2017 August Writing Institute – Advance Group with Hannah Arlone

My 2nd Advanced Group at the August Writing Institute was entitled Making, Finding, and Tapping the Power of Mentor Text (3-6) given by Hannah. I knew Hannah already because she is the staff developer who worked with my Arlington, VA school this past year with Reading. At the Institute, I got to spend an additional 5 days with her! Here are some brilliant highlights, all related to using Mentor Text in Writing Workshop.


Why Mentor? We all need someone who inspires us to do better than we know how. We watch a mentor, listen, name what they do and then try to do it. If someone wanted to get better at skateboarding, they would watch youTube videos of better skateboarders and then try it. Learning from a mentor text follows the same steps. Teach it well and remind students that interacting and learning from mentor text is a life-long skill.

When? Find time to teach this routine in introduce a writing unit. As a whole class, work on reading as a writer with a shared mentor text. Then try writing like that writer did. Then push toward independence by show how to find own mentor writing.

How to Choose a Mentor Text
1. Fall in love after reading book like a reader
2. Ask “is this a good fit?”
3. Now fall in love with the craft moves by reading it again
4. Read with writer eyes, noticing and naming out specific craft moves
She modeled these steps using Down the Road by Alice Schertle

Steps to Read Like a Writer
1. Notice someting about the craft of the text
2. Talk about it and make a theory
3. Give it a name – Writers so …by…
4. Think of other text you know where you have seen this move. Writing really isn’t unique – read lots to see craft moves more!
5. Try and envision using this craft move in your own writing.

We ended with a Write Around – she passed out xerox pages from Down the Road. We wrote on the chart paper around the text the craft moves we noticed. We moved from table to table noticing 3 different pages. Then we returned to see what was added to chart we started at. This exercised helped me to better complete this sentence stem:

One way this writer _________ does the craft move called ______ is by _________.

As I get ready to start another school year, I want to keep these questions in my mind so I create a classroom culture of independence.
1. How can I support students to choose mentor text that further their writing?
2. How do I get them to interact more with books so they have more books to choose?
3. What routines need to be in place so kids independently choose mentor texts?

Hannah had us do 2 events to experience books: a book tasting and book speed dating!
For Book Tasting, she placed a handful of books by these authors on each table group: Jane Yolan, Jacqueline Woodson, Cynthia Rylant, Soto, Naomi Nye, Cisneros, Eve Bunting, Patricia Polacco, Kate DiCamillo and Ralph Fletcher, Then we simply went from table to table to “taste” the book. She modeled a way to take notes using 3 columns –> author, title, reflection. Keep this question in mind – Be looking for writing that will improve your own writing. She also placed a biography of the author. I think I’d also add a photo of the author so students know this is a real person and get a sense of their age and gender.

Tips for a good Book Tasting:
1. Include a variety of authors
2. Have choice – move when you are ready to find another book.
3. Provide ways to notetake but make it a choice
Tips for Book Speed Dating:
1. All pick a book to share
2. Sell that book – can use these stems:
The reason I love this book is because ____.
One way this author, ____, pushes me to write ____ is by ____.
If you are the kind of writer who is _____, you might like to check out this text, ___.

Other ways to encourage kids to read books to then try out as a mentor text:
1. feature a spot in the room
2. have a designated mentor text shelf
3. have a padlet where kids can add mentor text they are using
4. kids make iMovie trailers about books and share
5. Mock Caldecott / Newbery
6. March Book Madness book bracket
7. Participate in Global read-aloud
8. Morning Meeting – share a beautifully crafted line from a book
9. Reread a read-aloud as a writer, naming craft moves
10. make experts in the room – kid who writes like an author and hang student writing and mentor writing up on chart paper.

Hannah reminded us that most of my time teaching with Mentor text will happen in a conference or a small group. The units of study only have a specific lessons written in but I need to be ready to teach using mentor text outside of the mini-lesson.

Hannah gave us time to practice using the Writing Pathways Checklist when marking up our mentor text. She suggested using difference colored post-its for different parts of the checklist. EX: pink=structure / blue=development  /  green=convention

As she demonstrated this, I liked her sentence stems:
Watch me as I figure out a craft move.
What is the author doing here?
The author in this piece is ____.
How would it sound in my writing?
I’m writing ___ and will try ____.

Hannah also shared TCRWP Goal and Technique cards for narrative, opinion and nonfiction found in the 6-8 Units of Study. One example of the goal card is found on their website here.

Suggested stem: The author’s goal is to ______. The author does this by ______(name technique). I need to add these to my toolkit and have them ready to use in a conference and small group!

One Day4, Hannah modeled a way to have students be exposed to mentors through centers. Here are the center direction cards:

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I can easily see adding center cards like this to Google Classroom so writing partnerships can choose to study mentors. Hannah also suggested that the whole book does not need to be looked at – it could just be a xeroxed page from a book. The goal is to get kids in the habit of having LOTS of exposure to text and to be on the look out for text that they can independently use to raise the level of their writing.

Digital Mentor Text – I had fun watching the nonfiction text and opinion text and naming the craft moves done by the person in the video. All the videos we watched are on this padlet Hannah also created this 2nd padlet for us to add to with more digital links related to teaching with mentor text.

I personally can say that I used many mentor texts while working on my writing with week. And it made, in my opinion, my writing better!! I look forward to using Hannah’s ideas to help my students do the same! Finally, Hannah makes great anchor charts! Here are a few she made and hung in our room as we worked together all week.

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