Making text connections while reading is a comprehension skill that takes time and practice to master. Modeling the text connections process using picture books is an effective method for reinforcing or introducing the new skill. If students make connections while they are reading, they have a better chance of understanding and remembering the information presented in the text. There are three types of connections that students can make while reading independently: text to self, text to text, and text to world. Each type of text connection has a specific purpose and benefit. Text to self connections help students relate to the text on a personal level, deepening their understanding and creating a more meaningful and memorable reading experience. Text to text connections strengthen prior knowledge and allow students to identify commonalities across authors and genres. Text to world connections increase comprehension by relating previously learned concepts to new information.
Before diving into an independent text connections activity, it is important to model the cognitive process required for making authentic connections with the text. Reading picture books in a group setting is an engaging way to approach this type of guided instruction. The picture books listed below are diverse enough for most students to make all three types of connections. The short descriptions should give you an idea of the books that will resonate with your students. In order to get your students thinking and assist them in the text connections process, oral questions are provided for each book.
Nerdy Birdy is ashamed that he isn’t like the popular birds. He knows he’s different, and it makes him feel lonely. Everything changes when Nerdy Birdy meets and becomes friends with other birds just like him. Eventually, Nerdy Birdy embraces his differences and welcomes another nerdy friend into their group.
- Text to Self: Have you ever felt lonely or different from others?
- Text to Text: Can you think of another story about friendship?
- Text to World: Has anyone ever welcomed you into their group or tried to be your friend?
The bad seed is really bad. He lies, he cheats, and he has a horrible attitude. After explaining why he is so awful, the bad seed decides to make some changes. He decides to be happy, reminding readers that change is possible for everyone.
- Text to Self: Have you ever tried to improve at something?
- Text to Text: Can you think of another character that made a big change?
- Text to World: Do you know someone that has made a big change in their life?
A young girl and her dog set out to build the most magnificent thing. Determined to succeed, the pair works around the clock tinkering with their creation. When things don’t go as planned, the girl gets frustrated and angry. Eventually, she is able to let go of the bad feelings and get back to work. Ultimately, the hardworking pair realize their dream of building the most magnificent thing.
- Text to Self: Have you ever been in a situation where things didn’t go as planned?
- Text to Text: Can you think of another story that includes a dog?
- Text to World: Has someone ever helped you build something?
Wemberly worries about everything: big things, little things, and everything in between. Her thoughts are consumed with worries until something magical happens. Wemberly meets a friend who is just like her. Soon, Wemberly’s worries start to fade away.
- Text to Self: Do you ever feel worried like Wemberly?
- Text to Text: Can you think of a character from a book that worried about something?
- Text to World: Can you think of a situation that might make someone nervous?
One rainy afternoon, Liam is out exploring his dreary city when he finds an abandoned garden. The garden is desperately in need of a gardener, so Liam gets to work. Over the next few months, the garden grows to cover many areas of the city. After years of tending to the plants and flowers, the entire city blossoms!
- Text to Self: Can you remember a time when you found something interesting?
- Text to Text: Do you know of another story that takes place in a city?
- Text to World: Does Liam remind you of another child in the world that has made a difference?
A young boy has a nightly problem. There’s a nightmare in his closet. Determined to face his nightmare once and for all, the boy stays up late and arms himself with a toy gun and helmet. As soon as the room darkens, the nightmare appears. When the boy turns on the light, the nightmare begins to cry. After a moment of anger, the boy decides to comfort his nightmare, allowing the nightmare to sleep in his bed. Problem solved.
- Text to Self: Have you ever been afraid of something?
- Text to Text: Can you think of another story about something scary?
- Text to World: Does this remind you of something you’ve seen on television or the internet?
Unhei has just arrived in America from Korea. During the bus trip on her first day of school, other students make fun of her Korean name. After thinking about it, Unhei decides to take an American name. Trying to help, the students in her class fill a jar with ideas for Unhei’s new name. As the story progresses, several events happen that encourage Unhei to take pride in her differences and keep her Korean name. She even makes a new friend!
- Text to Self: Have you ever wanted to change something about yourself?
- Text to Text: Have you read any other stories about immigrants moving to a new country?
- Text to World: Do you know someone that used to live in another country?
After giving students ample opportunities to orally practice the text connections process, they should be ready to try it while reading independently. Click here to download a free text connections template that can be used as a worksheet or craft. If you’re looking for a more diverse selection of activities, download everything you need from Literacy in Focus on TpT. The Text Connections Bundle includes full-color classroom posters, anchor charts, worksheets, graphic organizers, and more! A digital option is also included for use in your Google Classroom.