Making Connections in a Nonfiction Text

Understanding connections in nonfiction texts

It’s been about a year since I have written my Exploring ELA Blog Series. I took some time off of writing them to focus on creating my ELA units. Now that the reading units are finished, I can get back into the blog series. I’m so excited to bring you another version of Exploring ELA like this post on making connections in a nonfiction text!

So, before we begin, let’s look at what Common Core asks teachers to do when they’re teaching connections in an informational text. This is not the same as connections in literature where students are asked to find text to self and text to text connections. This is all about connections within an informational text.

1st Grade: Describe the connection between two individuals, events, ideas, or pieces of information in a text.

2nd grade: Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.

3rd Grade: Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts. Or, steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

4th Grade: Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why based on specific information in the text.

Making Connections in a Nonfiction Text

Buzz Words: 

  • describe, explain
  • connection
  • series of historical events
  • scientific ideas or concepts
  • steps in a technical procedure

5 Key Tasks for Teachers

  1. Introduce the types of connections to look for.
  2. Model with a daily read-aloud.
  3. Focus on technical procedures.
  4. Target scientific ideas.
  5. Focus on series in a historical event.
  6. Give them many opportunities to practice.

1. Introduce the types of connections to look for.

(Compare/contrast, cause/effect, sequential order)

There are many different types of connections within informational texts. Common Core asks students to find connections in three types of scenarios:  scientific texts, technical texts, and historical events. Now, within those texts, there are types of connections to be on the lookout for. Sequencing goes hand-in-hand with technical procedures and scientific ideas. Cause and effect texts help introduce scientific ideas and historical events. Compare and contrast is also a great way to learn about scientific ideas. Making connections in a nonfiction text starts with the introduction of these concepts.

Making Connections in an informational text chart- activities and lessons to teach connections in technical texts, historical events, or scientific procedures- RI1.3, RI2.3, RI3.3, RI4.3 (RI.1.3, RI.2.3., RI.3.3, RI.4.3)

Start with an anchor chart. This anchor chart is something you can do to introduce what you’re going to be covering with this standard. Review it and revisit it as you introduce new types of texts.

Connections in informational text cause and effect worksheet.

Start by showing a cause and effect lesson. In this lesson, you will find photographs of real-life events (or use the ones offered in my 1st- 4th mini-lesson sets) and have students discuss cause and effect. This is a great way to introduce the idea that when one event or action occurs, another event or action can happen because of it.

2. Model with a Daily Read-Aloud.

This is a very difficult task for students to grasp. Not only because informational texts on their own are already hard enough for students to understand, but there is a lot of comprehension that is required. Students are asked to comprehend all aspects of the text, THEN find the connections between two events or ideas. This is hard for most elementary-aged students who are still learning how to find text-evidence comprehension questions.

This is why it is very important to model this standard to them often to assist them with making connections in a nonfiction text. You can even model the standard prior to your Connections unit!

Mentor texts for making connections

Making Connections (RI.1.3, RI.2.3, RI.3.3, RI4.3)
-Key skills to hit- connections within historical events, scientific ideas, or technical processes
All the books linked in this blog post are to affiliate Amazon links.
Now and Ben by Gene Barretta
How People Learned to Fly by Fran Hodgkins
From Peanut to Peanut Butter by Robin Nelson
School: Then and Now by Robin Nelson
The Magic School Bus Gets Baked in a Cake by Joanna Cole 
From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons

3. Focus on Technical Procedures

So, Common Core asks 2nd-4th grade to focus on three things. One of those is technical procedures. These are usually the easiest types of texts to understand because it’s often a step-by-step how-to piece. Or the text is written with a pretty laid out explanation of how the procedure works. This is why I think it’s best to focus on technical procedures first when making connections in a nonfiction text.

Informational text connections
Informational text connections

Two examples are my mini-lesson from my 1st-3rd-grade units in my RI3 sets and my Making a PBJ passage. These are included in all my 1st-3rd sets (but rewritten at different levels). There are two ways to look at technical procedures and describe them. This is much easier than looking at scientific or historical ideas because there is much more background knowledge on cupcakes and peanut butter and jelly. Use something that they know a little about and can relate to when teaching.

4. Focus on Scientific Ideas

After you focus a bit on technical procedures, try moving into scientific ideas. These get a bit harder because if the scientific idea is a difficult concept to grasp. Then, adding that on top of the reading comprehension makes this standard even harder. Start your students out with fairly simple texts and scientific ideas. This way, making connections in a nonfiction text is more straightforward. Once they get more comfortable with finding connections within their easier texts and topics, you can start working your way up to harder topics and harder texts.

Scientific Ideas

Once you move onto scientific ideas, it’s still smart to start easier rather than on a brand new scientific concept. So, take pumpkin and apple life cycles for example. Students have most likely learned about these topics in the past years of school or have background knowledge of what pumpkins and apples are. The lesson on the left is covered in my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade units. The mini-lesson on the right is covered in my 1st grade unit. Once the students grasp the ideas of how to make connections between steps in a scientific process, then you can introduce harder topics.

5. Focus on Historical Events

I would focus on historical events last. Some of you may prefer science over history, but not me! Social Studies was never my strong subject, so I think it’s easier to teach scientific ideas to elementary students than historical events. There is also a lot of background knowledge you must introduce when you’re teaching this part of the standard, too.

Making Connections in an informational text- activities and lessons to teach connections in technical texts, historical events, or scientific procedures- RI1.3, RI2.3, RI3.3, RI4.3 (RI.1.3, RI.2.3., RI.3.3, RI.4.3)

(Source: 4th Grade RI4.3)

6. Give them many opportunities to practice.

So, when teaching your ELA standards, it’s essential to give the students many hands-on ways to practice it. They need to have different types of texts, such as online websites, videos, read-alouds, picture books, and passages. Finding passages and books that are directly aligned to the standards are tricky, which is why I love using my standards-based resources!

Ideas for Practicing Making Connections

  • Turn and Talk activities whole group
  • Task Cards
  • Interactive Notebooks
  • Passages
  • Printables to use with real texts

(Source: RI3 resources)

Need connections resources for your grade level?

Understanding connections in nonfiction texts

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