As teachers, we constantly strive to draw connections for our students. We make analogies and draw comparisons between things we encounter during the school day and how it affects our lives in some way, shape or form. We often use books to accomplish this objective. When describing this to your class of first or second graders, this is called making text-to-self connections, where the “text” is the book and the “self” is you!
Time for Bed by Mem Fox is one such book that you can use to draw these kinds of connections. This is a large picture book used during Shared Reading. Using illustrations of animals, it shows parent animals putting their young children to bed. You can start off your reading time by showing the children the book, letting them go through a brief picture walk with you, and then asking them what they think the book is about. Students can not only determine that the book takes place at night (which is when they go to bed), but that their parents put them to bed, just as the adult animals do in the book. These are the connections we can immediately draw. We can then look at the words that rhyme in the book. Ask your students, which words rhyme and what are the letters in the words that are different? You can then ask them to come up with their own list of rhyming words and perhaps create their own stories using those words.
The importance of making text-to-self connections is to activate prior knowledge. Thinking back in time and understanding how they felt in certain circumstances helps them to understand what they are reading. They can relate to the characters in the book on a more comprehensive level. As teachers, we should model this behavior first by discussing a situation from our own lives that is similar to the one in the book you will read to them. Then, ask for volunteers to discuss a similar situation. Most children are eager to participate and share pieces of their background with the class.
You can chart your students’ progress with worksheets that will guide them through the process. This includes a T-chart, where one column includes ideas that the author wrote, and on the other side the students can write about how that relates to their own lives.
After your class has mastered text-to-self connections, you can begin working on text-to-text connections and then text-to-world connections. These can take place at all different grade levels. Older students can employ these strategies to help understand the main idea of a topic as well as cause and effect. From getting ready for bed to learning about our nation’s history, the strategy of making text connections is a valuable tool that can be employed time and time again throughout one’s educational journey.