Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Making the Most of Mentors: Pacing, Pulling, and
Pondering with Touchstone Texts

This is the time to start reading those all-important MENTOR or "Touchstone" TEXTS for the ‘14-‘15 school year.
While you are warming up your students to your workshops and “Building your Literate Community” through Unit 1 of our ELA curriculum, take a minute to consider a few texts YOU WILL USE LATER THIS  YEAR AS MENTORS that you could read now. Richard Parrott just did this today! In an effort to model writing a summary to his kids, he previewed a future mentor by reading aloud a short chapter and then modeling how to write an effective summary. He then offered his students an accessible text that everyone could read and “try on” writing a summary to share with the class. Upon sharing their writing, the students made noticings about the elements of effective summaries. It’s just one of the ways to intentionally introduce a mentor early in the year.

Consider Texts You’ve Already Read to Students and will read AGAIN

Think back to your past experiences in the classroom and consider which texts are jam-packed with craft techniques, structures, well-developed and organized Stoplight paragraphs, and/or content you wish to highlight and use throughout the year. If you find that you absolutely LOVE using Alice McLerran's The Mountain Who Loved a Bird, and you used it for teaching science concepts later in the year, anyway, why not introduce it in August and let the kids go ahead and fall in love with the story, the structure, the language, the artwork? If you had a book within one of your ELA units that was great for supporting your reading standards, how much more powerful will it be to introduce it early and return to it as mentor over and over again (when studying narratives, or beautiful language, or personification, or purposeful repetitive writing as well as the content in Unit 4). Why not?

Cast a Wide Net

As Carl suggests, don't limit yourself to long picture books. This is an easy one for us as we have always cut clippings from newspapers or magazines, or downloaded from online sources. The shift may be forcing yourself to feel even more comfortable using those less familiar texts or forms: nonfiction texts, poems, digital mentors, writing in math, science, or social studies. This wide net is important when we plan those first few weeks of school— supporting our writers in Building a Literate Community by offering invitations to write from sparks in a variety of forms (and for a variety of purposes) within a variety of workshops, and ultimately immersing our kids in ALL kinds of writing situations, forms, audiences, purposes, styles.

  Cut Excerpts from Longer Works

Although it's so tempting to feel like we have to use the ENTIRE text when we show students how to write in a certain way, it's totally unnecessary to always feel like we have to have to reexamine the WHOLE text. Carl contends that sometimes just a few sentences or paragraphs will do the trick- show the student the desired craft technique, or demonstrate the complexity of a sentence or two. The key is that that the child already knows and appreciates the text. Then they will seek to emulate that writer so they can have the same desired effect on their reader. So, consider cutting out a part to have that available for later use.

Use Student Writing
As a whole, we are successful with this... sometimes. As you dig into files from past students, or read through your students’ SHOWCASE PORTFOLIOs, think about if any of the entries will make great models for this year. Too often they sit in a folder and never get truly appreciated. What student written texts will you use... or pass on for a lower grade to use. (Always consider your colleagues when you search for student models).

Enlist the Aid of Colleagues, the LMS, LC (me!), and Your Future Students

 Although it's easy to get swept away in what we know and love, there are always new ideas and perspectives out there. Ask someone else what they have found success with using. Better yet, put into your plans to have new students search for mentors they want to have available in the class.

Make Our Own Mentors: We write!

Carl suggests that you never underestimate the power of using your own writing as mentor texts. You will have the desired traits, craft techniques, content, unique audience, and focus, as well as a way for your students to immediately see you as a fellow writer.

Final thoughts: Consider the kids' interests, the power of variety, and the opportunity for emulation.

Though this list is in no way exhaustive, it certainly offers food for thought. It gets us thinking about the year to come and the mentors we could use RIGHT NOW! At this point, you, or colleagues on your team, have: taught the new ELA units; know the demands of the standards; better understand the connection of the themes, and experienced much of the variety and types of writing the kids are called to do.  So, what might you use this week that will later become a marvelous MENTOR TEXT?

Resources : How's it Going? by Carl Anderson (Heinemann)                 Other supporters of mentor texts- Lucy Calkins, Katie Wood Ray, Ruth CulhamCheck out the BLOG for more mentor texts and links from famous authors!        Sarah