how to teach students to make connections when reading

Making Connections: Mentor Text Activity

Learning is meaningful and lasting when students can relate what they are reading to themselves, other texts, and world events. Making text connections is an active reading strategy that improves comprehension, promotes critical thinking, and increases engagement. 

Types of Text Connections

📖 Text-to-Self: Connections made between the text and personal experiences or feelings.

  • Example: A student reading Wonder might connect Auggie’s experiences with their fears about fitting in, making new friends, or facing challenges in a new environment.

 📖 Text-to-Text: Connections made between the text and other texts previously read. 

  • Example: A student reading Charlotte’s Web might connect it to Stuart Little because both books were written by E.B. White and include animals with human-like qualities and deep friendships. 
Types of Text Connections

 📖 Text-to-World: Connections made between the text and larger world issues, events, or concepts. 

  • Example: A student reading about climate change in a science textbook might connect the information to recent news reports about extreme weather events.

Mentor Text Activity

Reading children’s books together as a class is an interactive way to teach students how to connect with the text. The books listed below are perfect for guiding students through the active reading process. Each book includes a short description and guiding questions from the author for making text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world connections. 

Desert Song book cover

Desert Song by Laekan Zea Kemp

Desert Song by Laekan Zea Kemp is a lyrical tale celebrating the vibrant culture and landscape of the Texas desert. Through the eyes of a young girl, readers experience the magic of her homeland as she recounts the sounds, colors, and stories of her community. The book beautifully weaves themes of heritage, family, and the rich traditions of desert life.

  • Text to Self: What kind of music reminds you of your family or community? 
  • Text to Text: Have you read other stories with characters that play music?
  • Text to World: What are some other reasons people might play music together?

       

Leo and the Pink Marker book cover

Leo and the Pink Marker by Mariyka Foster

Leo and the Pink Marker by Mariyka Foster tells the story of a young boy named Leo who loves to color outside the lines. Leo uses his pink marker to brighten up his dusty surroundings when his moms aren’t looking. Leo loves the way everything looks with a bright splash of pink, but he worries he’s done too much. Will his moms be upset? Leo’s playful story invites readers to celebrate family, creativity, and the color pink!

  • Text to Self: Have you ever gotten a little carried away doing something you love?
  • Text to Text: Can you think of another story with a surprising ending?
  • Text to World: Can you think of an artist who paints or draws with bright colors?

    

The Recess Genius book cover

The Recess Genius 2 by Janet Sumner Johnson

In Recess Genius 2: Tons of Talent by Janet Sumner Johnson, Regina Gray, the Recess Genius, can solve any problem. When no one signs up for the talent show, Regina works extra hard to find a solution. Surprisingly, she finds an answer that solves more than just the talent show problem! Regina’s determination and out-of-the-box thinking will surely inspire readers of this second book in the Recess Genius series.

  • Text to Self: What is a talent you have that you could share with others?
  • Text to Text: Can you think of another story with a character who solves a problem?
  • Text to World: Can you think of someone who uses their talents to help others?

     

Text Connections Activities and Anchor Chart

“My students are better able to make connections with this resource. The sentence stems truly help them understand how to use connections in their writing.” -Joan S.

“This wonderful tool has really been helpful in my classroom and has been a great addition to my lessons, kids loved it!” -Stephen W.

Text Connections Sticky Notes
text connections book marks
text connections link activity
text connections worksheet
round and round the year we go book cover

Round and Round the Year We Go by Carter Higgins

Round and Round the Year We Go by Carter Higgins is a beautifully illustrated journey through the seasons, capturing the unique essence of each month. The rhythmic story carries readers through the year, showcasing the changes in nature and activities associated with each season. Through poetic language and vibrant visuals, Round and Round the Year We Go encourages readers to appreciate the rhythm and beauty of the passing months.

  • Text to Self: What is your favorite time of the year?
  • Text to Text: Can you think of any other stories that take place in the fall? How about summer?
  • Text to World: Can you name a place that doesn’t get snow in the winter?   

   

Crick Crack Crow Cover

Crick, Crack, Crow by Janet Lord

Crick, Crack, Crow by Janet Lord follows Crow as he leaves his nest and flies to a nearby farm, looking for fun and trouble. Crow enjoys being mischievous.  He pesters birds, steals food, and teases other animals. Soon, Crow tires of his usual hijinks and sets out to find more exciting adventures. What will happen when he runs into serious trouble? This engaging book also includes a page of facts about crows and a list of resources for extended learning.

  • Text to Self: If you could go on an exciting adventure, where would you go?
  • Text to Text: Can you think of another story with a mischievous character?
  • Text to World: Can you describe a place where you might find a crow?

      

With Dad Book Cover

With Dad by Richard Jackson

Written by acclaimed author Richard Jackson and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Brian Floca, With Dad is a timeless story about a boy with a father in the military. While his father is away at war, the young boy reflects on cherished memories of a camping trip with his dad. He hopes his dad will come home soon so they can return to the woods to make more memories. With heartfelt illustrations and moving text, With Dad captures the special moments that create lasting memories.

  • Text to Self: Do you have a memory of a time you spent with someone special?
  • Text to Text: Can you think of another book about a special moment or memory?
  • Text to World: Do you know someone who might be missing a parent or loved one?

Text Connections Graphic Organizer

Use a graphic organizer to scaffold learning and build a strong foundation for making text connections. An organizer that includes prompts and sentence frames will help students make distinctions between each type of text connection.

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE FREE TEXT CONNECTIONS GRAPHIC ORGANIZER!

Free Text Connections Graphic Organizer

Life After Whale book cover

Life After Whale: The Amazing Ecosystem of a Whale Fall by Lynn Brunelle

Life After Whale: The Amazing Ecosystem of a Whale Fall by Lynn Brunelle explores the fascinating process of a whale fall, where a whale’s body supports a rich and diverse underwater ecosystem after it dies. Through captivating illustrations and engaging text, the book introduces young readers to the various marine creatures that thrive on the nutrients provided by the whale’s remains. It beautifully highlights the cycle of life in the ocean, emphasizing the interconnectedness of marine life and the importance of each species in the ecosystem.
  • Text to Self: Can you think of other large animals that live in the ocean?  
  • Text to Text: Can you think of another story that includes whales?
  • Text to World: How is the death of a whale like a new beginning?

      

I Would Love You Still book cover

I Would Love You Still by Adrea Theodore

I Would Love You Still by Adrea Theodore is a rhyming picture book about the unconditional love between a parent and child. Inspired by a long day spent at the zoo, a parent lists all the ways they love their child. Charming animal rhymes and adorable illustrations enhance the heartfelt message. This story reassures children that someone will always love them no matter how “wild” they are.

  • Text to Self: Have you ever taken a memorable trip or visited a special place with someone who loves you?
  • Text to Text: Can you think of another story about a zoo or zoo animals?
  • Text to World: How do people show love in different ways? 

      

Big Bear and Little Bear Go Fishing Book Cover

Big Bear and Little Bear Go Fishing by Amy Hest

Written by award-winning author Amy Hest and illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Erin Stead, Big Bear and Little Bear Go Fishing is a classic tale about friendship. Big Bear and Little Bear spend a great deal of time preparing for their much-anticipated fishing trip. Ready at last, they get into their boat and wait, but nothing’s biting. Big Bear and Little Bear read stories and eat scones to pass the time. The bears are happy to return home and nap together in a hammock even though they didn’t catch a single fish! Readers will love this feel-good story for years to come!

  • Text to Self: Have you ever waited a long time for something big and exciting to happen?
  • Text to Text: Can you think of another story about friendship?
  • Text to World: Can you think of two people with a friendship like Big Bear and Little Bear?

      

With repeated practice, students will start to make connections when reading independently. Click here for seven more mentor texts with guided questions for each type of connection.

Picture Books and Text Connections
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Text Connections Graphic Organizer (PDF & Digital)

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Making Text Connections Mentor Text Activity for Students