Skip to main content

Making Connections

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Ms. Viele leading a daily reading discussion. Students hold up one finger up to add to a peer’s statement and two fingers to change the subject.
Ms. Viele leading a daily reading discussion. Students hold up one finger up to add to a peer’s statement and two fingers to change the subject.

How do you teach third graders to think across texts or to use literature to engage each other in the classroom?

Harlem Academy’s third grade teacher Alexis Viele uses a method called shared inquiry to hone these skills and habits.

During 30 minute reading discussions each morning, students sit together in small groups. They practice discussion skills that include referring to the text, building off of a peer’s comments, or disagreeing productively. Students open their comments with phrases like, “I agree with Naya” or “I want to connect this passage to the last book we read.”

In order to properly frame these discussions, Ms. Viele instructs students to make three specific types of connections while they read: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world. With each assignment, students must jot down their connections on post-it notes and stick them next to relevant passages. Text-to-self connects passages to experiences in the students’ own lives, text-to-text connects a character or setting from one text to that of another, and text-to-world asks students to connect readings to larger trends in culture and history. Students must also occasionally elaborate on their post its connections in journal entries.

Ms. Viele asks for a minimum of five or six connections per reading assignment. These reading strategies coupled with the daily discussions provide students with a rigorous but mutually supportive environment. They learn how to read actively, make connections, share their thoughts constructively, and develop a personal investment in what they read.

“It’s like our own little book club that happens every day,” says Lower School Director LaShonda Davis.

Special thanks to the Edith Glick Shoolman Children’s Foundation and the John P. and Constance A. Curran Charitable Foundation for their generous support of our lower school reading program.