It makes sense that if there is no prior knowledge, then there is nothing to activate. Students often study topics they know very little about (that is why, after all, that they attend school!) and therefore teachers must think of ways of providing the necessary background knowledge quickly and efficiently.
The purpose of reading is to make meaning from what is read – not just to be able to say the words. The ability to say the words is the process of decoding and the ability to make meaning from texts is reading. So, when teachers complain, ‘they read but they don’t understand’, students are decoding not reading.
Automatic recall of what words mean makes learning efficient. During these times when many students will be spending a lot of time learning online, it’s a good idea for them to spend time developing their vocabulary.
Teachers often tell me that they find it difficult to get their students to read. Just giving students a text and asking them to read it will probably not work as students need a clear purpose for reading.
If roundrobin reading is not effective, then what works when setting up a reading activity? The approach I use when organising a reading, viewing or listening activity is based on Directed Reading and Thinking Activity.
Teacher as teller is a short talk that provides the background information to the reading or viewing. It ensures that all students approach the reading or viewing with the necessary background information.