Why This Blog? Why Now? Why This title?

I am no longer blogging under duress. This part remains true: I had a blog once and I lost the password...and then, I gave up. I really am not a giver-upper, but there is a point of diminishing returns to anything that takes energy, passion, and vision and yet, doesn't work out. So, off I go again, wish me luck! AND knock on wood I have had luck. And it is sort of fun.

P.S. Why this title? I read this phrase today 6/16, don't remember where. I liked it. I'm using it. I might change it. It may or may not have relationship to the content.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mentor Texts...They ARE Just For Kids

Why Patricia Polacco, Cynthia Rylant, and other outstanding authors make are great mentors for writers and, a the same time, frustrating mentors, and what to do about it.

What I've learned in the month of September from PLCs at my school:

  • Mentor text are important
  • Mentor text need to be within the ZPD of the learner
  • Mentor text need to be closely aligned with the learning

Imagine you are a second grader. You are studying true-stories-that-were-important-enough-to-write-about (personal narrative). Your teacher reads some Patricia Polacco stories like Thunder Cake or Cynthia Rylant stories like When the Relatives Came both captivating, well organized, shining examples of true-stories-that-were-important-enough-to-write-about  "Ahh" you say. "Those are great stories. I liked them, especially the breathing part in When the Relatives Came, and," you think, "I was scared right along with the character in Thunder Cake." Your task is to write a true-story-that-is-important-enough-to-write-about, You can think of some things, you make a list...so far so good. You know what the story is supposed to look and sound like because you've experienced Pollaco and Rylant. The big cliff and the heart of the frustration comes when you, the second grader try to make you writing look like and sound like Polacco or Rylant and can't come close. What do you say to yourself? "I can't. I don't like to write. I am not a writer."

Different mentor text to the rescue!

Imagine you are a second grader in a class where teachers understand scaffolding the mentor text in the same way they understand scaffolding learning experiences in other areas...these teachers understand how important ZPD is! These teachers still read Patricia Polacco, and Cynthia Rylant, AND these teachers show you and your classmates what true-stories-that-are-important-enough-to-write-about look like when second graders write them. Teachers might say, "Listen to these stories. They are true-stories-that-are-important-enough-to-write-about written by second graders just like you!" You think, "Ahh! Those are great stories. The things that happen in them sound like things that I have done or my family and I have done." Your task is the same; write a true-story-that-is-important-enough-for-you-to-tell, but this time you think "I can. I like to write. What I write can look and sound like that. I am a writer"

That is just what teachers at my school have done. Regardless of grade level teachers are using mentor text created by student writers from past years. These teachers had the foresight to save exemplary text because they understand that mentor text needs to meet the writer where he/she is and then lift them up.