soul strikers

powerful moments in education

Beach Musings: Mentor Texts

“What have you read that is like what you are trying to write?”

-Katie Wood Ray, Study Driven, 2006

Examples either create, reinforce, or deepen our schema.  Without them as a fertilizer to our writing, we could be placing ourselves on a path to writer’s block, or unoriginality.  How can I say we need a model to be original? Because we must understand the framework in which we are working before we can carefully craft our ideas into words, and then have those words bloom into harvest-ready writing.

If I am to plan a garden, not only do I need to see an example but I need to see a TON of examples.  I need to do this to understand placement, combinations, and gain a basic skill of identification of plants vs. weeds (I have been known to yank out my husband’s freshly sprouting babies).  Beyond this, I will need new examples once I have secured myself into the basics, examples that will help me understand when certain plants should be started, how close to arrange seeds or plots, and what types of soil are best for the plants I aim to grow.

Even further now, as I continue as a gardener I will start to seek even MORE examples to entice me toward garden creativity- decorations, artistic placement, soil pH, mulching hay….the list goes on. And much like writing I am told, you never truly know all the possibilities in your garden.

Why the garden metaphor? Because I have a black thumb, that’s why.  Plant life-biology- is a realm that I want to like and understand, but this intuitive, big-picture thinker doesn’t see small pieces and how they connect to make the whole until I SEE the whole.  One of my best friends has his Ph.D. in Chemistry and has spent most of his days identifying and working with the smallest pieces of life, to the point where he can ID almost anything- our vastly different knowledge sets amaze me.  When I am helping my engineer-ish husband with a garden task, he tells me small details, one at a time and I am almost always fumbling or confused.  “BIG PICTURE!” I tell him.  “I need to know the ultimate goal!” He says, “Right now you are a helper, a worker- just do what I say.”  Thankfully, I’m the teacher in the family- not him.  He refuses to hear that if I knew the big picture I would seamlessly perform the tasks he is placing before me.  I told him I was going to tattle on him in a blog post. I digress.

Writers do know to need the pieces that create the whole-carefully placed punctuation, descriptive adjectives, active verbs- but it only gets you so far.  The beauty of writing for all types of thinkers is that you can start from either end, big picture or little picture, and still be successful with conveying your thoughts in writing. Regardless, writers will need a model, a mentor text, a framework to support your idea that tells you what a mode of writing will look like and sound like. When I wrote my first blog post, I knew it was too long.  But I left it as is.  I knew as I read more blogs I would begin to see and develop vision for my intention (thanks again, Katie)- to write about the soul striking moments in education.

In a few weeks, I will be guiding a group of high school writers during a week long Writers Academy at the University of New Hampshire.  Since this is not my typical age group and I will not meet them before hand, the first thing I can do to create my schema for a high school writer is gather high-interest texts.  On the beach with me today, Ralph Fletcher, Katie Wood Ray, and Harvey Daniels began to point me in the right direction of finding these texts for my high school writers. And of course, I can always call Tomasen Carey.

Comments? Who is the high school writer? What do you read that is like what they might be trying to write?


Related posts about mentors:

Everyone Needs One

Who’s on the Runway?

Boy Writers and Boy Writers, Part II

Daniels, Harvey, and Nancy Steineke. Texts and Lessons for Content-area Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2011. Print.

Fletcher, Ralph J., and JoAnn Portalupi. Craft Lessons: Teaching Writing K-8. York, Me.: Stenhouse, 1998. Print.

Fletcher, Ralph J. Mentor Author, Mentor Texts: Short Texts, Craft Notes, and Practical Classroom Uses. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2011. Print.

Portalupi, JoAnn, and Ralph J. Fletcher. Nonfiction Craft Lessons: Teaching Information Writing K-8. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse, 2001. Print.

Ray, Katie Wood. Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2006. Print.


3 comments on “Beach Musings: Mentor Texts

  1. Pingback: The De-Isolation of Teachers (Part 2): Within School Walls « soul strikers

  2. @Eliza_Peterson
    July 29, 2012

    What a great post! I love the connections you made to gardening. I agree that writing is something where we need to find as many examples as possible to help us find our own voice. It’s a process, and reading, studying and even mimicking others’ work is part of it.


  3. Rachel Small
    July 14, 2012

    No wonder I love you so much- we have the SAME mentors! I treasure all of the books you mention as well as Tomasen Carey! I couldn’t teach or write without mentor texts. I just wish the term was more common in our PLN! When will our literacy and technology worlds collide for the best outcome for all learners!


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This entry was posted on July 11, 2012 by in education, Literacy Whatnots and tagged , , , , , , , .

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