I know it's because there are a lot of crafters out there who need these supplies to get ready for this big holiday...which is still six months away...but I have barely gotten through the 4th of July yet. Oh well...
Yesterday I wrote about using mentor texts in the revision stage of writing. If you missed that post, scroll down or you can click here.
Using mentor texts in writing is one of the best things you can do! Why not teach your students to learn from an expert? As a teacher, using mentor texts in your writing instruction is like having a writer-in-residence and a teaching partner in your room. You never have to be alone in the teaching of writing again!
If you stop to really think about it, everything we have learned in life, we have learned from someone else -- riding a bike, knitting, baking, driving a car, writing a blog :). Writing should be no different! We learn from the authors of the books we've read, the experts that have come before us.
Many of us have used mentor texts -- but usually at the beginning of the writing process. I am advocating for bringing in mentor texts during revision.
Why revision? Because the when students draft, they are not producing their best work. They are just getting their ideas down on paper. In revision, students are given the opportunity to improve their writing, make it better, make sure it says what they want it to say.
Think about how we revise our lives....If we try a recipe and it doesn't work, we may try it again. When we craft, each time we make something it gets better. In sports, we practice and repeat to help our game improve. Kids play video games over and over to get a better score. Our life is one big revision, isn't it?
Just reading a mentor text is not enough. You need to teach your kiddos how to read like a writer.
Here are some suggestions:
- First, a text should be read a time or two for comprehension. Kids need to understand the story so they can free up their brainpower for looking at the writing in a different way.
- Next, students will need to be taught to put on a different pair of reading glasses, so to speak, so they know they will be looking at the "how" of the writing, not the "what."
- Teach students to slow down and reread many times, looking at the "how." Rereading is very important!
- Focus on a small part of the reading. For my activity for my presentation, I passed out a bunch of picture books and I asked the group to simply focus on the introduction. They went around the table and read the first line of each story out loud then talked about what they saw. Patterns started to emerge here.
- Develop a common vocabulary for the things you see. If you see that several authors are beginning their writing by talking about interesting details about a character, call it 'character development' or something like that.
- Discuss how this technique helps you as a reader -- does it create a certain mood, set a tone, help you make a connection, etc.
- Talk about how students can apply what they've read to their own writing. This is very important because students need to be able to see how their mentor text can help them improve their writing.
- Encourage them to be purposeful in giving it a try!
For my presentation, we focused on introductions because I feel they are one of the most important parts of writing. You need to snag your reader into your writing or they will walk away. Also, many students really struggle with introductions, and it paralyzes them so they don't write. Using mentor texts is a great way to get them started.
Here are some other techniques you can use mentor texts to discover:
- Use of figurative language
- Sentence structure -- use of fragments, many one-syllable words in a row, etc.
- Repeating words and phrases throughout
- Use of dialogue
- Humor, facts, tension, etc.
- Character development
- Strong endings (Note that "The End" are not the last two words in most stories :)
Have a great Saturday!