The Schemata Theory and Reading

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Reading achieves a whole person. Almost all of us are conducting the reading process in our daily life, but seldom do we know about how our brains function to understand the text. It is through background knowledge (schemata) that we combine the given text and what we should obtain from it together. That is to say, the more we know about the information in a text, the better we will understand it. The question is, how does our background knowledge work in reading comprehension? Does this effect matter so much that if we nothing about the information in a text, it is hard for us to understand it? This paper will tell you the answer. 1. Definition of Title Variables

1. Definition of Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension has been defined in many ways over the years. C.Nuttall suggests that the overriding purpose to reading is to get the correct message from a text------the message the writer intended for the reader to receive. R.Day and J.S.Park state that the idea of reading has changed and moved from what was considered a receptive process to what is now an interactive process. Reading can be done using a number of processes that can be divided into two main categories: bottom-up processing and top-down processing. Bottom-up processing refers to the reader obtaining meaning from the letters and words of a text and reconstructing the intended message that way. Top-down processing refers to the readers’ ability to look at a text as a whole and to connect and relate it to his existing knowledge base. Both processes are needed to obtain a message from a text. 2. Definition of Schema

Background knowledge------also prior knowledge------is supposed to consist of two main components: “our assimilated direct experiences of life and its manifold activities, and our assimilated verbal experiences and encounters” (J.M.Swales, 1990:25). Schemata are accepted as interlocking mental structures representing readers’ knowledge of ordinary events (H.Nassaji, 2002:439). In the reading process, readers integrate the new information from the text into their preexisting schemata (C.M.Swales, 1990:25). Not only do schemata influence how they recognize information, but also how they store it. According to J.Harmer, only after the schema is activated is one able to see or hear, because it fits into patterns that she already knows. The notion of schema is related with the organization of information in the long term memory that cognitive contracts allow. Schemata is the plural form that refers an individual’s background knowledge. A schema is the singular form that refers to one “chunk” of knowledge. A schema is made up of subordinate parts called nodes. R.C.Anderson and P.D.Pearson explain the basic processes of reading comprehension and develop the notion of schema and its relation to language reading. Anderson and Pearson maintain that “a reader’s schemata, or knowledge already stored in memory, function in the process of interpreting new information and allow it to enter and become a part of the knowledge store” They stated that “a schema is an abstract knowledge structure” and that it “is structured in the sense that it represents relationships among its component parts.” 3. Schema Theory

Schema theory deals with the reading process, where readers are expected to combine their previous experiences with the text they are reading. Since each reader has different background knowledge, it is culture specific. Schema theory was developed by the gestalt psychologist Bartlett “…who observed how people, when asked to repeat a story from memory, filled in details which did not occur in the original but conformed to their culture norms” (G.Cook, 1987:56). P.L.Carrell formalized the role of background knowledge in language comprehension as schema theory, and claim that any text either spoken or written does not itself carry meaning. He also claimed that “a text only provides directions for readers as to how they...
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