Making connections to text is so important to help students understand what they are reading. When students are actively engaged in their reading, they are not simply reading the words on the page but interacting with what they are reading. This has a tremendous effect on student comprehension and understanding of the story and making connections with the text plays an important role in deeply thinking about the text.
Making connections helps readers:
- Understand how characters feel and the motivation behind their actions.
- Have a clear picture in their head as they read, making them more engaged.
- From becoming bored while reading.
- Set a purpose for the reading and keep the reader focused.
- Remember what they have read and ask questions about the text.
Many times making connections comes naturally for students but others may need help making meaningful connections to the text. Modeling is so important to show students what meaningful connections look like. Carefully choosing text that showcase experiences that are close to students’ own experiences can be helpful in modeling connections.
Some of the easiest connections for students to make are from text to self. Sharing their own experiences makes the text more relatable and understandable. Text to text connections come next because students sometimes naturally think about characters or events from other texts. Model your thinking as you read, and watch your student’s “a-ha” moments as you connect to other books you’ve read together. And lastly, students must be challenged to make text to world connections which may be more difficult and challenge students’ thinking.
Making text connections will lead to text comprehension and your modeling and thinking will support students as they learn to read more actively. These skills will build the foundation for other comprehension skills introduced down the road.
3 mini lessons to teach making connections
1. Types of text connections
Choose a favorite read-aloud picture book to read with your students. Think aloud as you read and make connections and activate students’ connections with your thinking. Remind students that one of the best parts of making connections is that everyone’s connection may be different, there is no right or wrong answer here. We can use our own experiences and knowledge to connect in different ways. Create an anchor chart with the three types of connections students can make and discuss.
- Text to self: a connection between the book and your own life and experiences.
- Text to text: a connection between the book and another book that you have read.
- Text to world: a connection between the book and events in the real world. You may have seen it on TV, read the information on the computer, heard it in a song.
Have students write down a connection that they can make to the pages that they’ve read in the story. Model and share your own connections.
2. Using schema
Schema is our own knowledge and experiences…everything that we hold in our brain. We use our schema to help us make connections. We activate our schema to understand the story better. We use what we know to help us understand what we read. We put together what we already know and what the author is telling us to make meaning of a text. As we grow and have more experiences, our schema grows too, helping us to continue to develop as readers.
If you feel that your students lack the prior background knowledge to make connections you can prompt students to think about what they know about the subject, bring in items that might help make connections, or show video clips that provide background information.
3. Deepening connections
Some connections can be deeper than others. It is easy to say, “I can connect to the character because she is sad and I have felt sad before too.” But can your students think deeper than that?
A deep connection can include feeling empathy for a character or connecting to a character and their feelings. We can make connections that are very basic. Anyone reading could make this connection, not much explanation is given. A deep connection explains in detail how and why you connect to the book. It helps you understand the characters, setting, problem, solution, and the story as a whole.
For example, I think we can all say that at some point we have felt different…so dig deeper. When you felt different, HOW did you react? What did you do? How can that connect to the book?
You can share a personal example that will help model digging deep to students.
Encouraging students to draw on their own experiences to better understand a text, to make connections to their own lives, other text, and the world around them; will help them become more engaged and active in their reading. They will grow and develop into lifelong readers.
I hope you found some ideas to help your students make connections as they are reading.