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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I Can Write Like That: Focusing on Mentor Texts

If you're here at this site, you're most likely interested in teaching with picture books. You recognize that these models provide excellent examplars for word choice, idea development, story structure, and many other skills and traits.

In fact,

You know the importance of using mentor texts when teaching author's craft to your young writers. But how do you- a busy teacher with only so many hours in a day - find great mentor texts? With so many children's books available and so little time to peruse them all, matching books to writers' workshop mini-lessons remains a challenge.

That challenge is met in I Can Write Like That! A Guide to Mentor Texts and Craft Studies for Writers' Workshop, K-6, an International Reading Association title by Susan Ehmann and Kellyann Gayer.

The excerpt above appears on the book's back cover, along with this:

In these pages you'll discover engaging fiction and nonfiction children's books and ideas for using them to their maximum potential as teaching tools. And you will find new ways to give your students a priceless gift - exemplary models for their own writing. Realize the reward of having your students listen to a well-written story then identify the author's craft and say, "I can write like that!"

Four years in the making, I Can Write Like That! serves as an invaluable resource if you're seeking to accomplish the following:
  • Build a library of mentor texts;
  • Uncover all that you can teach from each book in your growing mentor library, whether it be from an old favorite or a new discovery;
  • Find the perfect mentor texts to teach specific craft elements; or
  • Locate age-appropriate craft studies that support your writing curriculum and further serve as models as you develop craft studies of your own. (pp. 5, 6)
I was frankly surprised to see that half the book consists of annotated lists of picture books; upon closer inspection, however, I realized that this feature makes sense. So many teachers in workshops have come to me and said, "I have so many of those books in my classroom library, but I never really knew before how to use them for instruction," or, "I want to create a core collection of really great books, but I don't even know where to start."

My wife, a kindergarten teacher, confirmed the value of the lists. As she looked through the annotations, she remarked, "This is pretty cool. If you already own one of the books, you can see what skills to focus on. Or if you want to teach a mini-unit on a single skill, such as repetition, you can use the chart and choose books from there."

The straight-forward organization of the book allows teachers to easily locate exactly what they're looking for:
  • Part I: Craft Elements provides detailed descriptions and teaching points for working with craft elements such as alliteration, breaking the rules, flashback, leads, personification, text features, and voice, a surprising twenty-seven craft elements in all.
  • Part II: Selected Craft Study Lessons features sample lessons, providing teachers with models for their own instruction.
  • Part III: Mentor Texts to Demonstrate Craft Elements contains an expansive matrix, aligning hundreds of new and classic picture books with the twenty-seven craft elements, followed by a through breakdown of these books by element (see figure to the right).
  • Two Appendices feature student recording sheets and additional reading lists for teachers.
You and your colleagues will refer to this resource again and again. 

11 comments:

Kelly said...

Keith, thanks for visiting my blog. I think this is fabulous! What wonderful information you have on here!!!! I'll be back!

Pinks My Ink said...

Finally a book to help us with our little ones!

janine

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks, Janine and Kelly.

Hope you both entered to win!

The Book Chook said...

Keith, it sounds such a great book! I won't go in the competition, partly because postage to Australia is a pain, but also because I hope this book goes to a practising classroom teacher who will be inspired by it.

Mentor text or mentoring personally from adult authors can be so useful to our young writers I believe. So many of the things I taught my kids as a teacher I now know to be totally the opposite of good writing craft! So books like this make such good sense, as well as adding value to our own existing libraries. And with Skype now offering ways for us to connect with authors across the globe, woohoo!

Michelle said...

I'm no longer teaching in a classroom, but my kids are getting into writing. My nine year old just found out about writing contests with cash prizes. This book would help me teach them about good writing.
Thanks for sharing it!
I can't get the email link to work. I think I need to change a setting on my email default or something. I might have to send you a message through WE TEACH to enter.

Keith Schoch said...

Michelle: I snet an email to myself with your name in it, that way you'll have the entry at Random.org when I hold the giveaway.

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks, Book Chook, for the visit. I agree that tech has provided some wonderul new ways to get in touch with authors.

And on the other point, I've even heard conflicting advice from authors, so it's not just us!

Patti said...

This is a great resource. I also had the opportunity to attend a workshop that the authors gave a week ago which prompted me to purchase the book. They were great and shared some great tips.

Keith Schoch said...

Thanks for checking in, Patti!

Margaret said...

Another nice post.......thanks for sharing.

jendebort said...

This is a wonderful book - my team photocopied and taped the ideas into the front cover of the mentor texts we had and made a wish list of the books we wanted to add to our collection.