Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Comprehension is Connection

Brain research has shown that we learn by making connections -- finding patterns, things we know, and then attaching new information. We may need to revise what we know depending on the new learning, but deep in the recesses of our brains there are memories, feelings, and past knowledge that gets pulled up as we go about life.

Reading is very much tied to connections. What you have experienced makes a difference in how you approach and take in any new text.

If a child has had an experience that relates to the book, it will help them easily slide it in to the slot -- for example, if a child has been to a specific setting, say a museum, then when the kids in the book they are reading take a field trip to a museum, they know what they are talking about.

BUT - not all kids have a wealth of experiences...That is something I as a teacher could never I found other ways to show them they could connect with books. That's what you are going to do.

The best, for-sure connections will come with character's feelings. We are all human -- we feel the same. Identify how you understand what they are feeling. On the flip side, if you don't react a way a character does, mention that need to know that life is grayer sometimes, not black and white.

If you have been places, explain how it connects to your experience. If you have had relationships similar to the ones in the book, tell them who, how, and why it is similar.

Careful...sometimes kids get "connection happy" and try to relate to EVERYTHING in the book. If the character has a dog, the character wears pink, etc...try to model meaningful connections that actually aid in comprehending the story better.

For example, let's use the dog example. Now, if the story involves taking care of a dog, or owning a dog, that connection would be great to have...if a child has a dog too, they know the in's and out's of caring for them and how they behave. They relate to the responsibility, and have emotions attached. BUT if the character just has a dog and it is mentioned as the character is walking in the door one day and never brought up again, it isn't as significant.

The important thing to think about when talking about connections is bringing who you are and what you know/experienced in life to the book. You are letting it affect you, and you are filtering and actively allowing the new information to mesh with what you know.

Another more advanced thinking is realizing that your connections/experiences actually bias you towards the text. Knowing that is really deep. Knowing your reactions are based on what you know previously and then saying, " does that jive with what I knew before, and how am I thinking about that now? Am I sticking to my past thinking or revising it or even completely changing it??"

These are the connections that make a difference in really understanding a story!

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