Making connections is a reading comprehension strategy that helps students find meaning in a text by connecting it to their background knowledge.
It is particularly important for English language learners who need to connect learning to their experiences, their culture and family at home, and often across languages.
Taking meaning from text
The idea that a student’s background knowledge can determine the meaning they take from a text may not surprise to you.
Good readers make connections to everything – from the books they read to the communities they live in. Students have to be able to draw on what they already know to make sense of what they read.
As teachers, we can help our students’ comprehension by encouraging them to use the richness of their own experiences to better understand the texts they read.
If this sounds a bit daunting, we’ve got a few ideas to help you get started.
Ways to get students making connections
1. If you can, display a text using a projector, TV or interactive whiteboard. Model to students what you do before, during and after reading. Show them the different connections you can make to it, explicitly stating where your knowledge has come from. Your connections can be divided into three categories:
- Text to self: The connections readers make to their own knowledge and experiences
- Text to text: The connections readers make to another story or book (even a movie or song!)
- Text to world: The connections readers make to the community and world around them
- Self: “I can connect to the boy on the front cover. I’ve fallen asleep on the lawn in the warm sun. And I had my sunscreen on.”
- Text: “I can connect to Dr Seuss’s Sleep Book about yawning creatures. I yawn when I’m sleepy too.”
- World: “I can connect to the need for sleep because I know everyone sleeps – everywhere in the world.”
2. Before reading, model to the students how you check out the cover, the blurb on the back cover, and the contents page. Flick through the pages to see what’s to come. Invite them to think-pair-share with their partner about this, and why they think it might help them understand the book.
3. During reading, model a connection you are making to the text, then pair students up and have them discuss the connections they can make to the text. Draw attention to how different students make different connections. As you read, record some of the students’ connections on a whiteboard or digital device.
4. After reading, review the connections, and how they helped the whole group to make meaning of the text. Take a look at the glossary and discuss how many of the words are new to your students. Explain that learning new language is essential to becoming a good reader. Facilitate a discussion about how connections build when you read new information.
5. Check out our free making connections lesson and anchor chart to introduce this reading strategy to your students.
Practising the “Making Connections” strategy will encourage students to engage closely with texts, and create a context that will help them to understand the book or topic better.
Want a comprehension strategies resource for your whole class?
Try CSI Literacy Kits and CSI Chapters for mainstream classes, or Enhance Literacy for targeted teaching and intervention classes. These resources are complete with texts, lesson plans, collaborative learning, graphic organisers, and digital resources. Download sample texts from our resources.