Teaching and practicing reading strategies with students encourages active reading and critical thinking. When students successfully use reading strategies while reading, they are more engaged, and therefore better comprehend what they are reading.
Making connections is one of the most important reading strategies to teach and practice often with students. Teaching students to make connections allows them to activate prior knowledge. This brings real world examples and their own experiences to the text in front of them.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF CONNECTIONS?
Text to Self Connections
Text to Text Connections
Text to World Connections
Each connection type is practiced separately before students can independently make all three types of connections.
HOW TO TEACH STUDENTS TO MAKE CONNECTIONS:
Text to Self Connections:
Because all students come with their own opinions and experiences, the first connection to work on with students is text to self connections. It is important to choose books that you know students will be able to connect with in some way.
Students will start with basic, vague connections and it is our job to push their thinking deeper to create more meaningful connections. For growing readers, it can be helpful to provide sentence stems as a support, such as:
- “I felt the same way as this character when…”
- “This part of the story reminds me of the time I…”
- “This same thing happened to me when…”
Text to Text Connections:
Following text to self connections are text to text connections. When teachers begin to practice text to text connections, it is important to choose books that have at least a few obvious connections. These could be between text features, character traits, setting, theme, author’s craft, text features, etc. For growing readers, it can be helpful to provide sentence stems as a support, such as:
- “The character in this story is similar to the character in…”
- “This problem is just like what happened in…”
- “The way this author writes reminds me of the writing in…”
Text to World Connections:
The final, and most difficult, connections to teach are text to world connections, especially with young learners. It is difficult for them to step out of their own experiences and branch out to make connections to the larger world.
Choose books around topics in the world they do have some experience with, such as recycling, community helpers, weather, animals, famous historical figures, etc. Again, use helpful sentence stems, such as:
- “I know about this, because…”
- “This is like something I heard on the news when…”
- “This part relates to the world around me, because…”
WAYS TO PRACTICE MAKING CONNECTIONS WITH STUDENTS:
Below are fun, hands on activities to reach all of your learners in becoming experts at making connections while reading:
PAPER CHAIN CONNECTIONS:
This lesson works when all students are making connections to the same book. Somewhere in the classroom put posters or anchor charts up for each type of connection with a clip or hook underneath each to hold the paper chain. As students make connections, they write them down on rectangular paper cut-outs to attach to the appropriate paper chain.
It helps to give 3 color coordinated rectangular pieces of paper (i.e. blue for text to self, yellow for text to text, etc.). The paper chains all hang down, reaching the book that the connections came from.
MAKING CONNECTIONS CRAFTS:
Reading crafts are a way to reach all of the hands on, visual learners in your classroom when teaching students to make connections. These crafts come with an option for students to work on just one connection type at a time (great for when you are introducing each connection one at a time), as well as an option for ongoing practice on all three types of connection at once.
CONNECT & STICK IT
The teacher creates space for each connection type on either 3 blank anchor charts hung up on the classroom wall, or 3 large shapes made on the white board. Students are given at least 3 sticky notes to come up with each type of connection while they are reading. After reading, students place their connection where it belongs.
MAKING CONNECTIONS GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS:
Graphic organizers are extremely useful in breaking down difficult tasks for students in a concrete, visual way. You can begin by using graphic organizers that focus on just one skill at a time and then move onto graphic organizers that focus on all three at once. They are so helpful in teaching students to make connections independently.
MAKING CONNECTIONS BOOKMARKS:
Beyond having anchor charts or posters on the wall, giving students bookmarks to use as a constant reference (in school and at home) can be a more personal way for them to continually see what the strategy is and how good readers use it. These bookmarks include each connection type one by one for students to use as they are being introduced, and then all three connection types for students to use when they are comfortable with them all.
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