Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Real-World Connections in a Guided Reading Lesson

By Gaynell R. Jamison, Reading Specialist, Guest Blogger

Using real-world connections in a guided reading lesson is a highly effective method of engaging students in the learning process. These connections are important because students can use their prior knowledge to make meaning of new concepts you present in your classroom. In today's blog post, I'll describe how you can help students in kindergarten, first grade, and second grade make real-world connections with paired texts.

According to Frank Smith, "everything that we know is organized into a personal theory of what the world is like" (Smith, 2004). This means when your students cannot make sense of a concept, they are bewildered because they may not be able to apply their theory to truly comprehend what you're teaching. In order to reduce students' confusion and to ensure the development of critical reading skills, you should create opportunities to practice comprehension strategies that correlate to students' personal experiences and background knowledge.

I remember a first grade student who had lost a tooth, and his younger brother, who was three at the time, had pears for lunch. There was a small seed in one of the pear slices, so the younger brother showed the seed to his teacher and said that its tooth had fallen out. This showed that the younger brother was making a real-world connection to losing a tooth based on what he observed of his brother's experience. The younger brother connected his personal theory of losing a tooth to the experience of a pear losing its seed.

In order to keep your students engaged during your guided reading lesson, you should select leveled readers that allow students to make similar connections that are grounded in their personal experiences. These lay the ground work for a real-world connection. Using recognizable objects that are related to the text as props for storytelling will also help engage students and foster a love of reading. Keep reading to find out how you can help students make real-world connections with paired texts that include wordless books, fiction, and nonfiction reading material.

Making Real-World Connections in Kindergarten and First Grade

Me and Mom is a wordless book that serves as a springboard to kindergarten lessons on making good choices and respecting others. Show students the cover of Me and Mom , from Zoozoo Into the Wild , and ask them to make predictions about what they think the story will be about. After getting children's feedback, introduce the story by telling them who the characters are and giving a brief book introduction. Be sure to inform your students that there are no words on the pages. You'll need to model how students should use pictures to tell the story.

As students see the story unfold of a baby orangutan who meets a naughty furry friend, the mother orangutan enters the picture to protect the baby when the banana is taken away by the naughty monkey. Make every effort to see if your students can make a connection from their personal experiences to the events taking place on each page, especially with scenes that include the mother orangutan. After reading the story, encourage your students to retell the story using a story box, which should include a copy of the book and realia that's relevant to the book. You can also have students practice retelling in pairs or small groups.

As students transition from kindergarten to first grade, they will have accumulated more life experiences that add to their background knowledge. This will positively affect their ability to make real-world connections before, during, and after reading. Not only will first graders make progress with reading text on each page, they will also be able to implement a wide range reading comprehension strategies that involve critical thinking. As students read and engage in rich discussions during your guided reading lesson, the window of opportunity to continue making real-world connections will grow wider. This means more text types should be used to help students.

Paired texts that serve as a natural progression from the wordless books within Zoozoo Into the Wild are fantastic tools to keep kindergarten and first grade students engaged in lessons about animals. In the Tree is an illustrated narrative text with a simple sentence structure about what an orangutan does in a tree. Orangutan is an informational text that not only presents interesting facts, but also offers great opportunities to practice pronouns and adjectives. Both of these titles are at guided reading level D.

Before reading either leveled book, you'll want to facilitate a discussion about orangutans. You can do this by creating a list of your students' background knowledge with a graphic organizer, such as KWL chart, T-chart, or idea web. Ask students who have visited a zoo to share facts they know about orangutans to remedy the lack of prior knowledge among students who have neither seen an orangutan nor been to the zoo.

After the discussion, show the paired fiction book cover of In the Tree and ask questions that prompt students to think about differences between nonfiction and fiction. Highlight the differences between illustrations and photographs to help students identify how fiction can differ from a nonfiction book. When you're modeling how to compare and contrast, be sure to draw students' attention to the illustrations to encourage children to think about whether they would do some of the things that the orangutan does in the tree. This is a fun way to help first graders make real-world connections as they are learning to read.

After reading the narrative text, you can show the cover of  Orangutan and ask students to make predictions about what they will read in this nonfiction book for kids. While reading, be sure to use the talking points at the back of the book to enrich the information being presented on each page. After reading, revisit the information about orangutans in the graphic organizer to highlight new information that was learned while reading the story.

As students go to second grade, they should have increased exposure to things that will broaden the scope of their prior knowledge. This will be crucial for making more complex real-world connections and strengthening content-area literacy. Content-area literacy can be a bit more challenging for students to grasp, but it is a valuable tool that fortifies students' ability to make meaning and leverage real-world connections. Keep reading to find out how you can use level L and M books to help your second graders make real-world connections.

Making Real-World Connections in Second Grade

Terrific Teeth is a leveled reader that helps students gain an understanding of different types of teeth, how teeth are used, and good ways to care for teeth. You can introduce the topic by asking students to compare and contrast their teeth to those of animals.

This level L guided reading book has a great range of nonfiction text features that you should help students use to make real-world connections. This could also be a great time to invite a community helper, like a dentist, to visit your classroom to talk to students about take care of human teeth. Be creative in your search for someone to invite because there may be representatives from other local agencies who might be available to supplement your lesson on caring for teeth.

The Lion and the Mouse is the fairy tale from Story World Real World that pairs with Terrific Teeth . This narrative text teaches students a valuable lesson about helping others while strengthening content-area literacy in relation to the traditional tale's paired nonfiction text. Don't forget to model for students how to use the artwork on every page to understand the text. After reading, your students will undoubtedly be able to make real-world connections to important story elements of The Lion and the Mouse .

Consider using a Venn diagram for kids to review what students learned about human and animal teeth. You can also encourage students to work in groups to make a presentation about teeth of specific animals. This collaboration will be a great way for students work with peers and continue making real-world connections.

Not only do real-world connections bring learning to life, this is one of several reading comprehension strategies that help students learn from each other. The more background knowledge that students possess, the easier it will be for kids to successfully make meaning and enhance their content-area literacy as reading materials become more challenging.

Come back to our blog often for more ideas and teaching tips!

Gaynell R. Jamison is a reading specialist, children’s author, early childhood trainer, and pre-K director with 38 years of experience in education. She has studied extensively in the field of literacy with a specialty in teaching reading and administering reading programs as a former Reading Recovery Teacher and Reading Recovery Teacher Leader. She has served on two national committees for leveling books for Reading Recovery. She has a passion for children’s literature with an interest in early and emergent literacy acquisition and teaching young learners to become readers.