Flipping Mentor Text Instruction Using Genius

I have a hard time narrowing down the list of mentor texts I want to use in each writing study. There always seems to be just one more amazing text that I think can instruct and inspire my students. In Writing With Mentors, Allison and I recommend 3-6 mentor texts as the ideal cluster for each study: enough to give students an array of writerly choices but not so many that they become bogged down and overwhelmed.


So what do I do with the extras? The mentor texts I’m dying to share but can’t justify
including in my cluster? I flip them!Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 8.43.26 PM

Flipped instruction is an educational buzzword. For a long time, I simply wrote it off as Not For Me. However, as I began learning the rhythms of a new school schedule this year (one that reduces classroom face time), I started to rethink my position. I needed – and wanted – more time with my kids.  And then I read this post on flipping writing workshop. I leapt in.

I have started with flipping a portion of my mentor text study. Not my core cluster of texts, but some of those extras that I think can help individual students. Allison and I love to keep a few extra mentor texts on hand to help us confer with students who might need help with some basics to which we don’t want to devote whole-class instruction and those students who have mastered the techniques taught in mini-lessons and need something more to take their writing to the next level.

Now, instead of carrying copies of these mentor texts from conference to conference, I annotate them digitally using Genius. I then share them with my students, and allow them to learn a few new techniques on their own. Without being side-by-side, we can have a digital conversation about a text.

Here are two ways I have recently used it as ready-made mentor text mini-lessons:

  • My IB seniors were writing character profiles on Much Ado About Nothing when I came across a profile of Ina Garten in my own reading.  I noticed
    Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 8.43.04 PMtechniques and sentence starters that might be helpful for some of my writers. I quickly annotated it as I read — pointing out techniques of interest and giving examples of how they could use the technique to refer to Shakespeare’s characters.  At 9pm on a Friday night, I emailed it to my students with a simple invitation to take a look at this new mentor text and see if there might be something useful for their own piece.
  • My unleveled 9th grade class is in the middle of a memoir writing study. Since this class is unleveled, differentiation is an absolute must. After about two weeks in the study, some students are already finished — and they have finished well! They need something more. So, I annotated a more challenging memoir Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 9.06.44 PMfrom Slate. Among other things, the writer uses colons in lots of different interesting ways; it’s not a skill that many of my students need or are ready for, but it’s perfect for students who are finished and ready for a new challenge. When a student is ready for this text, I just grab my laptop and quickly send them an email with the link.

As it gains popularity, Genius is also being used by other writers and media outlets. The Washington Post, in particular, is fond of using Genius to annotate political speeches and events — ideal for government teachers and AP language classes that study rhetoric:

And we can teach students to do this, too! Margaret Atwood herself could serve as a mentor for annotating a piece of literature.

Want to learn how to do this? Need a tutorial to share with your students? I made one for you!

What are some other ways you might use Genius in your classroom — as a tool for your students to use or as a way to flip mentor text instruction? Please comment below or find us on Twitter @rebekahodell1 and @allisonmarchett.

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