Top Ten of ’13-’14: #9


An Introduction to Mentor Text Wednesday

Welcome to our very first Mentor Text Wednesday!

Mentor texts are powerful in the hands of writers  – they engage our students, they motivate our students, they guide our students, they inspire our students. We know they work.

But finding mentor texts is a time-consuming task for teachers. I have spent hoursskimming and dodging between texts trying to find just the right mentor text for my students — occasionally just to end up picking something simply sufficient rather than stirring.

We believe that by joining forces we can do better. We can find superior mentor texts for ours students that we can guarantee will move their writing forward, and we can save agonizing hours of searching.

To this end, we are doing a few things:

  • Launching the Mentor Text Dropbox Project – You will see a link for our Google dropbox at the top of our site! This is an ever-growing database of mentor texts that have been proven to work, organized by genre. Please feel free to search, borrow, use, share, and add your own! Let’s help one another!
  • Mentor Text Wednesdays — This will be a weekly feature in which we highlight a mentor text, tell you how we used it, provide ideas for additional skills to teach using the text, and invite you to do the same!
  • Participate in Mentor Text Wednesday on your blog! Scroll to the bottom of our page, and you will see a Mentor Text Wednesdays badge that you can post on your own blog and share along with us! Comment on our weekly post with your URL, and we can link to an even broader network of mentor text resources!

(The Inaugural) Mentor Text Wednesday

“Scary New World” by John Green, November 7, 2008, New York Times

Writing Workshop Genre: Critical Book Review

This mentor text doesn’t need much front loading from me because students can immediately access its voice and its topic.

This mentor text first succeeds because it instantly sucks my students into its web of persuasion — first, it is authored by John Green, by far their favorite young adult author. It’s as though their famous buddy, John, wrote a book review, and they are eager to hear what he has to say.

It also immediately engages students because of its subject – The Hunger Games, which they have nearly all read or seen, and, more broadly, dystopian young adult literature, which they are all reading. Another wonderful benefit of using this mentor text has been the interest it generates to read the other text reviewed, Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Dead and the Gone! It’s a mentor text and book talk in one!

How I Use It: 

I use this as my first mentor text of the unit, paired with a book report of The Hunger Games. Students read the book report and then read Green’s review.  In groups, students make a list of the differences they notice, which we then share out and compile into one class chart: Book Report vs. Book Review.

They pretty much figure out that book reviews have a lot more than just summary. 🙂

Then, we go back in with highlighters. With their groups, students highlight plot summary in one color and everything else in another color. I want them to be able to easily see proportions in the text — the balance between the amount of summary and the amount of analysis, connection, and opinion.

Some Other Possibilities: 

  • How to write concise plot summary
  • How to write about theme
  • Giving a balanced opinion
  • Comparing and contrasting similar texts

What else would you teach with this text? Leave a comment with your ideas!

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