When a reader compares a known idea from previous learning to a new idea from the text, he is making a connection.
This happens when something stated within the text reminds the reader of a personal experience (text-to-self), another text (text-to-text), or general knowledge (text-to-world). The reader then activates his prior knowledge, brings it forward, and thinks This reminds me of… This is like…
However, for this process to impact comprehension, it requires students to look past the egocentric trappings of text-to-self connections. It’s about more than the students’ individual connections–it’s about the text. The real value of a connection is when it helps the reader better understand the point the author is making.
Text-based conversations may start with the sharing of personal connections, but they should not consume the bulk of the time. A crucial facet of the discussion must include relevance to the text. This is the difference between discussions that take readers away from or off the text (and about themselves) versus those that are focused on or about the text (and the author’s information).
To guide students’ thinking, rephrase the question.
- Instead of “Have you ever felt…” try “Why would someone feel (this way)?”
- Instead of “Who has ever been to the…” try “What do you know about a place like…?”
- Instead of “Have any of you ever…” try “What do you already know about (this topic)?”
Reframing the questions in this manner taps into a reader’s personal experience and his general knowledge of people, places, and topics. This propels the thinking from just a one-way connection to a much deeper understanding. Readers begin to consider how their background knowledge helps them to better understand or appreciate what the author/text is saying.