge help them understand the texts? Download list of the prior knowledge for your discussion
    • Did you sometimes choose a different answer and think it was correct? (Listening to the explanation behind "incorrect" student responses gives us a chance to hear their thinking process, and we often find that their answer could be considered correct. Feel free to award students extra points if their thinking was valid!
    • Think of different examples of how prior knowledge can help you understand what you read (understand a vocabulary word, visualize a setting, know how a character feels, make a prediction...)
  • Continue to work with students to encourage them to use their own prior knowledge as they are reading.

More Downloads
List of the prior knowledge for each text
Download the sample student printout with genre features

Sample lesson plans and resources on genres
Genre Study: A Collaborative Approach (readwritethink.org)
Reading Genres Unit (Troy School District 3rd grade)
Genres, Genres, Everywhere (Scholastic)
Fairy Tale Facts (Mrs. Mellette's 3rd grade)


A production of Wisconsin Media Labs: wimedialab.org