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 3 of Connections Week – Independent Practice.
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 third day they are practicing Connections, I make a connection to the scaffolding lesson we did yesterday. I ask students what strategy we are working on this week and wait for them to say Connections. This time, I want them to remind me what a Connection is, which is when something you read reminds you of something else.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “Today, I want you to keep track of your Connections in whatever book you are reading on your own.” I use our current chapter Read Aloud book and model the use of a sticky note to write down one of my Connections. I always write my name and class # at the top of the sticky note, then the title of the book underneath my name. I write the Connection that I made and then identify it as either Text to Self, Text to Text, or Text to World.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them to think about what types of things they might connect to in any book. After a minute or two of thinking time, I tell them to turn and talk to their partner to share some ideas. I give the students a few minutes then call on some to share. Hopefully, students will share things like connecting to something a character does, something a character feels, a setting in the book, an event in the book, etc.
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 are familiar with Connections, I tell them that during Independent Reading, their job is to prepare a sticky note for our Post-It Parking Lot with any book of their choice. The day before, they practiced the strategy with text that I chose so today they get an opportunity to apply the strategy to the books that they choose. I expect them to have their sticky note prepared by the end of Independent Reading time. When they finish their task, they should continue reading books from their browsing box. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will place their sticky note on the Post-It Parking Lot and then gather at the carpet to share a few examples. I remind students that I will only share sticky notes that are complete and correct.
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 their sticky notes. 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 a sticky note with their name, class #, book title, and then a Connection that they made along with the type of Connection it is. Then I ask them to place it in their designated class # spot on the Post-It Parking Lot. While students are putting their browsing boxes away, I scan the sticky notes to find a few great examples to share. Once students gather at the carpet, I share the complete and correct examples with the class. I then tell them that we will continue our Connections work tomorrow. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end.