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 5 of Connections Week – Reflection.
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 final day of Connections Week, I make a connection to all of the activities we have done throughout the week. I remind them that on Monday we introduced the strategy and noticed it. On Tuesday, we practiced the strategy with familiar books that we have all read together. On Wednesday, they applied the strategy to their own books. And on Thursday, they proved that they understood the strategy by turning in a Connections Guide. This is when I hand back the students’ Guides with feedback so that they can review and reflect on their level of understanding.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say that today they will be reflecting on Connections. I explain that they will use their Reader’s Notebook to answer the question: If you were going to teach someone what Connections are, what would you say? Also, after writing their explanation, I want them to draw a picture to go with it that represents what a Connection is. A visual representation is a great way for students to express their understanding. Other ideas that reach different learning styles are for students are to write a song about the strategy or act it out in a creative way.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them to think about what they might say to answer the question and what their picture might look like. 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.
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. I tell them that during Independent Reading, their job is to complete the task that we’ve discussed in their Reader’s Notebooks. When they finish their task, they should continue reading books from their browsing box. After asking if there are any questions, I send them off for Prep Time.
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 helping some with their Guides. This is also a good opportunity to work with students that need re-teaching and extra support with this strategy.
At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to write in their Reader’s Notebook to teach someone what a Connection is and draw a picture to represent it. I ask them to meet with their reading partner to share their work. After giving them time to meet, I call on a few students to share. I then tell the class to put their graded Connection Guide in their mailbox to take home. Sending the graded Guide home at the end of each week is a great way to keep parents aware of the strategies you are working on in class and how their children are doing. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.