Monday, January 7, 2013

Picture Books Are Great As Mentor Texts

Picture books = MOTIVATION in the classroom! To build on my previous post about how picture books are for ALL grades, I'd like to talk about using "mentor texts" to aid in the teaching of reading and writing skills. The idea of a mentor text is that you choose a few exemplar pieces that you want to study that addresses the skill you're focusing on. A great resource to add to your professional collection is Mentor Tests by Lynne Dorfman. This resource outlines many mini-lessons that teach how to dissect a piece and use it as a model. A mentor text can be a picture book, an article, a well written paragraph from a chapter book, or even one of your student's pieces! Children love to be highlighted in this way.  Any form of text that you want to highlight as an exceptional piece can be considered a mentor texts.  This is great for teaching test taking writing, how to write sentences, paragraphs, complete pieces, vocabulary development, use of great details, or even character, setting, or plot development.

One of my favorite writing pieces to teach is the "Moment In Time" piece with using the book, In Mamma's Kitchen by Jerdine Nolen. This book takes you through specific moments in a little girl's life as she recalls important memories.  I combine this with another lesson outlined in Mentor Texts  that is about using an inverted triangle to narrow down a broad topic into a very specific, detailed memory, just like in In Mamma's Kitchen.  I start by reading the picture book just for enjoyment. The next day I use a part of the book and model the use of an inverted triangle. We do this several time (as there are several memories in the book to use) and then the students are let loose to try using an inverted triangle to narrow down their own memory. This writing piece requires many revisits to model how an inverted triangle works. Also emphasized in this piece is that less is more. A very focused moment in time, if written well, many only take a page and that is okay! Sometime children get too caught up in thinking longer writing means better writing.  This writing piece is great to tackle in September when you are just getting to know your students and their abilities.

What picture books have you used to teach lessons?

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