SOS: Things That Make You Go Hmmm

Welcome to  Spotlight on Strategies Challenge!  Our S.O.S series provides help, tips, and tricks for integrating DE media into your curriculum.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm
PDF Version

Whether it is connecting to the movies that we watch, connecting to others, or connecting to the texts  that we read, making connections is a natural process that comes easily to most of us. In teaching, the  challenge lies in making thinking about making connections explicit, and teaching our students how to identify when they are making those connections.

In their book, Strategies that Work, Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis state:
Generally, kids start by making text-to-text connections to more obvious elements of stories, such as  characters or problems. Some text-to-text connections, in order of increasing sophistication, might include:

  •  Comparing characters, their personalities, and actions
  •  Comparing story events and plot lines
  •  Comparing lessons, themes, or messages in stories
  •  Comparing themes, ideas, issues in fiction/nonfiction text pairs
  •  Finding common themes, writing style, or perspectives in the work of a single author
  •  Comparing the treatment of common themes by different authors* (The strategy explores this connection)
  •  Comparing different versions of familiar stories

Things (texts) should make students go “Hmmm,” because they are critically thinking about possible connections to the texts.  As educators, we need to teach the skill of comparing/contrasting connected texts for our students to become “Hmmm” critical thinkers.


  • Utilizing a strategy to develop critical thinking skills, students will use descriptive words to describe each segment, then note the similarities and differences between the two segments that feature the same topic.
  • On a sheet of chart paper, or on the board, write the word, “Hmmm,” and, “Nature Video #1.”
    • The actual video title may influence student answers, but you may add it as a scaffold, based on student needs.
  • Under these words, draw a T chart with the words, “Adjectives,” and, “Evidence,” as the headings.
  • Students will first watch the video segment, Hawaii:  Nature’s Paradise, pausing at 1:00, 2:00 and 3:01.  Explain to students that after each pause, they all say, “Hmmmm…” Then, give them 60 seconds to think of as many adjectives, or descriptive words, to describe nature based on what they just viewed.
  • Have students share out their adjectives with the class, record them on the chart paper.  When they give an adjective, they need to provide evidence from the video for selecting each word.  Record their evidence on the evidence side of the T chart.  Repeat the “Hmmm” process during each pause.
  • On the second sheet of chart paper, title it, “Nature Video #2.” Under these words, draw a T chart with the words, “Adjectives,” and, “Evidence,” as the headings. Play the video segment,  African Wildfire:  Destruction and Opportunity.  Pause at 1:16, 2:28, and 3:39 to repeat the process.
  • After viewing both videos and recording the students descriptive words, ask students to look for connections between the two adjective lists.  Circle any words appearing on both lists that are the same, or synonyms.
  • Explain to students that they will use their critical thinking skills to think about how nature was represented in each video.  Give each student a “Things that Make You Go Hmmm” graphic organizer.  Students will use what they know about nature to connect the two videos through their similarities and differences.  Working in pairs, students will complete the “Things that Make You Go Hmmm” chart to synthesize their thoughts and connections, then share out to the class.
  • On the third sheet of chart paper, write the title, “Things that Make You Go Hmmm.”  Make a T-chart under the title with the words, “similarities,” (how are they alike) and, “differences,” (how are they different).  As students share out, record big ideas on the class T-chart, asking students to cite evidence to support their reasoning.


  • To make this task more rigorous, compare two different types of media about the same topic.  For example, compare a reading passage and a video segment, or a song and an article.  Follow the same protocol as above using two different types of media.  Ask students to analyze how the different media types affect the content, or if the type of media affects the content.  Does a different media type make them perceive the content differently?  This analysis adds an extra level of “Hmmm” to the activity.
  • Content can be presented with multiple purposes, as well.  Find resources with varying author’s purposes for the students to compare and contrast.  In addition, try to find both an informational and literary resource about the same topic.  Pose the questions above, and add author’s purpose and genre as part of the comparison.

You can take the challenge by:

  • Implementing this strategy and letting us know how it went by posting a comment below.
  • Using this strategies in your grade level planning discussions and/or professional development and reporting your events. (Remember we consider an event anytime 3 or more educators gather together… doesn’t have to be in a computer lab… could be sitting around the lunch table)
  • Photocopying the flier and distributing it in your colleague’s boxes and/or posting it to your own BulleDEN board.

To see other strategies in this series click here.  For a link to all the PDFs in this series click here.


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