Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.
Deena is a reading teacher, and she really wants to make texts come alive for her students. If she can get them engaged in what they are reading, she believes that will increase their enjoyment, and they will gain a greater understanding of the text. Deena is right. Many studies have shown that being engaged in reading is directly correlated with both enjoying reading and furthering comprehension. But how exactly can Deena help her students be engaged? One way to boost engagement in reading is through making connections, or recognizing how elements in the text relate to the reader, the world, and other texts. Let's look closer at the three main types of connections and how Deena can use them in her classroom.
Deena wants her students to make connections, and she's heard from another teacher that a good place to start is to teach her students how to make text-to-self connections. Text-to-self connections involve linking a text to the reader. For example, when Deena is reading a story to her class about a kid having a bad day, she might ask them to think about a time when they too had a bad day. She can ask how it felt and what they did, and then compare that to the main character in the story. As Deena's friend said, text-to-self connections are a good place to start when teaching students how to make connections. That's because most people, even kids, have a rich background with many experiences to draw from. How can Deena teach students to make connections? As she's reading to the class, she can pause periodically and ask students questions that are meant to help them make text-to-self connections. When she asks them to think about a time when they had a bad day, she is teaching them to make text-to-self connections. A good prompt for this is to start a sentence, 'Think about a time when you…' This is causing the students to connect their own experiences to the text.
Text-to-self connections are a good tool to have, but they aren't the only type of connections students can make. Sometimes, Deena wants students to think about things that don't involve themselves. Text-to-world connections involve linking a text to the world. For example, when Deena is reading a story that takes place in Oklahoma in the 1930's, she might ask students what they know about the Great Depression or the Dust Bowl. She's prompting them to think about something they know about the world and link it to the text. Deena can approach teaching her students to make text-to-world connections in a similar way as she did for text-to-self connections; that is, she can read aloud to her class and pause periodically to ask questions. For text-to-world connections, though, she won't ask her students to think about a time when they did or felt something. Instead, she can use a prompt like, 'What do you know about…?' This will encourage the students to recall and utilize knowledge relating to the world around them.
As we mentioned before, making connections involves linking a text to the reader, the world, or to another text. It's probably no surprise then that Deena also wants to teach her students to make text-to-text connections, which involve linking a text to another text. Let's look at an example. Remember when Deena was reading the story that takes place during the Dust Bowl? In that story, a family loses all their money and their home and they end up having to move in order to get food for their children. As she reads, Deena could remind her students about the book she read about the boy having a bad day. She can ask them to make connections between the sadness and frustration that the boy in the story felt and the sadness and frustration of the family in the Dust Bowl story. Another way to make text-to-text connections is to link a fiction and non-fiction piece. For example, Deena can ask the students to connect the Dust Bowl story to an article they read about the Great Depression. As with other types of connections, Deena can teach her students how to make text-to-text connections by pausing as she reads to ask questions. For text-to-text connections, she may ask, 'What else does this remind you of?'
In reading, making connections involves recognizing how elements in a text relate to the reader, the world, or other texts. Text-to-self connections, which are often the first type of connection a reader learns, involve linking a text to the reader. A good prompt for this type of connection is, 'Think about a time when...'. Text-to-world connections involve linking a text to world events or issues. A good prompt for this type of connection is, 'What do you know about…?' Finally, text-to-text connections involve linking two or more texts together based on ideas, characters and/or themes. A good prompt for this type of connection is, 'What else does this remind you of?'
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