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Mentors matter. We know this. We
feel this. We live this. We actively practice and teach our children to write
like the “greats” we’ve studied. Whether we have our collection of fifteen
favorites we always return to, or introduce a few with each unit of study, we
without-a-doubt rely on those who came before us.
2nd grade example
1st grade (page 1)
have shifted and rethought our focus of modes and genres over the last few years
of using the KCAS (Kentucky Core Academic Standards) and weeded out our mentor
texts, we have at times, struggled to find those few esteemed models for our
kids to use (read, enjoy, notice, name,
and emulate) in order to create their own fabulous writing. The job makes us
weary at times, but we never stop seeking those that do the work of “teaching
our writers.” We know the power of the mentor text. Whether it’s the text we
refer back to over and over again, or the model we use for offering kids practice
with revision with “the greats in mind”, we know their value.
not always about the mentor for the kids, is it? Sometimes we are the ones who need calibrating. We seek a better understanding
and ask, “So what does (insert the grade you teach) writing look like?” What
ought my kids be able to do?” While the CCSS offer us Appendix C of student
writing samples, they do not include every mode, and they don’t show a
comprehensive picture of what an independent writer in X grade should be able
to do?” They offer us a glimpse, but we crave more. Of course, we know we want
to move EVERY SINGLE writer along the writing continuum, and stopping to ensure
we are our setting our expectations high enough is part of the calibration.
the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project offers us both mentor texts
for student use, and “the kind of writing” a___ grader ought to be able to do. These are mentors and models for all
us- teachers and students. With these, we can click on a mode and analyze the development
of the student’s text. We can look for the greens (topic sentences), yellows
(slowing down the reader to develop an idea) and then reds that (stop a reader
to really explain). With these examples: we can see variety, analyze purpose and
audience, consider organization, notice transitions, seek sentence fluency and structure,
savor word choice, enjoy a students’ voice, and critique mechanics. We have something
concrete to go by beyond our own intuition.
If you are interested in looking and using these as mentors
and models, I invite you to click on the link below:
Lucy Calkins and her crew have worked hard for the last few
years to offer you these online texts to use with your writers. You see, like
us, they know that it’s through mentor texts that our kids learn the practice
of writing well. Our background knowledge of writing, high expectations, and
careful analysis of our student writers support us in designing that intentional
instruction to teach our authors. We model writing and thinking about writing,
co-design rubrics, and teach them how to use mentors and models so that ultimately, THEY can independently use “the
greats” who will always be around,
long after we are gone.
Please share how your students use mentors to support them as