Teaching Making Connections in Reading to Elementary Students

When teaching making connections in reading, we need to remember that reading is not just about decoding words; it’s about making meaningful connections between the text and the reader’s experiences, knowledge, and the world around them. When students learn to make connections while reading, they actively engage with the material, enhance their comprehension, and develop critical thinking skills. In this blog post, we will explore the concept of teaching making connections in reading, discuss its importance, and provide practical tips for teaching this crucial skill in the classroom.

Definitions and Types

Teaching making connections in reading refers to the process of teaching students to link what they read to their prior knowledge, personal experiences, other texts, and the global community. This connection-making can be categorized into three main types:

  1. Text-to-Self: Students connect the text to their lives, emotions, and experiences. This allows them to relate to the characters, understand their motivations, and empathize with their struggles.
  2. Text-to-Text: Students make connections between the current text and other texts they have read before. By drawing parallels, identifying similarities or differences, and recognizing patterns, students deepen their understanding and make intertextual connections.
  3. Text-to-World: Students connect the text to real-world events, issues, or concepts. This helps them develop a broader perspective, relate the text to their own lives, and critically analyze its implications on society and the world.

Why Teaching Making Connections in Reading is Essential

Teaching making connections in reading is important for several key reasons:

  1. Enhanced Comprehension: Making connections helps students make sense of the text by activating their prior knowledge and experiences. This scaffolding strengthens their understanding of complex concepts, improves retention, and facilitates deeper analysis.
  2. Active Engagement: When students actively connect with the text, their reading becomes a dynamic and interactive process. They become emotionally invested, which significantly boosts their interest, motivation, and overall engagement with the material.
  3. Critical Thinking Skills: Making connections fosters critical thinking by encouraging students to question, evaluate, and analyze the text more deeply. They learn to make inferences, draw conclusions, and develop a broader perspective by considering multiple viewpoints.
  4. Transferable Skills: The ability to make connections is not limited to the realm of reading; it extends to other areas of learning and life. Students can apply this skill to various subjects and everyday situations, enhancing their overall problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities.

Tips for Teaching Making Connections in Reading

For effective teaching making connections in reading, incorporate the following strategies throughout the reading process:

Pre-reading Strategies:

  • Activating Prior Knowledge: Help students recall relevant information or experiences before reading. This primes their minds for making connections and sets the stage for understanding the text in a meaningful context.
  • Brainstorming Connections: Encourage students to brainstorm connections they anticipate making based on the topic, genre, or theme of the text. This activates their background knowledge and prepares them for reading.

During-Reading Strategies:

  • Active Reading: Teach students to actively engage with the text by underlining, highlighting, or jotting down notes. This encourages them to interact with the material, identify key points, and make connections as they read.
  • Making Annotations: Emphasize the importance of making margin notes or annotations to record thoughts, questions, or connections that arise while reading. This helps students reflect on their understanding and make meaningful connections more explicit.

Post-Reading Strategies:

  • Reflecting on Connections Made: Provide students with opportunities to reflect on the connections they made while reading. Encourage them to write about or discuss the significance of these connections concerning their understanding of the text.
  • Engaging in Discussion and Sharing: Foster a collaborative classroom environment where students can share their connections with peers. This promotes deeper understanding, exposes students to different perspectives, and enriches their overall interpretation of the text.

Scaffolded Approaches

Teaching making connections in reading to elementary school students requires a focused approach that aligns with their developmental stage and reading abilities. Here are some scaffolded approaches:

  1. Start with Text-to-Self Connections: Begin by helping students connect the text and their personal experiences. Use relatable picture books, and ask prompting questions that encourage students to think about how the story relates to their own lives. For example, you could ask, “Has anything like this ever happened to you?”
  2. Use Visual Aids and Graphic Organizers: Incorporate visual aids, such as diagrams or graphic organizers, to assist students in making connections. These tools can help them visualize the connections they are making and reinforce their understanding of the text. For instance, you could create a simple T-chart with “Me” on one side and “Characters” on the other, and ask students to fill in the chart by noting similarities or differences.
  3. Share Personal Stories: Share your own stories that relate to the text you are reading with your students. By modeling the process of making connections, you provide students with real-life examples and inspire them to make their connections. This also creates a supportive classroom environment where students feel comfortable sharing their own experiences.
  4. Group Discussions: Use small group discussions to encourage students to share the connections they have made. This not only promotes social interaction but also allows students to learn from and be inspired by their peers’ perspectives. Encourage active listening and respectful conversation, giving each student a chance to contribute.
  5. Encourage Drawing and Writing: Provide opportunities for students to express their connections through drawing and writing. Allow them to create illustrations that depict a connection they made or ask them to write a short paragraph explaining how they can relate to a character’s experience. This helps reinforce their understanding and enables them to reflect on their connections.
  6. Expand to Text-to-Text Connections: As students become more comfortable with making connections, gradually introduce text-to-text connections. Choose books with similar themes or characters, and guide students in comparing and contrasting the two texts. This allows them to explore deeper connections and expand their understanding of different literary works.

Remember to provide ongoing support, feedback, and encouragement to help your students develop their connection-making skills. With practice and guidance, they will become more proficient in making meaningful connections while reading, fostering a love for literature and an appreciation for the power of connections.