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 is getting students to notice when they are making connections and getting them to 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 4 of Connections Week – Assessment.
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 fourth day they are learning about Connections, I make a connection to the independent practice lesson we did yesterday. I remind them that yesterday, they applied the Connections strategy to their own books. And now that they’ve practiced Connections in different ways throughout the week, it is time to prove that they understand it.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say that today they will be filling out a Connections Guide while they are reading a book of their choice. They will turn in the Guide as an assessment of their understanding. I will use those to provide feedback to the students and parents. The Guides also help me put together flexible strategy groups for small group instruction.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I place a copy of the Guide on the projector and show students our current Read Aloud book. I fill in the name, date, and title of the book in the appropriate spots. The Guide asks, “Make a connection to something you read in the text then identify what type of connection it is.” So I ask the students for their suggestions. After a minute or two of thinking time, I tell them to turn and talk to their partner to share their ideas then call on some to share. I write down one of their Connections and we discuss which type to check off.
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 their own Connections Guide with their own book. I remind them that this will be turned in for a grade/feedback at the end of Independent Reading time so it should be their best quality work. 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 Guide. 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 their Guide. They should make sure all parts are filled and place them in the Finished Basket. I then tell the class that we will wrap up our Connections work tomorrow. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.