CSI Literacy NZ

Reading strategies and how to teach them: Making connections

Reading strategies and how to teach them: Making connections

Making connections is a reading strategy that helps students find meaning in a text by connecting it to their own life. It puts unfamiliar ideas in a familiar context that students have experienced before.

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 won’t 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.

3 ways to get students making connections

  1. Before reading your chosen text, describe to the students 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 (your own experiences), text to text (things you’ve read or seen – books, films etc.), and text to world (what you know about the world around you).

    Text to self: The connections students make to their own knowledge and experiences
    Text to text: The connections students make to another story or book (even a movie or song!)
    Text to world: The connections students make to the community and world around them

    Here’s an example using Goldilocks and the Three Bears:
    Self: “I can connect to Goldilocks eating porridge, because I sometimes have porridge for breakfast too! Sometimes it is too sweet.”
    Text: “I can connect to the three bears, because I’ve read a book about the bears in Yellowstone. They are really huge.”
    World: “I can connect to Goldilocks being frightened because bears are wild animals. It’s dangerous to get close to wild animals because they might hurt you.”

  1. During reading, pair students up and have them discuss the connections they can make to the text together. Draw attention to how different students make different connections.

  2. As you read, record some of the pupils’ connections on the board. After reading, review the connections. Use a dictionary or encyclopedia to define any words or concepts that are still causing trouble. Facilitate a discussion about how connections build when you read new information.

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.

Check out our free making connections lesson and anchor chart to introduce this reading strategy to your students.



Want a strategies resource for your whole class? Try CSI Literacy Kits for mainstream classes and Enhance Literacy for intervention classes. Both resources are complete with short texts, lesson plans, collaborative learning, student reflection journals, and digital resources. Download sample texts from our resources.

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