June 26, 2012

Two Books That Teach Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, and Text-to-World Connections

Does everyone start the year off teaching connections?  I always introduce all the reading strategies at the beginning of the year when we are talking about metacognition, but then we dig a little deeper into each strategy throughout the year. Connections always seems to be one of the first strategies we dive into.

The following 2 books are books I love because they offer so much more than just a good story and are perfect for teaching connections 2nd through 5th grade.

I always start the year off by reading Oliver Button is a Sissy.  Some years I just do it as a plain old read aloud.  Other years, I use this book to make my metacognition salad from Comprehension Connections by Tanny McGregor.  Either way we read and discuss the story together as a class.

If you are not familiar with the story Oliver, he does not like the things that other boys like.  He likes to read, draw, sing and dance.  Everyone makes fun of Oliver saying that  he is a sissy. Oliver stays true to himself and continues taking dance lessons.  He enters the talent show and surprises everyone with what a good performer he is.  Although he doesn't win the talent shows, he earns the respect of his classmates and makes his parents proud.  The story offers a good opportunity to discuss bullying and acceptance of others. Plus, students often have many text-to-self connections and are very willing to share.  Great book!

Down the road, whether it is a week or a few days, we read another book called Amazing Grace. In this story, Grace loves to act and become the characters from all her favorite story books.  When an opportunity to be Peter Pan in a school play arrives, everyone tells Grace that she can't be Peter because she "doesn't look the part."  With a little encouragement from her family, Grace goes to school with a determination to win the role she so much desires.  The book provides a chance to discuss racial discrimination, acceptance of others, perseverance, goal-setting, and the power of believing in your dreams. 

I'm sure you are already starting to see some parallels here.  :)

After reading both books, create a Venn-Diagram comparing the two characters.

This is what my 3rd grade class came up with two years ago.

Both outstanding books provide a platform for discussion that is naturally engaging to students because it centers around some tough topics. The level and depth of discussion on theme and author's message depends on the grade level and the class.  But, the connections they make to both themselves and between the characters are  incredible no matter what the grade.

Plus, both books naturally lend themselves to text-to-world connections because they DO talk about those tough topics like gender and racial stereotypes. Bonus.

Suggested Activities After Discussion:

#1) Reading Journal: Pick a character.  Write about several ways you are like that character.  Use examples from your life and from the text to support your thinking. 

#2) Reading Journal: Write about several ways these two characters are alike.  Use examples from both texts to support your thinking. (Yes, we already talked about this, so it is nice option for those kids that need some additional scaffolding. Sneaky, huh?)

#3) Write an acrostic poem about one of both of the characters. Example below.
           G - Great imagination
           R - Ready to take on a challenge
           A - Amazed her classmates with her performance
           C - Couldn't give up on her dream
           E - Earned her role as Peter Pan

#4) Write a letter to the character.  What would you say to them?  What did you learn from them?

Now, I have to admit, I did not put these two books together all by myself.  I attended a fabulous workshop on comprehension strategies by Megan Sloan several years ago.  She suggested these two books and I have used them every year since.  See... thief...but always willing to share.  :)

What books do you use to teach connections?

I'd love to get a few more to add to my collection, especially if you know of two more books that fit together like the two above.  I love that!

Please comment and share your wonderful thoughts, ideas, and book selections.


  1. Two books that I'd put together (though I don't get to teach reading cause I'm a counselor) are The Hard-Times Jar by Ethel Footman Smothers and Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. They both have a wants vs. needs theme so your Venn diagram would work perfectly because sometimes our wants are needs and vice versa. Thanks for making me think!

    The Corner On Character

    1. Thank you Barbara for those great suggestions. I just added both to my Amazon wishlist which is growing by the day. I think The Hard-Times Jar would really resonate with my kids. Thank you for sharing!

  2. I read Amazing Grace every year but I will have to add Oliver Button to my list!

    1. It's a great book. You and your class will love it.

  3. Ruby the Copycat by Peggy Rathmann and Stephanie's Ponytail by Robert Munsch are great books to pair up.

    1. I had to look up both of these books on Amazon. Both look really cute! Thanks for sharing these books. I'm learning about so many more great books!!

  4. Nonfiction selections:
    Owen and Mzee by Isabelle Hatkoff and Tarra and Bella by Carol Buckley. Kids love animals. Warning, because these stories are on going, my kids requested I google/youtube more info. Owen and Mzee has a happy status, but Tarra and Bella's current status made me cry, infront of the kids.


    1. I love Owen and Mzee!! Great book about friendship and overcoming obstacles. Thanks for the heads up regarding the Tarra and Bella story. I might have to tell the kiddos to research at home for the follow-up. I'm sure I would also cry in front of the kids. Love the idea of using these non-fiction books for comparison. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Great book choices for making connections! I have my lesson for the first two weeks of school.

  6. Amanda,
    Two of my favorite books! I love reading your blog, so I'm awarding you the Versatile Blogger award. Check my blog to see the rules you need to follow!!
    Pencils, Books, and Dirty Looks

  7. I awarded you the One Lovely Blog award! :)

    1. Thanks Lana! Yours is a lovely blog too. :)

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