I'm a bridge builder. When I tell my mathematicians "Don't let yourself freeze up. You have strategies you know how to use," I'm building a bridge, since I'd already used that same language in reading workshop. When I say, "Christopher, thanks for throwing away your candy wrapper. Our new clean-up crew will so appreciate how you take care of trash," I'm building a bridge because the day before a crew from our class spontaneously started cleaning up the playground at recess.
My day is a giant web of bridges. I'm constantly making connects between ideas, words, actions, learning, and even students. These connections add invaluable layers of meaning to the learning, inviting all participants to cross over to new understandings and application. In other words, bridges increase sticking power.
I'm intrigued by the realization that though building bridges is pivotal to my teaching, I'm rarely intentional about it. I've never written these connections in my lesson plans. Nor have I jotted them down on my palm for easy access before the day begins. (As if I'd ever write on my hand.) I seem to create connections subconsciously. It happens in a split second. In the moment, I seemingly know what connection to make and how to make it, like I did in the above examples. This happens all throughout the day.
I don't want to give the impression that I'm a master at connections and have no room for improvement. Intentionality is a must, so I should be challenging myself to view bridge-building in a more purposeful context. I would imagine we all should think more purposefully whether making connections comes naturally or not. If recycling ideas and content in repeated and sometimes unexpected ways helps make our teaching stick and increases student understanding, it's something worth thinking more intentionally about.