Go DEEPER and Make Connections To Extend Understanding

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SWBAT recount parts of a story to determine a theme and connect to the story details with their own feelings.

Big Idea

What's Connecting? - Recount Ideas, Determine a Theme and Connect to an Experience and a Feeling.


Get Excited!

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words)


Bring students to a common learning point:

  • "Today we are going DEEEP, very DEEEEP with our connecting!  How deep, you ask? REALLY DEEEEP.  We are connecting with deep ideas and you’ll be amazed at how well you understand the book!"


Get students engaged

  •  Put on the hat to show how the hat can hold your deep understanding.  
  • "Here’s a story about a boy who had some special hats!"

Teachers' Turn

15 minutes

Explain the lesson:

  • Refer to the connecting chart. "Connections broaden our understanding and help determine the central ideas of a story.” 
  • Write "Deep Connection" and "Shallow Connection" on the white board.
  • “Deep connections link our feelings, memories, words, and knowledge to the new story and extend our thinking.  They give us more information about the story and help us understand the theme.  Shallow connections don’t really help us understand the story better – they don’t extend our thinking.”
    • With the transition to the Common Core, it's important for us, as teachers, to show the difference between deep and shallow connections. As you teach students the difference, keep in mind that the deep connections we want students to be making need to steeped in a rich understanding of the author's words.



  • “Let’s look at some examples from the text and make some inferences about what the story is about – the key ideas and theme. Which kind of connection is related the theme of the story?”
  • Preview the text – look at the title and cover first and model: 
  • “A shallow connection would be, ‘The title says hats.  I have a hat’. A deep connection would be ‘People are wearing lots of weird hats.  I had to wear a weird shirt from my mom once-that made me feel bad-I bet that boy might feel bad too. Which connection helps me most?  Which one adds feelings and memories and knowledge based on specific text evidence?  Which one helps me determine what the story might be about?”  (Take ideas)
  • “Here are some underground caves.  The ‘deep caves’ go down into the understanding of the story. The shallow caves don’t help us understand at all – they are very surface level.  Let’s read more and see if we can find more connections.….”


Guided practice:

  • Look at the cover page and read the first 2 pages.  Make the connections – one shallow and three deep and put them on the organizer on the board. 
  • Show the white board example. 
  • "I’m going to add a feeling word.  How did I feel? I’ll circle the feeling word.”  


Students are asked here to recount stories and determine key ideas (RL.2.2), which continues through 6th grade and sets the foundation for determining the theme of a piece and providing concrete evidence of the details. Using text evidence to determine key details and the theme (RL.2.3) of a story is a major emphasis with the Common Core State Standards.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign the task:

  • Pass out the worksheet.
  • The deep connecting caves go into the understanding of the story because deep connections bring our feelings, experiences, and knowledge to the story.  The shallow caves are connections, but they don't help us understand the story."


Student listen and think:

  • Read the rest of the book and fill out your their organizer after the book is read.  
  • Students write 3 deep connections and one shallow connection. I gave ideas and helped with spelling. Here's what thecompleted whiteboard looked like.
  • This is an example of a student artifact.

 (Read the story – pause when connections come up and prompt some – ‘that seems like a feeling that you might connect to’ or ‘if you remember that happening to you, it might help you understand the boy better.’)

Apply What You've Learned

15 minutes

Students review their thoughts:

  • Students add a theme, based on the deep connections. 
  • I am trying to help students distinguish retelling and theme. Here is a video with my thoughts about this distinction.
  • Take ideas – These theme ideas on the completed white board are those that we decided upon as a class)
  • Students share their ideas.
  • “You did a great job today making DEEP connections!  If you can do this as you read everyday, it will help you be a better reader!”


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

My special education students needed a lot of support making deep connections.  I prompted them as I walked around and gave one boy ideas on his desk slate so he could participate.  They did develop an understanding of what a 'deep connection' could be.

For my higher level students, this was great lesson to challenge them. As I walked around, I asked them about their connections and really asked them to hone in on how the connection helped them to understand.  It was good practice for them to explain 'how they know what they know'.  Great focus on cognitive education!