More Mentor Texts (always)

I know, I haven't talked about why I love Giraffe Can't Dance.  Trust me, it's great.

Too many great books to talk about.

More wonderful work with classroom teachers and we’re continuing to talk about finding mentor texts–texts that are at the instructional level of the student, engaging, and include the ‘thing’ that you’re trying to teach the student about writing.   That’s a tall order so, naturally, teachers look for support.  There are a litany of books written for teachers about mentor texts, many of which are great, and publishing companies sell supplements to their textbooks that  include mentor texts, most of which are terrible.  All those books have a real challenge, though:  mentor texts need to arise organically from readers deeply engaging with reading and wanting to turn their writing into that type of thing they’re reading.  Just because a published author–or me–says that a books is a great mentor text doesn’t mean that it will work for any teacher in any classroom with any group of students.

That said, I want to help.  So I’ll offer a few picture books that I use as mentor texts.  Picturebooks are great because the text is often short, the pictures can support student comprehension, and the writing is usually phenomenal because very few words have to do a lot of work.  If you teach secondary students, the bonus of picture books is that they hearken back to a time when students liked reading and being read too (I didn’t spell it wrong, look!).  And, as long as you do it often and select high-quality ones, they won’t feel talked down to.

Below the fold: perspective, genre, ellipses, and lists.

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Wordless texts

Looking for something fun to do to fill the long hours of winter break? I recommend a family viewing of LEGO City. Seriously.

My husband and I got talked into watching an episode of LEGO City after dinner the other night. While I monitor my sons’ TV watching, I also know they refuse to watch anything in the least bit frightening/violent. We didn’t make it through the storm scene of Ratatouille, or Toy Story, to give you some idea of our threshold. Before LEGO started, both sons were giving an extensive preface about the story. And when it started, they kept talking. You see, there are no words in LEGO City. There’s some tonally appropriate mumbling, but no actual words. It was brilliant. Their narration, talking over one another, punctuated by the baby’s exclamations when a helicopter showed up.

What’s the big deal, you might be asking? Simply, that wordless texts invite children into deep engagement with that text. My sons participated actively in the watching of this TV show, demonstrated an understanding of plot structures, plot twists, character development, and all kinds of other literary devices that show up in state standards. They were also inferencing, another $10 reading teacher word, the whole time. And this happened through TV, of all things.

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