Summer Mentor Text Countdown: Week 4

We are sure that Flannery O’Connor would agree that like a good man, a good mentor text is hard to find. And, like you, we don’t have hours and hours to devote to the search. We need a short-hand, a fast protocol, some never-let-you-down sources.

In Writing With Mentors, we devote all of chapter two to how we find mentor texts, how we know they are keepers, and how we organize them for future use. This week, in our countdown of our most popular mentor text posts, we share some of the ways technology makes finding and organizing mentor texts easy for us. We even share some of those go-to sources that always yield something great.

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Summer Mentor Text Countdown — Week 3

Our students use multiple mentor texts constantly throughout the writing process — from planning all the way through publication. But our students also encounter daily mentor texts as they play with words and ideas in notebook time, our amped-up, mentor-text-based bell ringer.

These mentor texts are very different from the ones we use in our genre or technique writing studies, but in many ways, these mentor texts are the ones that make those habits of mind possible later in the writing process.

We think so highly of notebook time and the way it inspires student writing, that we have dedicated an entire chapter to it in our new book, Writing with Mentors (Heinemann, September 3, 2015).

Today, as we countdown our most-popular posts about mentor texts, we give you a little preview of notebook time and why we do it.

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Moving Writer’s Mentor Text Countdown: Week 2

Over the next few weeks, we are preparing for the publication of our book, Writing with Mentors, by sharing our most popular mentor text-related posts over the last two years.

This week, we are sharing “Questions to Help You Choose Mentor Texts”. Finding the right mentor texts can be daunting in a world full of words, but asking yourself a few strategic questions can make the tasks easier, more fun, and give you a systematic way to approach the process!

We’ve also added a new way that you can connect with us and join the Moving Writers conversation — we’re on Facebook. Like us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/movingwriters)!

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Questions to Help You Choose Mentor Texts

(March 2015)

Do you remember Captain’s Choice? Those moments standing on the field during gym class as the boys and girls carefully selected players for their teams? We can still see their eyes darting back and forth as they sized up their potential teammates. For some of them it was – and still is – serious business. They had real selection criteria.How fast is she? How much experience does he have? How many goals did she score last week?  For some of us, it was a painful experience. But looking back, we don’t begrudge them. We realize now they were simply trying to build the best possible team.

We think about these boys with a smile now as we select mentor texts to support our current study. Like them, we mean business. In a world full of mentor texts, we have to choose the ones that will best engage and inspire our students and move them forward in their writing. The ones that will give them a vision of the writing they’re about to do — and a text to shepherd them during the writing of it. And like the athletes of our fifth grade gym class, we can’t risk choosing the wrong text and losing our students along the way. So we have some selection criteria, a series of questions that we ask of potential texts, as we go in search of the best models for our writers.

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How To Use the Chart

Gather a few texts that you’ve come across in your reading. The questions are ordered from most to least important, so, beginning with one text, ask of it the first two questions in the left column. (The questions in the follow-up column are designed to give you more information about the primary questions or help you probe the texts more deeply.) These questions will help you do a first-round vetting. If your mentor text does not pass the engagement test and the highlighter test, it’s probably not going to work for you and your students. Next you should consider accessibility, length, and the writer’s larger body of work. Running each mentor text past these questions will help you select a strong cluster of texts for your study.

The topic of selecting mentor texts comprises a good portion of Chapter 2 our book due out in September! We can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime, please feel free to share your process for selecting mentor texts, and as always, forward any mentor texts you’d like us to add to the Dropbox our way. You can reach us through the comments below, on Twitter @allisonmarchetti @rebekahodell1, and on Facebook (www.facebook.com/movingwriters).  

Moving Writers’ Summer Mentor Text Countdown – Week 1

Screen Shot 2015-04-15 at 10.56.45 AMSchool is winding down, and summer is upon us, but Allison & I are just getting started as we gear up for the September 3rd release of our first book with Heinemann, Writing with Mentors.

We are working on some exciting things to share with you as we get closer to the official launch! In the meantime, we are going to spend a little bit of time this summer sharing our top ten most popular mentor text posts.

Our #10 post is a great place to start — “I Have Some Mentor Texts…Now What?” shares the process we use to introduce a new cluster of mentor texts, collecting a list of noticings with our students, and moving into explicit writing lessons. I do the study described below — a mentor text study — as the first writing workshop of the year.

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cropped-moving_writers_rework1.jpgI Have Some Mentor Texts …Now What

(February 2015)

You’ve collected some awesome mentor texts to support your writing study. You’ve photocopied them and passed them out.

Then what? Continue reading

Our Top 3 Tips for Using Your Summer to Plan Next Year’s Writing Workshop

My summer to-do list is LONG. In addition to around-the-house projects that only get done during the summer, trips to take, friends to see, and books to read, I have planning to do for the upcoming school year. I bet you do, too.

A lot of writing workshop can’t be planned for — we have to meet our students, get  a sense of their needs, find the engaging mentor texts that have just been published this week. But we can accomplish some of the big picture planning — the kind that creates the shape of your year-to come — in advance.

Here are some tips for you as you enter your summer:

Sketch out the writing studies you are hoping to teach Genres

In general terms, I know which writing studies I absolutely want to return to next year, which I want to ditch, new studies I’d like to try.  I also know that I will need to hold fast to the requirements of my curriculum, incorporating narrative, expository, analytical, and digital writing.

In no particular order, I start jotting these down (I do it in my notebook where I keep all of my thinking.)

These might change. I might run out of time. Or my new students might move more quickly than this year’s bunch, so I will need to add a genre or technique study.  But now I have a place to begin my thinking.

As you move throughout your summer vacation, jot down ideas as soon as they hit you. This preliminary list will give you a framework.

Sketch out a calendar of the year

As I think ahead, even though I know things will shift and change, it helps me to begin Yearcalendarthinking about my total amount of teaching time and where studies might fall on a calendar. I begin with a very general sketch of a calendar and start laying my studies against it.

This starting point gives me a visual guide for my thinking as I consider what I’ll be able to squeeze in, what might have to go, and how I can make the very most efficient use of my time.

Start collecting mentor texts

We favor mentor texts that are just-published. They engage our students and connect them to the real world of writing right now. Still, as you are reading this summer (particularly in genres like poetry or narrative that aren’t as immediate as journalism), you can start to file away some mentor texts — whole or mini or even just mentor sentences — for the fall.

Develop a storage system. We like our Google Drive-based Mentor Text Dropbox (which you can always use and contribute to!) But Evernote or Pinterest or Learnist or Diigo also have a lot of potential for helping you stay organized!

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 10.47.01 AMAs soon as you read something that might prove useful in the coming school year, file it away. Make a copy. Take a picture. SAVE IT. This will not only save you time down the road, but it will also help shape your preliminary planning of your individual writing studies.

As I’m reading online and at the pool and on vacation, I will be reading for pleasure but with an eye for what can help my students take their writing to new heights, too.

What are your top 3 tips for summer planning? What would you add to our list? Comment below or find us on Twitter @rebekahodell1 and @allisonmarchett.