February 16, 2017

5 Writing Lessons Using Mentor Texts



Reading and Writing often go hand-in-hand. So what better way to teach a Writing lesson than by reading a book? Books offer a window into other people's writing styles. And having an example of how to write, makes it easier when it comes time for our students to put pencil to paper. Here are some awesome books for Writing lessons that will hopefully help to inspire your future authors, journalists, novelists, etc:

Lesson One: Finding an Idea for a Story

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon


Ralph is a boy who just cannot find anything to write about. Boy, have I been there! There always seems to be someone in my classroom who is absolutely stumped during writing time. In the story, Ralph slowly discovers that stories are all around him! (He could write about the class goldfish or the inchworm he found in his backyard, or even the markers in his desk!) My reluctant writers get such a kick out of this book because it is both hilarious and gives actual solutions to their ‘writers block’.

I like to begin my ‘Ralph Tells a Story’ lesson by asking students the question, “Where do you find your Writing ideas?” Then, we write this on chart paper. As we read the story we pause to gather more ideas and add to our chart. I end the lesson by demonstrating that ideas can be found anywhere by writing a quick story as a group using something that has happened during our day. For example, “The Sweltering Classroom”, or “Mrs. Poetker’s Lost Keys”.

Then we are ready to write our own stories!  I already blogged about how we do narrative writing in third grade, check it out here!

Lesson Two: Writing With Juicy Details

Mole’s Sunrise by Jeanne Willis

This is a super descriptive story about two animals who embark on a journey to see the sunrise. One friend (Vole) describes the sunrise to the other (Mole) using vivid imagery. At the end of the book, we discover that Mole is blind, but because of his friend’s descriptions, he feels like he has seen a sunrise too.

With this book, I teach a lesson on using juicy details in writing. When I teach the lesson, I give students picture books (including this one) and strips of paper. They have to pick their favorite descriptive sentences for inspiration and write them down. We collect all these sentences on a flip chart. Then, I challenge my students to write their own descriptive sentences. And, as I’m sure you know, prompts are awesome ways to get students thinking about an idea. Try the prompt “My Imaginary Place” or “My Favorite Season”. You’ll be surprised at what your students come up with!

Later, this leads into a great sharing activity, where students share their sentences and give feedback to each other.

Lesson Three: Writing a Letter

Dear Teacher by Amy Husband

Letter writing is an art form that seems to be lost, but I think it’s still so important for students to learn how to write a proper letter. Dear Teacher naturally leads into a fun-filled lesson on how to write a letter.

This book is a collection of imaginative letters written by a student, named Michael, who does not want to go back to school. Michael comes up with the most elaborate and hilarious excuses, which he writes in letter form to his teacher.

After reading this story, my students write a letter to me in the same style as Michael. They must explain why they cannot return to school for the remainder of the year. This also serves as an awesome first day of school activity. Lots of giggles and smiles will happen during this lesson.

Lesson Four: Fractured Fairytales

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague

I love a good fairy tale! Who doesn’t? And my all time favorite fairytale is “The Three Little Pigs”. My students are also obsessed with the story of the Three Little Pigs. This book, as you might be able to tell from the title, is a twist on the classic story. It’s also a book for kicking off lessons on fractured fairy tales.
After reading the original version of the Three Little Pigs, my students and I will read this version together. Then we compare the two stories and discuss what makes The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf special. Through discussion, they will discover that a fractured fairytale takes the original story and changes an element or two. We then brainstorm how we could change other stories.

Later, I have them write their own fractured fairy tales. They love the challenge!

Lesson Five: Writing Stories With a ‘Hook’

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type by Doreen Cronin

Doreen Cronin certainly has a way with words. I love her stories! She uses repetition, not only to make her stories hilarious but also give them character. In this story, the cows are airing their grievances with Farmer Brown by writing him letters on a typewriter. The key repetitive phrase is “Click, Clack, Moo!”

Click, Clack, Moo is great for teaching students the concept of story writing with repetitive phrases. These are the phrases that the reader can latch onto when reading. Try brainstorming some of your own phrases that would sound silly when repeated and try writing a group story using them as the ‘hook’!

As you can see, I have a lot of fun teaching my students how to write. I enjoy reading the things they come up with. And I love seeing how they develop as writers. Do you have a subject that you’re super passionate about teaching? Share what it is in the comments below!






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