Students have had practice using the activating schema strategy for a couple weeks. As they read, they have been writing any connections they have made to the story. This lesson will focus on HOW or WHAT the connection helps them understand about a character.
I did this by modeling, through a Think Aloud, how making connections helps me understand characters in a story better. I gathered them on the carpet and told them I was going to show them how good readers activate schema to help them understand characters better. I read The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume. In this story of sibling rivalry, a brother and sister state their feelings about each other and who is loved the best by their parents. I chose this story most of my students have siblings and could relate to either character. I placed Post-it notes at places in the story where I wanted to stop to model making connections. I wrote the connections on large chart paper and stated how it helped me understand the characters better.
After I modeled a few examples, I had students write their own connections and how it helped me understand the character on their whiteboards. I would read 2 pages, stop, and ask them to write. I read 2 more pages and stopped so that students who had not made a connection the last time would have an opportunity to do so now. After everyone had written a connection, I had them read it to their shoulder partner. I continued in this manner until we reached the end of the story.
After students returned to their desks, I displayed the reading guide on the document camera. I explained they were to read 1-2 pages, stop and think about a connection, and write it down. I directed them to the sentence frame and poster that listed the steps to making connections if they needed a reminder. I asked if anyone had any questions. They have used reading guides before, so there were none. They met with their partners and started reading. (Students were grouped previously with a book of their choice.)
I circulated around the room and read student responses as they worked. I conferenced with students as needed. Some students had trouble making a connection with a character because they had never been in an identical situation. I would question them to help them make one, i.e. Have you ever been mad with someone? What did they do? How did it make you feel? Do you understand why Sam feels that way, too, in the story? Okay, so you understand why Sam is angry at the man.
I’d conducted a strategy use interview on making connections at the beginning of our work on the strategy. The expectation was that students simply make connections to the text. This time, I was looking for students to be able to state how or what the connection helped them understand about the characters.
On the back of journals, students write how connecting with characters helped them understand the character better.