Connections are perhaps the easiest strategy for kids to understand and use, simply because kids are incredibly egocentric. Kids have a natural instinct to relate anything to themselves so making connections to the text happens all the time. The difficult part come in getting students to notice when they are making connections and name it so they can identify when it is happening during the metacognitive reading process. Once they can notice and name the connections, they can understand the three types of connections: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.
I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day 1 of Connections Week – Introducing the Strategy.
Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about Connections this year, I make a connection to our Read Aloud stories that we have read together. I tell them that when we are in the middle of a book, students will often stop me to say that they have experienced the same thing as the character or what I am reading reminds them of something familiar. I often stop when I am reminded of something as well. I tell them that those moments during reading that remind us of something else is when we are making Connections. I tell them that they are making connections all the time, even outside of reading, and now it’s time for them to notice when they are doing it.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on making Connections, which is when something you read reminds you of something else.” Show them the Connections anchor chart. I tell them that they make Connections all the time, both in books and in real life, and I want them to become more aware of when it is happening.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I choose a page from our current Read Aloud book and read it to them. I stop at a part that I know will trigger their schema and ask them to make a Connection. I give them a minute of thinking time then tell them to turn and talk to their partners. After a few minutes, I tell the students to turn back and then call on a few to share their ideas.
Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Connections, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice the Connections that they are making while reading one of the books in their browsing boxes. I explain that Connections can happen at any time throughout the book. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they noticed. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.
Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get 5 minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for 40 minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading.
Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to explain the Connections of the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups.
At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice the Connections they were making in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Connections. Then I ask them to meet with their reading partner to share what they noticed about Connections. I also pose the question, were their Connections similar to each other’s? After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Connections for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.