For students to understand what they are reading, it is very helpful for them to learn how to make connections between the text and their own knowledge and experiences.
Making connections while reading helps the reader monitor his own thinking, keeps him actively engaged while reading, and leads to an overall better understanding of the text.
Here are three types of connections to help with reading comprehension:
1) Text to Self: The child connects what he reads to something in his own life.
2) Text to Text: The child connects what he reads to something he has read previously.
3) Text to World: The child connects what he reads to something he knows about the world.
Below is a guide for you to teach your child or students how to make these connections.
When teaching text to self connections, you need to teach your students to ask themselves questions such as:
- What from my own life does this remind me of?
- Which characters in this story can I relate to and why?
- How did I feel when I read this ?
Practice an example with your student or child. Pick a story you have both read or that you have read to them and ask them the above questions.
The reader can ask themselves these questions at any point in the text such as after a paragraph, a page, a chapter, or the whole book. If your child has trouble answering the questions, answer them yourself first, showing your child how to do it. Then encourage your child to answer the questions. It make take several examples and a lot of practice for your child to answer these questions on his own. Do short practice sessions 5 to 15 minutes at a time to not overwhelm your child. If your child has trouble answering the questions, stay calm and guide him by giving him suggestions to how he might be able to relate the text to his own life. If you get frustrated your child may shut down and not want to practice anymore. Praise your child for effort and let him know when he makes an appropriate connection.
Here I will illustrate my own text-to self-connections with the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
1) What from my own life does this story remind me of?
Goldilocks walks into the three bears house without being invited in. This reminds me of my friend Cindy who always walked into my house without knocking when I was a kid.
2) Which characters in this story can I relate to and why? I can relate to Goldilocks because she has blonde hair like me. Goldilocks also wants to be comfortable. She tries different beds until she finds the one that is just right. I can relate to that because I have a hard time sleeping unless I am in a very comfortable bed. I cannot sleep on hard surfaces or in cramped spaces.
3) How did I feel when I read this? I felt angry that Goldilocks just walked into the bears house without being invited in. I also felt embarrassed for Goldilocks when the bears found out that she ate their porridge, broke one of their chairs, and took a nap in one of their beds.
Pick a book you and your child have read and do a practice session with your child. When teaching text-to-text or text-to-world connections, you can teach your child or students using the same strategy as above; however, the questions will be different.
Here are some examples of text-to-text and text-to-world connections:
Did what I just read remind me of something from another book I read? If so, what?
What about this book is different from the last book I read?
Have I read something similar to this before? How was it similar?
Is what I just read similar to anything in the real world?
How is what I just read different from things in the real world?
Does what I just read remind me of anything in the real world?
Once your child can make these connections on his own, encourage him to ask himself these questions, either out loud or in his mind, whenever he is reading. He will have to monitor his understanding of the text in order to answer the questions. He can even write down the questions and answers if that is helpful to him.
Your child can use one, two, or all three of these strategies when reading to ensure his comprehension. For a guide that gives you several strategies to help your child or students become engaged, thoughtful, independent readers try Strategies That Work: Teaching Comprehension for Understanding and Engagement.
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Thank you for reading!