Mentor Texts for Writers: A Storytime Capsule by Carter Higgins

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I can not wait for Carter’s books to come out because I know they will be absolute treasures! I hope this blog post will have you basking in words, one of the main reasons we writers want to write ourselves. If you missed Carter’s blog post for teachers and librarians, I encourage you to go back and read it (even if you are not a teacher or librarian). Both of her posts ooze a love for books, so go there, then come back. 


 

As a writer, my biggest fear is not capturing kid-ness accurately, truthfully, and with honor. And perhaps it’s not so much fear as a living, breathing promise to myself to not put something into the world without each of those things.

That’s what matters to me—because, I think, that’s what matters to a reader that can’t voice that yet for themselves. That’s what matters to a kid.

My editor responded to a new text from me as “a love letter to language so honest it makes you squirm.” Hearing compliments like that is a heart-patter for sure, but a paraphrased version of that quickly found its way to a post-it on my desktop:

Screen Shot

It obviously resonated with me.

So here are some texts that are so honest they make me squirm.

giantjohn

Giant John by Arnold Lobel, 1964

Long ago in an enchanted forest there lived a large giant named John.

weweretiredoflivinginahouse

We Were Tired of Living in a House by Liesel Moak Skorpen and Doris Burn, 1969.

We were tired of living in a house. So we packed a bag with sweaters and socks, with mittens and earmuffs. And we moved to a tree.

everybodyneedsarock 

Everybody Needs a Rock by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall, 1974.

 Everybody needs a rock. I’m sorry for kids who don’t have a rock for a friend.

 hideandseekfog

Hide and Seek Fog by Alvin Tresselt and Roger Duvoisin, 1966

 The lobsterman first saw the fog as it rolled in from the sea. He watched it turn off the sun-sparkle on the waves, and he watched the water turn gray.

 roxaboxen

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran and Barbara Cooney, 1991

 Marian called it Roxaboxen. (She always knew the name of everything.)

 thetomten

The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren, 1961

It is the dead of night. The old farm lies fast asleep and everyone in the house is sleeping too.

 amosandboris

Amos & Boris by William Steig, 1971

Amos the mouse and Boris the whale: a devoted pair of friends with nothing at all in common, except good hearts and a willingness to help their fellow mammal.

 rosiemichael

Rosie and Michael by Judith Viorst and Lorna Tomei, 1974

Rosie is my friend. She likes me when I’m dopey and not just when I’m smart.

 iwanttopaintmybathroomblue

I Want to Paint My Bathroom Blue by Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak, 1956

I want to paint my bathroom blue—my papa won’t let me paint it blue—once I painted a rocking chair blue and it was pretty.

 

You probably noticed the similarities in these texts: they are old. Some, really old.

You’ve probably heard the ‘only read recently published books’ advice, which is sage and wise when you are learning about today’s industry, but for now: forget it. We’re not talking about the business, we’re talking about stories.

 

Really, forget it. Stories matter more.

 

What’s the best way to find them? Pop a squat in the library, and run your fingers over the shelves until you hit the dingiest, rattiest looking spines you see. Pull them out and give them a little sniff if you need to. Book people won’t judge you for that. Make a pile; check them out.

Read them closely and carefully, and look how they capture kid-ness.

I get goosebumps hearing that we are in a golden age of picture books—a resurgence and a renaissance. Making picture books today is an honor. But we are standing on the shoulders of some giants like John, and going back can mean going forward.

Lasting stories are the ones that stand up to a thousand readings, to a thousand different tote bags, to a thousand tiny hands. That does some damage, so look for the dings. Look for the smudges. Look for squirming honesty.


CarterHigginsheadshot

Carter is a librarian at an independent K-6 school in Los Angeles, California. (Like Marcie, she’s a Virginia girl at heart, though! Go Braves!) She writes about picture books and graphic design at her blog, Design of the Picture Book, and she’s counting down the days until both her middle grade novel and picture book debut. Be on the lookout for A Rambler Steals Home (HMH, 2016) and Everything You Need For a Treehouse (Chronicle, 2017). You can find her on Twitter @carterhiggins.

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Mentor Texts in the Classroom: A Storytime Collective by Carter Higgins

 

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Carter and I share a love for books, the Braves, and Virginia. She is a librarian, and I’m a soon-to-be-librarian, so I particularly loved this post about how she uses mentor texts in the library. Carter is an amazing champion of books and this post is no exception. 


 

You know when you first wake up and you’re a little bit groggy and still figuring out that what just happened was a dream, but man, wasn’t it awesome to be the boss of an all you can eat gelato factory?

That’s kind of how the first few moments of summer are.

A school year is this magical whirlpool of exhaustion and events and learning and loving. The start of summer feels a little bit like rubbing the sleep out of your eyes. And finally—finally, there’s a chance to remember that incredible dream and relive all of the best parts.

Here are some of the best parts.

As a librarian, I use mentor texts a bit differently. For us, they are building blocks for community. For sharing. For gathering together. 5th period on Mondays in June looked a lot different than 5th period on Mondays in September, and that’s thanks to living and breathing and experiencing stories together.

So I wonder: what text will make us laugh? What text will make us squirm with fear or delight in its charm? What text will they want to read to their moms and dads and pets and baby brothers? What text will be the ones that these kids hold dear when they are thirtysomethings?

Here’s what we loved. Here’s what transformed us from a bunch of people just sharing a room with white brick walls and dusty shelves to a bunch of people living and breathing the same spectacle of story. Any of these books will transform a bunch of wigglers or a not-quite-there-yet community into a storytime collective.

thestoryoffishandsnail

The Story of Fish and Snail by Deborah Freedman

 

Fish is brave. Snail is scared. These friends are patient with each other, and there’s always room for both pirates and kittens. And hopefully, there’s always a friend you can borrow a little bit of brave from.

idontwanttobeafrog

I Don’t Want to Be a Frog by Dev Petty and Mike Boldt

 

Sometimes, you just have to be what you are because you can’t be what you’re not. Good thing someone’s always there to hold your hand and remind you of that. In the book, it’s a dad-frog. During school, it’s me to them and them to each other.

1_05rowboat

Rude Cakes by Rowboat Watkins

 

This tiny pink cake probably takes up some shared space in the souls of all of us: he’s rude. What he doesn’t see coming is who really sees through that, and thanks to a gentle bunch of Cyclopses, we get a taste of that little rude cake making a sweet change of heart.

theadventuresofbeekle 

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

 

If you haven’t read this one to a room full of small people, wish your summer away so you can get back to the classroom. The empathy that spills out of kids as they experience Beekle’s sadness is palpable. (And a cute little bum-bum never hurts.)

These mentor texts, these experiences, reminded both me and my 5th-period-on-Monday friends of four beautiful things, all year long.

Be brave.

Be you.

Be silly and willing.

Be friends.


CarterHigginsheadshotCarter is a librarian at an independent K-6 school in Los Angeles, California. (Like Marcie, she’s a Virginia girl at heart, though! Go Braves!) She writes about picture books and graphic design at her blog, Design of the Picture Book, and she’s counting down the days until both her middle grade novel and picture book debut. Be on the lookout for A Rambler Steals Home (HMH, 2016) and Everything You Need For a Treehouse (Chronicle, 2017). You can find her on Twitter @carterhiggins.

 

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Mentor Texts for Writers: Meet My Mentor Texts by Linda Bozzo

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I’m so excited that Linda Bozzo is on my blog today because I’ve actually met her in REAL LIFE. Linda and I met at the WOW Conference in Georgia last summer. I always learn so much by how others study mentor texts, and Linda is no exception.


 

WHAT IS A MENTOR TEXT?

In the same way a mentor teaches or helps someone who has less experience, mentor texts can help teach writers how to improve their writing. No matter where you are in your writing career, using mentor texts can be a powerful tool.

 

HOW DO I USE MENTOR TEXTS?

I use mentor texts to explore everything from examples of exceptional writing, to ideas, organization, voice, and even writing style. So I’d like to take this time to introduce to you some of my mentor texts . . .

speech bubblemoose

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often use several mentor texts for one manuscript. For example, when writing my biography about an inventor, I searched for mentor texts that would help me decide on the structure of my story, including where I wanted it to start.

The first one I found was MANFISH: A STORY OF JACQUES COUSTEAU by Jennifer Berne. The story starts with Jacques’ birth and how much he loved the water.

manfish

Similarly, ON A BEAM OF LIGHT: A STORY OF ALBERT EINSTEIN, also by Jennifer Berne, begins with Albert’s birth. It talks about how growing up he didn’t talk and instead he looked and wondered about everything.

beam of light

These two mentor texts helped me write the opening of my biography starting from, you might have guessed . . . the inventor’s birth.

dream bubble

In this same biography, I wanted to include a page spread of my inventor as he imagines the possibilities of his invention. All inventors must dream, right? Again, I looked to MANFISH for a similar scene where Jacque dreams he would someday be able to breathe underwater. In ON A BEAM OF LIGHT Albert has one of his biggest, most exciting thoughts ever; riding on a beam of light.

Then when I discovered STAR STUFF: CARL SAGAN AND THE MYSTERIES OF THE COSMOS by Stephanie Roth Sisson, I fell in love with the scene of Carl looking out at the night sky and imagining the possibilities.

star stuff

I knew I wanted to use the same exceptional writing and format that each of these books used for what I consider to be one of the most important scenes in my biography.

All three of these books feature a fold-out page to create depth, height, and expanse, respectively. While I know this is a decision for the book designer, I imagined my book benefiting from a fold-out page as my inventor performs above his audience. So I addressed this scene in my story in a similar fashion as shown on these three fold-out pages. I can dream too, can’t I?

WHERE DO I FIND MENTOR TEXTS?

PB pileI find mentor texts in various places including the new book section at the library, the bookstore, new book announcements, book reviews, and recommendations from writers and librarians. Another great place to find mentor texts is at writing conferences where editors are showing off the latest books they’ve edited.

Sometimes I purchase the books I use as mentor texts and other times, when I use books from the library, I type them out and save them in a file so they can be read over and over again.

Mentor texts continually help give me direction (especially when I’ve lost my way), keep me focused, and help me figure out what works, as well as what doesn’t, for my stories.


Linda headshot

Linda Bozzo is an award- winning author of more than 50 nonfiction children’s books. Linda was selected as the Outstanding Author for 2013 by the New Jersey Association of School Librarians. She is a member of SCBWI and enjoys presenting her writing journey to both children and adults. To learn more about Linda and her books visit: www.lindabozzo.com

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Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Why Mentor Texts Work: The Consume, Critique, Produce Model by Pamela Brunskill

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Welcome back to Pam Brunskill! Pam is an author and educator and I’m happy that she’s sharing some of her mentor text experience with us! 


 

As teachers, we know that students engage in the classroom when they are involved in designing their own learning experiences. They gain ownership over the criteria, develop a deeper understanding of what they are studying, and take pride in creating their final projects. When teaching Language Arts, mentor texts can provide the tools to motivate and guide students in this type of learning, which will enable them to produce quality writing themselves.

This past semester, I taught a class called Literacy Across Contexts to pre-service teachers at the university level. One of the goals was to address Language Arts methods for students in PreK-4th grade, so I introduced my undergraduates to the Consume, Critique, Produce (CCP) instructional framework. Developed by John O’Flahavan at the University of Maryland, this model requires students to read and analyze numerous texts within a genre before asking students to write their own. It is because of this framework that mentor texts work.

To demonstrate, each portion of the process is explained below.

Consume

Students need to consume lots of mentor texts in order to gain an idea of the characteristics of a genre. For example, teachers who wish to have their students write poetry should have their students read and listen to lots of mentor poems to experience rhythm, use of figurative language, different forms of poetry, and other poetic elements. The students get a feel for what makes a poem a poem.

Critique

Students need to critique the mentor texts to determine the criteria used in that genre. They engage with mentor texts like researchers and discuss what makes something good in a genre and what does not. They make a list of examples and non-examples. In this bottom-up approach, students are involved in discovering how writing works, and are involved in developing the criteria they will use for their own writing. In the poetry example, students analyze the mentor poems to note characteristics that distinguish poetry from prose. If a specific type of poetry is to be studied, such as a limerick, the students figure out the rhyme scheme, humor, and meter by noting the commonalities amongst various mentor limericks.

Produce

Because students following this framework have immersed themselves in a genre and developed the criteria for what that genre requires, they can confidently and competently produce something that fits the expectations of that genre. If the class is writing limericks, after going through the consume and critique stages, a teacher could realistically expect her/his students to produce a witty poem with five lines, in the rhyme scheme of AABBA, and with the 3-3-2-2-3 meter. Since the students were involved in designing their conditions for success, they will be better prepared to produce high-quality poems, and have ownership and appreciation for their work.

Using the Consume, Critique, Produce model in classrooms allows teachers to use mentor texts in authentic, high-interest ways. Taking the time to immerse students in reading and studying quality writing enables teachers to engage their students with literacy. And, this fosters a classroom of capable writers.

To view a great 3 minute video that demonstrates how CCF works in regards to flash mobs, click here:


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Pamela Brunskill began her career teaching 3rd and 6th graders in Clarence, NY, focusing mainly on language arts and social studies. Over the past ten years she has been writing, teaching as an adjunct instructor in the education departments at Bloomsburg University and Bucknell University, and raising her three children. She has been published in Highlights for Children and is represented by Louise Fury from the Bent Agency. Pamela also helps authors create educational resources for their books at Authors and Educators. You can find Pamela at her website, http://www.authorsandeducators.com, or on Twitter under the handle @PamBrunskill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mentor Texts for Writers: Mentor Text Help with Pacing in Picture Book Manuscripts by Pamela Brunskill

 

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Please join me in welcoming in the “week of Pam.” Pam Brunskill is both an author and educator, so she will be here this week for our writer and educator posts. If you’re like me, you could always use a brush-up on pacing, so I will definitely be implementing Pam’s exercise. Come back on Thursday for her Mentor Texts for the Classroom post. 


 

For me, mentor texts are resources that writers, illustrators, or anyone in the book-making business can turn to for examples of well-executed literary techniques. These techniques may include page turns, plot twists, and use of figurative language, among others. In my own craft, I have turned to mentor texts at all stages of the writing process, however, I have found them to be particularly useful when revising pacing.

After drafting one of my picture books about a real-life flood and figuring out what I was trying to say with it (a chronic problem for me in the early writing stages), I was yielding a hefty 1,500 word manuscript. This was far more than the recommended 500 word limit for picture books, so I sought out Jacqueline Woodson’s Each Kindness because its mood, narrative arc, and style were similar to what I desired for my story. Each Kindness clocked in at 865 words, still on the higher end for picture books, but it never dragged.

each Kindness

How did Woodson tell her beautiful, poignant story so succinctly?

To answer this question, I typed Woodson’s prose from Each Kindness, printed it out, and cut it up into chunks of text according to what was written on each page. I then divided a large sheet of paper into 32 numbered sections for each page in a picture book, and taped Woodson’s prose—page 1 in Each Kindness matched page 1 on my chart, and so on—until the entire book could be visualized on one large chart.

On the chart, I labeled the points at which Woodson established and developed character, setting, problem, climax, and resolution, along with other noteworthy techniques she employed to keep the story moving.

Next, I printed my manuscript in a different color ink and cut the story into segments according to where I introduced and developed my own story elements, and placed the segments on the paper chart underneath Woodson’s prose. This enabled me to effectively scrutinize my writing and visually determine where I was verbose. Comparing my manuscript to a mentor text like Woodson’s allowed me to determine where I really needed to develop a plot or character motivation, and to cut ineffective descriptions.

storyboard

A few drafts later, I was down to 1,000 words. Although my manuscript was still long for a picture book, Each Kindness helped me to pace my story better. The mentor text had provided a framework for improvement, and it gave me the confidence I needed to send that draft to my critique group and agent—the real-life mentors.


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Pamela Brunskill began her career teaching 3rd and 6th graders in Clarence, NY, focusing mainly on language arts and social studies. Over the past ten years she has been writing, teaching as an adjunct instructor in the education departments at Bloomsburg University and Bucknell University, and raising her three children. She has been published in Highlights for Children and is represented by Louise Fury from the Bent Agency. Pamela also helps authors create educational resources for their books at Authors and Educators. You can find Pamela at her website, http://www.authorsandeducators.com, or on Twitter under the handle @PamBrunskill.

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Mentor Texts for Writers: Picture Book Refrains

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I wrote a guest post at Meg Miller’s ReviMo site over the weekend. If you are interested in picture book refrains, be sure to check out that post. I touch on nonfiction and fiction picture book refrains.

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Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Fiction and Nonfiction Tips by Suzy Leopold

 

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Suzy Leopold is back talking about using mentor texts in the classroom. If you missed her post on Tuesday, go back and read about how she uses mentor texts as a writer too. 


 

Mentor Text Definition

Mentor texts are books and literature that students can read, relate to, study, and reread again for a variety of instructional purposes.

 

Why Do I Use Mentor Texts in the Classroom?

Mentor texts:

  1. Provide models for students to make the reading-writing connection.
  2. Have the power to help a student grow as a writer.
  3. Encourage students to connect to new reading and writing strategies.
  4. Provide models for students to imitate.
  5. Demonstrate the importance of choosing words wisely in their writing.
  6. Stimulate creativity and interest

 

A Favorite Mentor Text

oak tree grows

As An Oak Tree Grows

Author and Illustrator G. Brian Karas

 

From a single perspective, the life of a magnificent oak tree is shared from 1775 to the present. Not only does the oak tree change and grow throughout the many seasons, the surroundings change and grow throughout the life of this oak tree. Progress with transportation and communication become new and modern, while other things hardly change at all.

 

Many nonfiction books are written with facts and information. The newly published nonfiction books that guide my students with their writing are fresh and engaging. Sometimes referred to as creative nonfiction, these books capture and hook the reader telling a story. Back matter is a special feature: Author Notes, Resources, Facts, and Bibliographies. This fresh look is based on education reforms known as Common Core.

 

An Oak Tree Grows models a timeline for students, as they too, create their own stories using timelines.

 

A timeline is an excellent graphic organizer that represents chronological events in time. There are many types of timelines that can be used based on the grade level and the subject of study.

 

A Timeline Graphic Organizer

 seed timeline

Documenting a timeline for a seed.

plants

Growing a seed takes time and care for it to become a healthy plant.

  1. Pour warm water on a small peat pellet and watch the pellet expand.
  2. Plant one or two seeds inside the opening of the peat pellet.
  3. For best results, create a green house using a tray that has a dome shaped plastic lid. Plastic wrap loosely placed over a seed tray can also be used.
  4. Once the seed has sprouted transfer the entire peat pellet and the growing seedling into a peat pot, adding some rich potting soil.
  5. Water the plant gently and place in a location with indirect sunlight.
  6. Observe and watch the growth of the plant.
  7. Document the information on a timeline for the plant.

 

NOTE:

Using a timeline as a visual can support a reader and a writer to be a better reader and a writer.

 

A timeline can be used for short periods of time or for many years depicting change, growth and facts from the past to the present.

 

A Quick Tip on How to Use a Mentor Text for a Fiction Picture Book

boomer goes to school

Boomer Goes to School

By Constance W. Mc George

Illustrator Mary Whyte

boomer's big day

Boomers Big Day

By Constance W. Mc George

Illustrator Mary Whyte

 

Whole Pizza or a Slice of Pizza Metaphor

Writing is like a pizza.

Writing is a process, without one-size fits-all answers, evolving and changing as we write.

pizza

  1. Draw a circle on a piece of paper depicting a pizza.
  2. Write My dog Boomer on top of the circle.
  3. The entire pizza represents My dog Boomer.
  4. If I begin writing, my focus will be on the whole pizza focus. That means I will  write everything about Boomer.
  5. Writers take one more step. They write about one slice of the pizza.
  6. Writing a slice is about one event about Boomer. A slice of pizza might be about the day Boomer snuck into the house during a thunderstorm or the day Boomer ran away.
  7. Write about the one event in time. The story can be fiction or nonfiction. Writing about one action or experience is writing like a pizza; one slice of pizza at a time.

 

NOTE:

Sometimes we begin writing or researching and realize our focus may still be too wide. It may be time to narrow it some more. Time to write about a smaller slice of pizza.

Sometimes we may need to widen the scope. Time to write about a larger slice of pizza.

Sometimes we have to change our focus completely.


headshotI am a wife who is adored by my husband, Perry. We are proud parents of five boys and three daughters in law. Pa Perry and Oma Sue [grandparents] enjoy spending time with their seven sweet, smart grandkids, who reside in Texas.

I am an educator of hundreds of students, throughout the years in San Antonio, Texas, from preschool through eighth grade. I also taught at the college level at The University of Incarnate Word College. Additionally, I planned and presented many workshops for administrators and co teachers on staff development days. The highlight of my career was reading and writing with ELLs [English Language Learners] from various countries, including Sweden, Cambodia, Thailand, Germany, Columbia, Mexico and many more. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, a Bilingual certification, Reading Recovery certificate, and a Master’s of Science in Reading.

Currently, I read and write with kids in our community. I provide after school and summer school lessons with Mrs. Sue for six elementary aged students.

I am on The Write Team for a local newspaper, Carlinville~Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat. The articles I write are about the importance of literacy. For example, two articles published were, Reading Should Not Take a Summer Vacation and Make this School Year the Best Ever by Planning Ahead.

My husband and I are organic gardeners on the Illinois prairie, who enjoy cooking and baking for family and friends. I am a reader and a writer. I am a painter of acrylics & watercolors and a creative crafter. I am a cyclist on a pink Marin Portofina. I am a walker and an occasional 5K jogger. Leaving the world a better place is important to me, so I read, write and create every day.

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Mentor Texts for Writers: How Suzy Leopold Uses Mentor Texts

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I’m proud to announce that this is Suzy Leopold week. She is sharing a post about how to use mentor texts as a writer today. Then come back on Thursday when she’ll share how she uses mentor texts in the classroom. Suzy is also a fellow GROGGER. Check out a recent post she wrote about mentor texts over there. 


Mentor Text Definition

Mentor texts are books that writers can read, relate to, study, and reread again. The literature can be used as models to help a writer to grow.

 

Never hesitate to imitate another writer. Imitation is part of the creative process for someone learning an art or craft. Bach and Picasso didnt spring full-blown as Bach and Picasso; they needed models. This is especially true of writing.

~William Zinsser

 

How I Use Mentor Texts in My Writing

Studying mentor texts is reading with a purpose and helps me to write stronger pieces of writing.

I study a mentor text by examining and looking closely at the:

  1. Title
  2. Illustrations
  3. Word count and page numbers
  4. Layouts and page turns
  5. Structure including the beginning, middle and the ending
  6. Back matter if applicable

 

The Mentor Text that I am Currently Using

gingerbread for liberty

Gingerbread for Liberty!

How a German Baker Helped with the American Revolution

By Mara Rockliff

Pictures by Vincent X. Kirsch

 

This is a story of an unsung hero, Christopher Ludwick. During the American Revolution, Ludwick not only baked gingerbread for the soldiers, he risked his life on a secret mission crossing enemy lines.

 

My WIP [Writing in Progress] is a nonfiction story about a Polish-born American patriot and hero, Casimir Pulaski. A soldier on horseback, Pulaski came to America to help the colonists win the American Revolution.

 

I Find Mentor Texts By:

* Searching at the library and in bookstores

* By asking for book recommendations from writerly friends

 

Mentor Texts:

  1. Provide models for me to examine and study stellar books that exemplify quality.
  2. Have the power to help me grow as a better writer.
  3. Demonstrate the importance of choosing the right words to depict believable characters and showcase outstanding beginnings, middles and ends.
  4. Stimulate creativity and interest.

headshot

I am a wife who is adored by my husband, Perry. We are proud parents of five boys and three daughters in law. Pa Perry and Oma Sue [grandparents] enjoy spending time with their seven sweet, smart grandkids, who reside in Texas.

I am an educator of hundreds of students, throughout the years in San Antonio, Texas, from preschool through eighth grade. I also taught at the college level at The University of Incarnate Word College. Additionally, I planned and presented many workshops for administrators and co teachers on staff development days. The highlight of my career was reading and writing with ELLs [English Language Learners] from various countries, including Sweden, Cambodia, Thailand, Germany, Columbia, Mexico and many more. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, a Bilingual certification, Reading Recovery certificate, and a Master’s of Science in Reading.

Currently, I read and write with kids in our community. I provide after school and summer school lessons with Mrs. Sue for six elementary aged students.

I am on The Write Team for a local newspaper, Carlinville~Macoupin County Enquirer~Democrat. The articles I write are about the importance of literacy. For example, two articles published were, Reading Should Not Take a Summer Vacation and Make this School Year the Best Ever by Planning Ahead.

My husband and I are organic gardeners on the Illinois prairie, who enjoy cooking and baking for family and friends. I am a reader and a writer. I am a painter of acrylics & watercolors and a creative crafter. I am a cyclist on a pink Marin Portofina. I am a walker and an occasional 5K jogger. Leaving the world a better place is important to me, so I read, write and create every day.

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Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Pet Projects by Lynne Marie

Please welcome author Lynne Marie to our Mentor Texts in the Classroom series. Teachers are always looking for new ways to help kids tell their own stories. Pet stories often make their way into student writing. What better way to help students become better writers than to introduce them to some mentor texts about pets. 

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hedgehogA growing number of authors/writers rely on “Mentor Texts” as research for their current writing projects, whether fiction or non-fiction. Mentor texts can inspire a new or different idea, illuminate a genre, exhibit a style, teach facts, demonstrate the way a theme is handled, express the ways a story can be told or show what has been done before and need not be redone. The same is true for using Mentor texts in the classroom.

There are many ways that I have used picture books to teach students of all ages about writing. Picture Books work well because you can get a complete point across, completely from beginning to end, in a fairly short amount of time. However, the best way to teach about writing is to begin at the beginning.

Every story starts with an idea. If a writer or student is stumped about what to write about, all he/she needs to do is pick up a book. Any book can be used as an example for potential methods of finding their own ideas OR taking an old idea and freshening it up to make it appear new. For the purposes of this post, we will assume our writer wants to write about wanting a pet – a story that has been told time and time again, and is perhaps old and overdone.

Take a look at these “Pet Projects” and see how pairing an idea that has been done with something that is different, new, or unusual, turns into a whole NEW idea!

me want pet1. ME WANT PET by Tammi Sauer. Pictures by Bob Shea.

This author takes the universal problem of a child’s desire to own a pet, and shakes it up by adding a main character who is a Cave Boy, which opens up a stone age of new and exciting pet possibilities! Can you say Saber-toothed Tiger?

snow dog

2. SNOW DOG SAND DOG by Linda Joy Singleton. Illustrations by Jess Golden.

This author takes on a similar problem, but her Main Character is allergic to dogs, so must find creative ways to “make the best of a sneezy situation.

princess peepers

3. PRINCESS PEEPERS PICKS A PET by Pam Calvert. Illustrations by Tuesday Mourning.

Again, here we have the usual dilemma of our Main Character wanting a pet. However, combine that problem with a Princess who is nearsighted and loses her glasses, and we have medieval mayhem and lots of fun illustrations!

 

But those are just a few successful TWISTS on what have might have seemed like an overdone story line of a Main Character wanting a pet – here are some more….

 

gilbert goldfish i wanna iguana

 

 

 

 

 

 


my pet book
prudence wants a pet

 

 

 

 

 

 

jacob oreilly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that you’re done reading this post, challenge yourself to pair an overdone plot or subject with something unusual or rare and see what you or your students come up with!

Of course, using a picture book to teach idea inspiration is just one item at the top of the list of how Mentor Texts can be used in the classroom. Be sure and check back here for more ways!

 

 

Lynne MarieLynne Marie is a New York Girl living in a Florida World. She loves anything any everything Disney, Broadway, European History and the Everglades. She’s an avid picture book reader and the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, published by Scholastic, and a Travel Agent. Please visit her on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Childrens-Author-Lynne-Marie/

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Mentor Texts for Writers: Studying Lyrical Language for Prose by Renée M. LaTulippe

Words can not express how much I have learned from Renée. I have loved reading and writing poetry for many years, but when I took Renée’s The Lyrical Language Lab class, I loved poetry even more. She is an amazing teacher and she gives such valuable feedback. I continue to learn from her in the class’s Facebook group. I’m so happy to have her here sharing her knowledge with you. 

Mentor Texts for Writers 2015 image for blog


 

 

When I began developing my online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry, I knew I’d need to provide a lot of examples of how poetic techniques can be used in prose.

 

The first place I turned to was MG and YA novels, particularly Newbery Medal and Honor winners. There are so many rich examples in the genre! What I specifically look for in mentor texts is not just lovely language that sounds pretty, but language that strengthens and supports every single story element, including mood, tone, setting, and character. And, since I am using these texts to teach, I want to be able to pinpoint the poetic techniques being used and show how they support the story elements.

 

My favorite example, and one that I use in my course, is from Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech. (This is printed in other blog posts around the Internet, but it really bears repeating!) (Click to enlarge.)

Lesson17-WalkTwoMoons-1

 

 

In these few pages, Creech uses several poetic techniques that support other story elements, including:

 

  • Figurative language and imagery (red)
  • Diction (fuchsia)
  • Repetition (purple)
  • Sound devices (green)
  • Hyperbole (blue)

 

What I particularly love about this example is that 1) it is so full of poetic techniques that I can use this text for multiple purposes, and 2) these are the opening pages to the novel, which is so important for me when I search for mentor texts. I want to see that magic from the moment I open the book, so I can then show students how important it is to pay attention to every word, starting with the very first one.

 

Because I rely heavily on first pages, I have found Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature to be a big help in my search for mentor texts. It’s the first place I go when I discover a new possibility, and often use this feature to find more models for lyrical language. Some first pages that I am adding to my growing list of texts are from

 

cover-holesHoles by Louis Sachar for its amusing and effective use of repetition to create and support the narrator’s voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover-winndixieBecause of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo for its rhythm and pacing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover-calpurniaThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly for its imagery and use of similes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cover-barnBarn by Debbie Atwell (picture book) for the lyrical language that paints a picture of the book’s setting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Because each lesson in my course is focused on one concept, I don’t really use whole texts; rather, I use short excerpts to illustrate and analyze the specific concept being covered. From there, students complete a writing exercise using the excerpt as a model for their own work.

 

Mentor texts play a huge part in my teaching, and I’m always delighted by the “a-ha” moments students can experience when they’ve read a really great example of a particular concept – and can then apply it to their own writing.

 

I highly recommend that writers start a collection of their own “snippets” – those wonderful words and phrases and sentences that stop us in our tracks when we read – to refer to again and again as guides and inspiration.

 

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Renée M. LaTulippe has co-authored nine early readers and a volume of poetry titled Lizard Lou: a collection of rhymes old and new (Moonbeam Children’s Book Award) for All About Learning Press, where she is also the editor, and has poems in several editions of The Poetry Friday Anthology series as well as the upcoming anthologies The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry and One Minute Till Bedtime. She developed and teaches the online course The Lyrical Language Lab: Punching Up Prose with Poetry and blogs on children’s poetry at NoWaterRiver.com..

 

Copyright (c) 2015 Renée M. LaTulippe.

 

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