Mentor Texts

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I walked into a classroom the other day during Reading Workshop, and the kids were all spread around the room reading independently.  I had to pick someone at random to sit down and confer with, but that is so hard to do!  Then, I saw it....  A book that I LOVE.  The choice was made for me.  I had to sit down and read with the little girl who was reading The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear. I just had to.  Why?  I love that book.

A few years ago, the second grade decided to be our favorite book characters for Halloween.  I chose the little mouse.  I had discovered the book that year, and had instantly fell in love.  I used it to teach inferring characters feelings.  I used it to teach voice in writing.  I used it to teach fluency.  I used it to teach problem and solution.  I used it to teach a variety of compression strategies.  I know that sounds repetitive, but I used it to teach a lot of things.  I didn't realize it then, but it was a mentor text.

Mentor Texts are books that the students have read, know well, and love.  They are powerful examples of good writing that we can use as models for our own writing, or are texts that we can use to practice new strategies with.  Our mini lessons in both reading and writing (and math) can be strengthened by using pieces of texts that the students know well and love.  It will help them really "see" what you want them to see.  This will help transfer to independence with the application of the strategies you are presenting.

What mentor texts should you use?  Well, there are lists everywhere.  The Calkins units provide us with some, and any google search on mentor texts will give you many possibilities.  Just remember- the kids are supposed to know them well.  You can't have 50 different mentor texts that they know well.  Use some texts that you can keep coming back to all year long, for a variety of reasons.  If you are planning to do that, pick books that you know and love, too!  Whether or not The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear is on a list of mentor texts somewhere, I would use it anyway.  

I found two great ways to organize the mentor texts that you find, and I linked them below.  The first one is a Pinterest page, where she had a Board all reserved for her mentor texts.  If you are on Pinterest, that is a great way to manage your resources.  The other is a simple blog list of texts that she loves, with the strategies/skills that she teaches using the book listed beneath the cover.
Use the books you love to make your students love to read and write!

Literacy Nerd Alert

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

     Literacy Nerd Alert!!!!

     I am a literacy nerd.  I like collecting books on literacy, like some people collect stamps, or coins.   I also like talking with people involved in literacy.  I create my own PLN, especially around the building, but I definitely take the opportunity to talk "reading" with any expert I can.  So, here I am with Dr. Howard.  I even have a READ t-shirt.  Yep...  Literacy nerd.

     There are a few things that I would like to emphasize from Dr. Howard's presentation last Friday.  I know that it was all day, in uncomfortable chairs, and before a long weekend.  A lot of things can get lost in translation with all those variables.  She showed some great ways to use the common core in our instruction, and she gave us strategies to close read.  Those things will certainly be beneficial to us as the year goes on.

     In my opinion, however, the most valuable things we can walk away from are some beliefs she has about teaching and students.  They are, in no particular order:

1.  There is nothing new in education.  Just new ways of thinking.

2.  Children are not a letter.

3.  What are you going to say yes to?  What are you going to say no to?

     Like I previously stated, I am a literacy nerd.  I take pictures with random literacy people, and I even had her sign my book.  Do you know what she wrote?

     My dear Hiawatha teachers, I believe in what you do every day.  I believe that you know a lot about teaching the students in your classrooms, and I believe that we as a building work together in honor of children.  Children are not a letter- they are kids.  They deserve the best that we have to offer.  You are the best.  Believe in yourself, believe in your kids, and let's all work together and great things will happen.

     Just be careful... if you ever write a book about literacy, I will make you sign my copy and I will make you take a picture with me.  I promise you that.  :)

Good to Great!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

     Dr. Mary Howard is coming in a week, so I thought you might like a sneak peak at what you might hear on Institute Day.  She wrote the book Good to Great Teaching.  She discusses how we can turn our teaching from good to great, by looking at what we do and reflecting on it.  The tables above are in her book.  Take a moment to read the bad examples, as well as the good/great.

      With the changes in our curriculum with the Common Core, and the implementation of reading and writing workshop, we have to remember to be thoughtful in our decision making.  What are we doing that will make the most difference to our kids?  What do we already do that is successful?  What are do we need to change to be even more successful?  When you read those Calkins units, what are key ingredients to creating successful learners?  How can we help children take charge of their own learning by helping them get engaged and become independent learners?

     Dr. Howard describes Great Work as "taking our teaching to the highest level and offers the most benefit to our students.  Great work happens when teachers cautiously translate research principles into practice so it requires more effort in the early stages.  Those who do great work develop an insatiable appetite and want to savor the experience over and over.  Great work lights up a room with energy and enthusiasm." (2012)

     As we transition to the workshop model, take a step back and look at your kids and their work.  What are they telling you?  Then take a look at your own teaching.  What in your teaching created that result?

     We are certainly putting the effort in during the early stages.  We are on our way to greatness, Hiawatha!