Summer Mentor Text Countdown Week 6 – Mentor Texts for the First Week of School

Are you ready to start planning for the first week of school?

We use mentor texts in our classes from the very first day of school. We want to lay down a strong foundation and also some strong expectations that mentor texts will be our go-to source for inspiring our work, giving us how-tos, and answering our writing questions all year long.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have fun. The mentor texts we use the first week of school are visually engaging and meet our high school students right where they are as they walk in the door.

In our mentor text countdown this week, we are giving you a two-for-one: two very different approaches to using mentor texts in the very first week of school to help you students get to know one another while also learning the fundamentals of mentor text work!

Get out your planner! We are helping you get ready to get back to school!

P.S. Did you know that you can pre-order Writing with Mentors at a fantastic price on the new-and-improved Heinemann website?

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A Technique-Based Literary Analysis Workshop

But even if we want to, how can we teach literary analysis in writing studies throughout the school year using a workshop approach?

Do we just repeat the same mini-lessons again and again until the students have mastered them? Do we teach the mini-lessons once at the beginning of the year and just bring out new mentor texts for each subsequent go-round? Do we only teach literary analysis in one study of the year and hope it sticks?

Technique-Based Analysis Studies

To combine the study of literary analysis writing and writing workshop, one trick I have found is to break literary analysis into sub-genres: analyzing theme, analyzing character, analyzing symbol, analyzing a key passage, etc. Not all analysis is created equal —  in different kinds of analysis the techniques differ. The structures differ. The way we read, think, and unpack our ideas differs. So, we can teach students to look a pieces of analysis differently based on their purpose.

The Assignment

A few weeks ago, my IB students launched into a technique-based analysis study in which they analyzed two poems side-by-side. (For my IB friends, this is the same task they will be asked to do on Paper 2 … so it was great exam prep!) I intentionally avoided calling it a compare-and-contrast paper because I didn’t want visions of Venn diagrams to pop into my students’ heads — that’s too simplistic, too easy, compared to what a sophisticated analysis of two texts actually does. Like all true workshops, students had choice — they each chose the poet and the two poems on which they wrote.

My IB students, seniors all, are well-versed in writing rote literary analysis. They are masters of school writing. They understand the structures — they know how to construct thesis statements and bring in textual evidence.  Thus, the focus of our study was breaking out of the tightly constructed box that we, their teachers, have made for them over the years. We focused on maintaining fidelity to smart, tight, persuasive analysis while also incorporating voice and style — hopefully writing something that they would actually want to read.

The Mentor Texts:

I began by giving my students four mentor texts: Continue reading

Mentor Text Wednesday: Mentors for Writing, Mentors for Coping

longform-13874-1400517031-5We use mentors to help students become better writers. We want these mentors to teach them and inspire them and moving their writing forward in ways that our mini-lessons and conferences alone could not accomplish.

But we also want to use mentors to help students develop a thriving and lasting writing life. If writing is how we make sense of and communicate our lives, then mentor texts can — and should — do more than simply provide templates for structure and models for powerful sentences.

Mentor texts should teach students something about how we use writing to cope with our struggles and our grief.

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