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Using Mentor Texts to Inspire Writing. Literature in the Writing Process Using Great Authors as Teachers in your Classroom. Shared by:. Dr. Melissa Caraway University of Dallas [email protected] The “experts” and my colleagues

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Using mentor texts to inspire writing

Using Mentor Texts to Inspire Writing

Literature in the Writing Process

Using Great Authors as Teachers in your Classroom


Shared by
Shared by:

  • Dr. Melissa Caraway

  • University of Dallas

  • [email protected]

  • The “experts” and my colleagues

  • And all of the wonderful children who have shared their writing with me!


I used to
I used to…

  • do journal writing every day (no one’s life is that exciting…)

  • assign topics without modeling (do as I say, not as I do)

  • give “story starters” (they were cute)

  • write on demand without warmup (just do it!)

  • use “required” graphic organizers before writing (stick to the plan,don’t follow a new idea)

    • And a few kids wrote great stories, the rest were average to frustrated!


What do the experts say
What do the “experts” say?

  • Now, I’m not going to tell you any nice sugary tales about how easy it is to teach kids to write OR entice you with any instant cures for your fears or for your kids’ writing problems, because

    • I believe that writing takes discipline

    • AND, I believe that teaching writing takes hard work!

      • Marjorie Frank in If You’re Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You’ve Gotta Have This Book!


You have to plan plan plan
You have to plan, plan, plan!

  • Gradual release of responsibility

  • Break down the task:

    • M - How will you model? It may take a lot of input to breed success! Gather models.

    • S - What part of the task will be shared? Work together to prime the pump.

    • G - How will writers be guided? Consider small groups.

    • I - What will independence look like? A draft? Final product? Class, group, or individual? Or choose to write about something else?


What do the experts say1
What do the “experts” say?

  • Children need to know adults who write. We need to write, share our writing with our students, and demonstrate what experienced writers do in the process of composing, letting our students see our own drafts in all their messiness and tentativeness.

    • Nancie Atwell in In the Middle


Write with students
Write with Students

  • Counselor visit with feelings poster

  • M: picture book about our feelings

  • S: create list of feelings that we had at school across one day

  • G: drafting - teacher and students

  • I: create book - teacher and students - and read together.


What do the experts say2
What do the “experts” say?

  • Take a photo from your wallet - or any artifact that means something to you - and write about it…

  • Writing is one of the best ways to remember something.

    • Donald Graves in A Fresh Look at Writing


Artifact writing bag project
Artifact writing - bag project

  • Paper bag project - send home early in year, ASAP (back-to-school night?)

  • M: teacher tells story with one artifact

  • S: students share/pair one artifact

  • M: teacher models drafting with artifact

  • G: students draft with one artifact

  • I: students can finish and publish, or draft with other artifacts and share


Artifact writing
Artifact writing

  • Headings for bag:

    • Something that is warm

    • Something from long ago

    • Something that makes me cry

    • Something that makes me laugh

    • Something as precious as gold


Artifact writing1
Artifact writing

  • Objects - penny, shell, rock

  • Object with book

    • Nothing by Mick Inkpen

      • M: teacher reads book, shares object, draft of story (happy/sad)

      • S: bring your “nothing” to school, share story

      • G: students draft with teacher help/confer

      • I: may finish draft, may decide to publish


What do the experts say3
What do the “experts” say?

  • Prewriting has probably been the most neglected stage in the writing process; however, it is as crucial to writers as a warmup is to athletes…the activities are 1) choosing a topic, 2) considering purpose, audience and form, and 3) generating and organizing ideas for writing.

    • Gail Tompkins in Teaching Writing


Topic audience organize for success
Topic, audience, organize for success

  • Jam by Margaret Mahy

    • M: Read book

    • S: Brainstorm other uses for jam

    • G: Students write one sentence (capital, period, best spelling) alone or with partner

    • I: May choose to publish a page for a class book

    • Class books are not as intimidating!


Topic audience organize for success1
Topic, audience, organize for success

  • Just Crazy discussion

    • M: teacher tells what s/he is crazy about, and why

    • S: brainstorm/post things we LOVE to do

    • G: story frame - _____ is _____ crazy.

    • G: students tell and write why they are crazy about this thing

    • I: may choose to publish a page for a class book


The z was zapped by chris van allsburg
The Z was Zappedby Chris Van Allsburg

M: Read the book a lot - class favorite!

S: What else could happen to the letters? Posted sheets around class for brainstorming over a few days, reread

G: Students got an ABC sheet, chose a word for each letter from the posts

I: Special paper with book format, students wrote and drew pictures - creative! Could be class, group, or individual.


What do the experts say4
What do the “experts” say?

  • So choosing to begin a writing project and knowing how to work on developing that project are far from side issues in a writing workshop, though in many classrooms they are treated as if they were. These two issues represent a major part of what writers have to do.

    • Katie Wood Ray in Wondrous Words


Choosing and developing
Choosing and Developing

  • I Just Forgot by Mercer Mayer

  • Another class favorite - kids’ choosing

    • M: Teacher read book, kids shared ideas, steps for project

    • S: Created sentence frame, posted ideas for what we were good at, what we forgot

    • G: Students drafted personal responses with frame

    • I: Class book or individual books with teacher formatted paper


Choosing and developing1
Choosing and Developing

  • Dr. DeSoto by William Steig

    • M: Teacher read book, big discussion of mouse dentist and fox patient

    • S: Brainstormed/posted list of other unusual patients for Dr. DeSoto

    • G: Students chose a “patient” and drafted a story about the unusual patient

    • I: Class book with teacher formatted paper from Evan Moore book


What do the experts say5
What do the “experts” say?

  • There are countless ways of rehearsing for writing. But too often in school it becomes a rigid process…all students are required to begin by making a cluster web, story map, outline, or graphic organizer. Prewriting should be a help, not a burden…

    • Fletcher & Portalupi in Writing Workshop


One modeling experience leads to multiple projects
One modeling experience leads to multiple projects

  • Gail Gibbons’ book Sunken Treasure

    • M: Story in basal reader, along with Robert Ballard’s Titanic excerpt

    • S: Created list of what underwater exploration is all about, B-M-E or fact paragraphs

    • G: Students worked with partners to learn more and draft

    • I: Many ideas for topics, some published for the “treasure”

  • Carrot was a gold doubloon for writers!


What do the experts say6
What do the “experts” say?

  • Many people still assume that most writers bring a mental text that is more or less assembled when they encounter a blank piece of paper.

  • It turns out that many writers actually discover what they want to say in the process of writing it.

    • Ralph Fletcher in What A Writer Needs


Report writing
Report Writing

  • First experience - dolphin sample

    • M: Read lots of short nonfiction text

    • S: Decide on 4 questions to answer

    • M/G: Teach notetaking using 4 cards

    • M/G: Teach writing a paragraph for each card

    • G/I: Make a draft and final copy


What do the experts say7
What do the “experts” say?

  • When our youngsters begin the writing process by collecting bits and pieces - entries - in their notebooks rather than by listing and choosing among possible topics for writing, they are more apt to experience writing as a process of growing meaning.

    • Lucy Calkins in The Art of Teaching Writing


What do the experts say8
What do the “experts” say?

  • If you can stack it, you can teach it.

    • Katie Wood Ray, workshop in Feb. 2005 and in her book, Study Driven


Create the stack
Create the stack

  • Gather texts on a single topic or theme:

    • Slice of life

    • Restaurant reviews

    • Fairy tales

    • TAKS writing

    • Movie, book, or video game reviews

    • Journeys on boats

      • And whatever else you’d like to try!


Discover and make paper
Discover and “make paper”

  • Read two texts the first day; students talk and teacher writes for them - what is the same about these two texts?

  • Continue for 2-3 days - read more texts and add to chart to “discover” what this genre is and how it works; list or table

  • Invite students to “stand on the shoulders of these authors” by writing something similar


Listing discoveries
Listing discoveries

  • Slice of Life charts

    • My Big Brother

    • Car Wash

    • When You Visit Grandma and Grandpa

    • One More Time, Mama

    • The Grandad Tree

    • The Baby Sister

      Work together to create lists of what’s in your library - consider putting some books on reserve. Enlist librarian, teams, specialists, kids.


Follow the plan
Follow the plan

  • M: Allow students to use your chart and the mentor texts for inspiration

  • S: Discuss ideas for stories

  • G: Work alone, in groups, with partner to draft

  • I: may revise and publish - evaluate using the criteria on your chart, or create rubric with students from chart



Spend time to get results
Spend time to get results

  • Plan, plan, plan for gradual release - gather models and materials

  • Increase your prewriting - read, talk, make lists and charts, read some more

  • Spend time in sharing the task

  • Guide - more time for those who may need more help

  • Independent - not all work has to be “published”, but all children must draft and think! How did this project help you to be a better writer?


A final word
A final word….

  • Read like a writer.

    • Reading becomes prewriting - stand on the shoulders of great authors! You and your students collect ideas, words, and models.

  • Write like a reader.

    • As you write, think about purpose, audience, organization. Lean on what you’ve read. Models and imitation helps us learn to fly on our own.

      Thanks so much for being here today!

      [email protected]


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