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Using Prior Experience


What will our lesson look like?

I will identify and articulate personal connections to a text. I will demonstrate an understanding of the importance of using prior experience in literary analysis.

To recognize and articulate connections between personal experiences and the content of literary texts.

I will use academic language to discuss and analyze literary elements.I will be able to articulate my prior experiences using descriptive and expressive language

  • Reflect on a time when your prior experiences influenced your understanding of a topic or situation.
  • Jot down key details, emotions, and reflections related to that experience.

Do Now:

Prior experiences are the events that have happened in your life. Connecting a life experience to what happens in a text can be useful. A reader may use their experience as an older sibling to relate to a character with lots of brothers and sisters. A story about a cat may be easier to understand if the reader thinks about the pets that they have at home.Thinking about prior experiences when you read can help you connect to the text. When you use prior experiences, you can understand the meaning of words or ideas more easily.



adjective existing or coming before


noun something that happens or has happened, usually one of importance


noun something that you have done or something that has happened to you


verb to put two or more things together


Checklist for Using Prior Experience:

To use prior experience to understand the meaning of a word or a text, try the following activities:

  • Think about the events in the story or the topic of the text.
    • Ask yourself: What is happening in this story? What is this text about?
  • Make a list of similar experiences from your life.
    • Ask yourself: Have I had any similar experiences? Has something happened to me that relates to this text?
  • Connect your experiences to what you read.
    • Ask yourself: How can my experience relate to what is happening? What can my experiences teach me about this text?

Skill Model:

Let’s look at how one student uses prior experience while reading “Twisted Texting.” First, the student notices that this text is a play. From the title, the student guesses that the play will have something to do with people texting each other and getting their messages twisted or mixed up. The student takes a moment to think about her own experiences with mixed up text messages. Even among her closest friends, people can misunderstand text messages or take something the wrong way. The student wonders what kinds of mix-ups the characters in the play will have because of texting. Connecting the play’s title to her own experiences helps the student understand what the play is generally about. But even though she understands the general topic, the student finds details in the play that she does not understand. For example:

I do not know the meaning of the word wingman.

Skill Model:

The student thinks about the characters’ situation and about how she has handled similar situations in her own life. If she wants to meet up with someone for the first time, she likes to take a friend with her. The student thinks that a wingman must mean a friend who goes with you to meet someone you do not know well. The student continues reading and sees another line of dialogue that confirms her understanding of the word wingman.

Two of Gia’s friends will go with her to meet up with Lex. Based on my experiences, this is exactly what I thought it means to have a wingman.

Skill Model:

As the student continues reading, she makes connections to her prior experiences. Making these connections helps the student understand what the play is generally about, and it also helps her understand unfamiliar language and details.