If you’re about to start a new book or unit on a topic, a great way to support students in fully understanding the new concept is to activate their prior knowledge and then connect that prior knowledge to the new information.
This can be done using a pre-reading strategy.
One powerful strategy is Word Splash, an engaging vocabulary activity that activates prior knowledge.
What is Word Splash?
Coined by Dorsey Hammond, Word Splash is a pre-reading activity that involves a collection of terms related to a specific topic being written randomly about a subject and then students making predictions about how those terms will relate to the reading ahead.
Most of the words selected are familiar to students. The reason for this is so that students can connect the words to each other and the new topic of study.
The teacher facilitates the process of students making connections between the words and their relation to the new subject at hand.
The challenge is for students to see how the terms are used in connection with a different topic.
This literacy strategy is especially powerful when different meanings of words are introduced such as words with multiple meanings.
Benefits of Using
- Encourage vocabulary development using this instructional strategy.
- Assess students’ prior knowledge.
- Activate students’ schema of familiar words within a different context.
How To Do
1. Choose key vocabulary related to the topic.
These words should be familiar to students but used within a different context.
2. Display chosen words at random angles on a visual.
You may choose to use chart paper or a projector. Consider distributing to students their own individual Word Splash template.
3. Make predictions between vocabulary words and broader topic.
Now students brainstorm and predict as a whole class how the vocabulary terms relate to the topic they’re about to explore.
They should also think about how the words are connected to each other.
Encourage students to make complete statements when making their predictions.
4. Consume the content.
After students make predictions, have them read or watch the selected content.
Prompt them to keep an eye out for evidence that confirms or challenges their predictions.
This is a time for them to check for accuracy and revise predictions if needed.
5. Revisit predictions.
After reading the entire material, students will reflect upon, review, and discuss their predictions, revisions, and confirmations.
This part is essential as it is the bridge of the lesson where many students connect prior knowledge with new information.
- Consider placing the new vocabulary terms on a content-based word wall.
- To informally assess how well students understand the new vocabulary, ask them to create a quiz. Students will make a quiz and then have a partner complete it. The results serve as good informal data for teachers.
- This strategy can be used with videos. Complete a “splash” before viewing and then pause periodically to have students discuss and revise their predictions.
- Use as a summarizing strategy. After reading, students record key vocabulary words from the lesson. Then they write a summary using them.
- This activity can be used as a closure activity as well. After reading, students revisit the “splash” and discuss any new connections. You may want to ask if they have any lingering questions that they would like to explore in future lessons.
- For early readers, consider using a Picture Splash, which simply uses pictures instead of words.
- Use a Word Splash creator to make digital versions of this activity.
Students will be better able to comprehend what they read and also expand their vocabulary by using this strategy.
This engaging activity will make a great addition to your collection of reading strategies.
Related: For another strategy that boosts reading comprehension, read about the power of anticipation guides.