Posts tagged mentors
Using Mentor Texts to Teach Helping and Linking Verbs

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander might be one of my all-time favorite mentor texts. It could be because kids love the novel-in-verse format of this book, or the basketball theme, or the fact that they want to know what happens each quarter. This is an easy book to book talk because it just grabs kids. I love using this book to show helping and linking verbs in the present tense. This continues from the work the previous week where students identified action verbs and verbs of being. This lesson speaks to the easy conversational tone that we all have with each other on a daily basis. Kwame Alexander sounds like me. He sounds like you. This directly links to the ability to make grammar accessible because it is something we already know, we just have to know what to call the writer move when we make it.

Read More
Using Mentor Texts to Teach Verbs of Action and Being

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt is our all-sixth grade read. Our district gave all fifth graders this book to read over the summertime, so they have a chance to have a common, shared conversation about a single text when they enter middle school. While not all students take part in the rising class read, all students are given books. The best way to promote this text is through a book talk. Often, I hear students say “I didn’t read this book over the summer,” and then they choose to pick it up after they hear it book talked. We can never forget the power of a book recommendation to our students. The goal for this small mentor text mini-lesson will be to show students the difference between verbs of action and verbs of being.

Read More
Using Mentor Texts to Teach Simple Sentences

One of my big mentor text reflections from last year was that I felt like I didn’t spend enough time on the basic parts of the sentence. Things like subject, predicate, verbs, and adjectives. These are the things that middle school teachers are always teaching and re-teaching, but I really wanted to frontload these skills at the beginning of the year. There are so many variations in the English language, so I really want to encourage my sixth-graders to have a strong grasp of the simple sentence before moving forward. Even in my advanced sections where students have reading levels well into the highschool range, they were identified as struggling on identifying the subjects of sentences.

Read More
Using Mentor Texts to Analyze How Kids See Schools and Teachers

It might be an interesting experiment to pose some of these questions to your students this fall:

“How do you see your teachers?”

“What do you like or dislike about school?”

“What would you change about how school is setup?”

I bet we would get a ton of answers that would spark debate and some good-natured arguments. Another interesting take on these questions is to look at how school and teachers are represented in popular middle-grade and young adult texts. I originally started working on this post as a way to access narrative writing by looking at how authors portray kids’ thinking about schools and teachers. However, then I got to thinking about the bigger discussion we as teachers need to be having with our students. I am going to use this in my classroom as a way for students to talk about their feelings toward school and teachers, and then connect how they feel to what they want in their own experiences in education moving forward.  I want to keep in mind that these middle-grade and young adult texts are written by adults for young people, but some of their descriptions about school and teachers are surprisingly accurate. It would be interesting to cut up and put some of these passages in front of students to hear what they have to say.

Read More
Middle-Grade Narrative Writing: Using Mentor Texts to Describe Characters

In my other post, “Middle-Grade Narrative Writing: Using Mentor Texts to Describe Setting (Snapshots)” I explained how a teacher could use examples or passages in mentor texts to help their young writers add details, description, and imagery to their narrative writing. This ability to “see” or visualize the imagery is called making a snapshot. Snapshots were first introduced to me by the way of Barry Lane’s The Reviser’s Toolbox. Characters really have five areas of focus when it comes to description: thoughts, feelings, actions, appearance, and speech. All of these areas can afford opportunities for students to learn how to do snapshots.

Read More
Middle-Grade Narrative Writing: Using Mentor Texts to Describe Setting (Snapshots)

I always start and end the year with narrative writing in some form. While I often focus on things like voice and ideas with this genre of writing, it really is all in the details when it comes to helping the reader see what you are talking about on the page. This ability to “see” or visualize the imagery is called making a snapshot. Snapshots were first introduced to me by the way of Barry Lane’s The Reviser’s Toolbox. I first got a hold of this text working closing with an elementary school teacher writing friend who explained to me, “You know what we do isn’t really all that different.” I have been changed ever since.

Read More
End of Year Reflection: Using Middle-Grade Mentor Texts to Teach Writing Skills

Sometimes we try something in our classrooms and we immediately toss it in the recycle bin as a really good try, and sometimes we find something that changes how we do business. Using middle-grade and young adult books as mentor texts in my classroom has completely changed how I approach grammar instruction and promoting literature in my room. I love mentor texts. I wish you could hear my screaming about mentor texts. I talk about them now all the time. The power for students to see their own writing on the page in the same manner as a published author coupled with the use of book talks in my room as a way to recommend books to others through my voice and theirs has altered the mindset about reading in my room. Reading has always mattered. Now, it it just makes sense in terms of writing. While mentor texts themselves are not a new phenomenon, the incorporation of deliberate (and fun) grammar instruction is a new addition to my classroom.

Read More
Martin Luther King Jr. Mentor Text Mini-Lesson

At first, I was scheduled to start testing tomorrow. But, something didn’t sit right with testing on a day to remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In the world of “teacher social media,” I have been intrigued by the conversations around what we teach on this day, and what we choose to not teach on this day. On Twitter, I love following Julia E. Torres, a librarian, and she stated: “Just overheard a child in the hallway on the phone, “We are watching MLK videos again because you know they can neeeeever teach us anything new.” This was a middle school student. Let’s think about that…” And I had a nodding moment. How often do I see my colleagues teach MLK videos or don’t teach anything at all? How many times have I felt like I couldn’t make time?

Whether we feel pressured to move through content or curriculum, we have to maintain, some things just matter more. This day, it matters. So, I thought about how to include Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream…” speech into our mentor text work. This lesson will not take the entire hour. However, my goal is to have students notice different sentences in MLK’s speech, and write like him in regards to their own dreams. I went back and forth on the latter part because I thought dream writing was cliche’, but then Mary Oliver passed away this week. Something in me said…let them write about their dreams. I am calling this: Write Like Martin Mentor Text Work.

Read More
30 Middle-Grade Novels to Add to Your Classroom Library NOW!

Give me a bookstore, a library, or a fellow reader’s bookshelf, and I will browse with wild glee. I love books. The sight of a bag full of books simple makes me happy. Reading has been something that has found its way back to me time and time again. Even when life seems too busy or too full of commitments. I always make my way back to reading.  Using the 10 criteria that I outlined in a previous post about diverse texts, I wanted to write up a blog post about 30 book recommendations I would make right NOW to any middle school English Language Arts teacher to add these middle-grade fictional texts to their classroom library. I use

Read More
It All Starts With The Book Talk!

Reading and writing are all too often cyclical. Everyone knows good reading fuels good writing and vice versa. As a middle school teacher, I really wish that I was able to teach reading and writing separately or even give them their own block of time, but I do also love the impossible harmony that is being a reading AND writing teacher. This post will explain how I start my week with students. I always start each hour the first day of the week with a book talk about a middle grade or young adult novel or nonfiction book. It kicks off my mentor text work with kids, and it gets them excited about a book they may or may not have heard about before.

Read More
How to Choose and Break Down a Mentor Text

I am constantly reading books. This wasn’t always the case, and largely, I think I have to attribute my reintroduction to reading all the time to my mentor text work. I am constantly on the mission to find books to recommend to students and use in the classroom with my students for our “write like an author” study. As teachers we are bombarded with an onslaught of a million decisions, pounds of papers to grade, and work that is largely impossible to master. It’s exhausting.

But, it is also exhilarating.

Read More
All About Narrative Writing: Pacing, Strategies, and Mentor Texts!

I am pretty sure that October may be one of the toughest months to teach in considering that it consists of conferences, the end of the first marking period for my middle school, the flu starts circulating, and it is my birthday month. The last part is not a bad thing, I just find it easier to resent less “me time” with all of the to-do lists piling up. I have been sharing my mentor text work on the blog, but I also wanted to take a minute to share how I completed our personal narrative writing units this year so far, and also the changes I made from previous years. What you take away from this may be a sneak peek into how I teach personal narrative writing or how perhaps you can spice up a unit with some mentor text writing.

Read More
Mentor Text Warm-Ups: How I Started

I am not sure I have ever enjoyed teaching grammar this much. Would it be too much to say there is joy in grammar? The journey with mentor texts began back in the summertime when my main focus for summer reading was around the works of Kelly Gallagher, Penny Kittle, Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti, and Linda Reif. I was intrigued by the idea that this often used strategy happens at the elementary school level with picture books and at the high school level with higher-level writing craft and organization moves. But, where were my middle school student examples? My middle schoolers were coming to me without basic grammar skills and therefore lacked some key moves in their writing.

Read More
Plan for Mentor Text Warm-Ups

After reading Linda Reif’s The Quickwrite Handbook: 100 Mentor Texts to Jumpstart Your Students’ Thinking and Writing this summer, I knew I wanted to incorporate more mentor text work into my classroom this year. This was my ONE thing that I wanted to add that would change up a major system as to how I taught students writing. I also read other texts over the summer that supporting this mindset. It was clear to me: I want my students to call themselves authors.

Read More
I Don't Hate the Five-Paragraph Essay

I have been spending some time reading books, blog posts, and other resources on the internet about how to manage giving quality feedback without going insane. It is part of my Paper Problem Series I am working on because I believe that if I can figure out how to maintain the level of feedback I am giving AND not work 15 or more hours on a weekend-I can stay teaching. A lot of the books, articles, and other resources I am looking at bring up (to no surprise) the five-paragraph essay. I cringe whenever I read these parts. I think back to a moment that has happened many times over the past seven years. One of my students will come up to my desk and state: "Mrs. H I have a ton more reasons for my thinking, do I have to narrow it down to three for my essay?” I always die a little on the inside. For the given assignment? Yes, you have to narrow it down. For the real world? Not at all. Another one of my students bit the proverbial dust of the five-paragraph essay form. This happens each year because I would like to admit right away...I teach the five-paragraph essay. 

Read More
Dystopian World Exemplars...Oh My!

I hope you are ready for some great reading! These authors-to-be took this assignment to a whole other level. By focusing on critical literary elements like plot, character, conflict, and setting, students were able to express themselves creatively. I paired this with a simultaneous academic piece so students could write in both modes: creative and academic. The creative mode focused on them making their own Dystopian World after reading Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. They also did a compare and contrast academic piece focusing on modern American Society vs the Dystopian World setup by Westerfeld in Uglies.  This second piece contained contained cited evidence, formal tone, etc. 

Read More