Monday, March 11, 2013

Using Mentor Texts in the Writing Workshop

There are countless reasons to read high quality picture books to students in upper elementary grades.  At the very least, we are exposing our students to great literature and well written nonfiction text.  That doesn’t seem so bad to me!

One of my favorite things to do after I have read a book to the class during reading workshop is to revisit parts of the text and think about it with a writer’s eye.  There is a process I like to follow.  Jeff Anderson writes about this process in 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know.  He also refers to the process as the scientific method.  Check out this great video of Jeff explaining his thinking!

I really like the idea that it is not enough just to read to our students.  We have to talk about the books we are reading.  We can talk about them as readers, and we can also talk about them as writers.
          There are a few steps to using previously read texts as models in the writing workshop.  Jeff Anderson talks about several of these in his video as well. 

STEP ONE: Prepare Your Students for Some Thinking!

Ask your students to think like the writer.  You might say something like, “Today we are going to revisit a section of this book that we read together.  I want you to think about some writing strategies the writer is using in this part of the book.  Think carefully as I reread this section.  What kind of writing strategies is the writer using?”

STEP TWO: Notice!

After reading the section of text you have chosen, ask your students, “What did you notice the writer doing?”  Let students share their thinking by keeping it open-ended.  You may have ideas that you would like to talk about ahead of time, but give students the opportunity to take you places with their thinking that you may not have thought of on your own!  You will be surprised with what they discover!!  After students share, then you can point out the writing strategies you were thinking of if students did not notice them on their own.

STEP THREE: Try a Writing Strategy as a Class!

After you have talked as a class about some writing strategies the author has used, pick one to try out as a class.  You may use a piece of writing you are working on or start a tiny writing piece with that strategy.  This is a very quick shared writing time, where students work together to help the teacher try out a writing strategy.

STEP FOUR: Make a Plan!

Ask students to make a plan to try out this writing strategy in their own work.  Have them share their plan with a partner or with the class.  Giving all students the opportunity to verbalize their plan for writing sets them up to head back to independent writing time with a clear action plan.

STEP FIVE: Try it Out!

Give students time to try a writing strategy out in their own writing during independent work time.  After independent writing, you can have students come back together as a class and ask them to share their work.  Focus specifically on a writing strategy discussed during the mini lesson.

To see these steps in action, check out this video I made with my fifth gradersJ

I encourage you all to try out using mentor texts in the writing workshop! 
Best Wishe to You All!!
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  1. Whenever I see a video of you teaching, I want to be in your class, Jen. :) You always motivate me when I read your posts. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for the kind words! You made my day:)

  2. Great post! I am a firm believer in mentor texts...and a firm believer that I don't do enough modeling! :) Thanks for sharing...

    1. I don't think we can ever do enough modeling as teachers! Thanks for the great feedback:)

  3. It was so nice to see a teacher modeling what they are talking about. I really enjoyed your video and I learned a lot of new ideas to use with my own kiddos! Thanks so much Jen! YEAH!


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