Can I make a connection?

After finishing the first two chapters of Choice Words: How Our Language Affects Children’s Learning by Peter H. Johnston, I have one main idea that resonated with me:

Can I make a connection?

This is a comment that I hear several times a day in my classroom. Reynolds discusses on pg. 17 “Children becoming literate need to learn the significant features of text, how it is organized (letters, words, arguments, structure, punctuation, and so on), how it relates to spoken language, how to recognize the little tricks authors use to compel readers, when to use which sort of written language, and so forth.”

This reminded me of the conversations that we have daily during our morning meeting, whole group lessons and small group instruction. Johnston discusses how children need to learn the significant features that compose all parts of learned principles. Students need to be able to make connections.

During my first couple years of teaching we used the CROP-QV strategy to teach comprehension.

  • Connection – This reminds me of…
  • Reaction – This makes me feel…
  • Opinion – In my opinion, I think…
  • Prediction – I predict that…
  • Question – I wonder…
  • Visualize – I imagine that…

We always started with making a connection. We wanted our students to make connections to self, connections to learning and connections to the world. This strategy then moved to text to self, text to text and text to world connections. We could focus on making connections and using the student’s prior knowledge to guide the lesson.

As we focused more on common core the idea of making connections was moved to the side and more intentional teaching of the standards and the expectations became the focus. But I still continue to hear that one comment:

Can I make a connection?

After reading the text, I started to reflect on the reasons that my students want to make so many connections. I came up with 3 main reasons for my students and their connections during our lessons.

  1. Students that learn best when they summarize the learning in their own words and make a connection.
  2. Students that learn best by making a connection to check that they understand the concept.
  3. Students that learn best by making a connection (about an understood concept) in order to use that concept to understand the new information.

After reflecting on the connections that my students make, I started to think about my responses.

If would be a lie if I said that I encouraged connections. I have the type of class that when one student makes a connection, at least 5 more hands are raised. As the time goes by the connections become more personal statement, or sometimes just a time to raise a hand and then say “Oh… I forgot”.

Lately my response when a hand is raised is “Is this a question or a comment?”. After reading the chapter and writing this post, I notice that I am not encouraging my students to make connections  but rather stifling their opportunities to recognize the features of our learning. I am going to start reflecting on my interaction during lessons and my timing of student responses. I need to use my student’s connections to increase our learning and put my students in charge of leading the connection train!


Johnston, P. H. (2004). Choice words: How our language affects children’s learning. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse.