National Reading Panel (2000) identified five areas of reading instruction (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and text comprehension). Each section of the report "defines the skill, reviews the evidence from research, suggests implications for classroom instruction, describes proven strategies for teaching reading skills and addresses frequently raised questions".
The area of text comprehension is discussed in terms of skills children must develop in order to become competent readers. These include visualizing, summarizing/synthesizing, inferring, questioning and making connections.
Making connections consists of establishing self-to-text, self-to-world and text-to-text associations. It is the latter component I silently applauded when my students made connections between two Greek myths this week.
The McElderry Book of Greek Myths that one student brought from home. This story leads right into the tale of Theseus and the Minotaur but after reading for about 20 minutes I was going to stop before I began this next chapter.
However, the children were so disappointed that I was stopping and their persistence for me to continue was so strong that I kept on reading.
When I got to the part in the story where King Minos sends a fleet of ships to pursue Theseus after he defeats the Minotaur and escapes the labyrinth with Ariadne's help, they shouted out that this was just like when "King Menelaus sent Odysseus and all the ships to go after Paris and Helen".
It seems like a small thing I suppose, but I was floored by this connection because it was so perfectly spot-on. It IS like that!
And I began to think how cool it is for first grade students to not only know the story of the Iliad and the Odyssey, but to make connections that are this brilliant?
Next week we tackle the story of Jason, the Argonauts and the Golden Fleece. When I told them this one child made another connection..."Oh, I know Jason. He is that guy who goes around in the mask and kills people".
Oh, boy! Not the literate connection I would have hoped but who could argue? The kid has a point.