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 2 of Connections Week – Modeling/Scaffolding.
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 second day they are learning about Connections, I make a connection to the introduction lesson we did yesterday. I remind students that the strategy we are working on this week is called Connections. They love to repeat words so I ask them to say it with me again. Of course, I want to remind them what a Connection is, which is when something you read reminds you of something else. I refer to the Connections anchor chart from the day before.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “Today, we are going to look at some familiar text from books we’ve read together and I want you to help me keep track of our Connections for each.” Then I use the anchor chart to introduce and explain the 3 types of Connections: Text to Self, Text to Text, and Text to World. When I want to model a strategy, I copy a page from 4 different books that we’ve already read together in class. This way, they are already familiar with the text and understand the context of the excerpts that I’ve chosen. I usually staple the excerpts in a small packet that I hand out to each student so they can follow along as I model the strategy. I then use the “To, With, and By” method of instruction to scaffold their learning. With the first example, I read the excerpt TO the class and model the strategy by thinking out loud. I am teaching the strategy TO them. I write down my Connection on the corresponding page in the packet along with what type of Connection it is. With the second example, I do the strategy WITH them. I ask them to read along with me and then I ask them to share their Connections with what type it is. We write down their thoughts on the corresponding page in the packet. With the third example, I want the students to do it BY themselves, which leads us to the active engagement.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them to read the third excerpt and try the strategy on their own. Since we are working on Connections, they are supposed to relate to something that happens in the text. They are also expected to identify it as Text to Self, Text to Text, or Text to World and write their thoughts on the corresponding page in the packet. I give the students a few minutes then call on someone to share.
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 they’ve practiced Connections, I tell them that during Independent Reading, their job is to finish the last excerpt in the packet. I want to give them one last opportunity to practice the strategy with text that I’ve chosen before they apply it to a text of their choice, which will happen the next day. This task is short and sweet so the students know that once it is completed, they read from their browsing box for the remainder of Independent Reading time. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they wrote on the corresponding page in the packet. 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 will be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to show me the work they’ve completed in their packet. 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 complete the last page of their Connections packet. I ask them to repeat the term, Connections. Then I ask them to meet with their reading partner to share and discuss what they wrote. Did you and your partner have similar Connections? Does your partner agree about the type of Connection it is? 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 continue to focus on Connections for the rest of the week. I tell them to take their packets home to show their parents the strategy we are working on. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.