When students make a connections with the books they read, their understanding, comprehension, and recall of the information increases.
Normally when I think of students make connections with stories, I focus on either a connection with the author or relating something that has happened to them to something that happens in the story (event). A teacher may be able to help students make connections with the author using blogs, websites, or even skype. Students could do some type of writing or art activity to express personal connections to stories possibly using a blog or something like webspiration.
Reading Kristin's Blog: Blogging with Afghanistan got me thinking about another type of connection that teachers can help provide for students using technology tools . . . a connection to the setting. A little background to her blog: In the past, her class read a story and posted discussion on a blog. The story was set in Afghanistan. A person who lives in Afghanistan read her blog and contacted her. He became her "friend" and offered to help out when she did the story the next year. . . it is all about making connections
A teacher could build background knowledge about the setting of a story by having students research general information about the area online, maybe look at pictures, or take a Google Earth trip. Those students would know a little more about the setting than before, but imagine how that level of knowledge would change if students could "talk" to someone actually in that area and ask questions not only about the geography/landforms but also about the culture.
The experiences of these students has the potential to greatly influence their understanding of the story.
Think about all the technology tools we have available to make it possible to make these connections to enhance student learning: skype, blogs, wikis, videos, pictures, voicethread, twitter . . .
So you don't have a friend or connection in the area of study or setting of the book . . . chances are that posting on Twitter could prove to be beneficial . . . chances are somebody knows somebody who knows somebody . . . it is all about making connections.
Global Studies involves learning so much more by making connections rather than just reading or research from a book or online.