Everyone in this world has a favorite place. Some people tend to stay at their workplaces and some people like to spend time at restaurants, but I an introvert and I mostly like to spend time at my home. I love my house and my favorite room in my house is my bedroom. My bedroom is on the first floor of my house and it is a very beautiful room.
I spend most of time in my bedroom. The first thing is that I sleep in my bedroom, so it is the place which gives me the ultimate relaxation. I also like to watch movies in my room. Some people like to watch movies in their living room but I think otherwise. I want privacy and my bedroom is the only place where I can get it. There is no noise, no disturbance. My friends also like my room and whenever they come to my house they prefer to sit in my room.
We all have those favorite books (or poems or short stories) we absolutely love to read out loud with our students. When I start discussing mentor texts at my teacher workshops, I always like to ask my participants, "What are your best read-alouds? What author's words do you bring to life best?" Teachers love to share the story titles that captivate their students the most. I usually have to pry teachers away from that discussion question with a metaphorical crow-bar so we can proceed with the training, and this always reminds me of some true facts. True Fact #1: Teachers like to talk about their favorite texts to read. True Fact #2: Students like to be asked to write stories, poems, and responses based on something the teacher loves to read; they'd much rather do that than find inspiration in something the teacher doesn't enjoy sharing: like any five-paragraph essay, just to throw an example into the ring.
In 2006, when I made the decision to learn even more about mentor texts and how they affected my writing instruction, I spread out 15-20 of my very favorite mentor texts from my very best writing lessons on the carpet in front of my bookshelf. In Language Arts, I require my students do "sorts" all the time with words and sentences and quotes, and so I was immediately inspired to attempt to sort my mentor texts in an interesting way. I sorted them first by genre. I sorted them next by reading level. Neither of these sorts did much to challenge my thinking. However, when I asked myself, "How are you specifically using these mentor texts to teach writing?" something really interesting happened. I made a discovery that became very meaningful to me. The sort I ended up doing showed me that I had three distinctly different ways I was using mentor texts to inspire student writing. I was using some of my texts as idea mentor texts, some as structure mentor texts, and others as craft mentor texts. You can read about these three different categories I created by viewing the PowerPoint slideshow, which you can freely download at our or by clicking on the picture of my opening slide, which is at right. In my PowerPoint slides, I define each category, and I share a purposefully diverse selection of mentor texts that I have personally used while designing writing instruction to 3rd-12th grade writers. When I present to teachers about mentor texts, I explain how it's the writing task I have students complete after being exposed to the text that determines in which category I place the text. This is a pretty important concept to understand before you can start sharpening your own use of mentor texts, and so it deserves the discussion I set aside for it at my trainings. I usually place a pile of possible mentor texts at each table in the training room, and my participants like to sort them once they watch the Powerpoint. They discover that the same mentor texts can be used to teach a variety of things.
We read Julius Caesar that year (still one of my favorite plays of all time, by the way!), and even back than I found it to be a wonderful, character-driven drama; I mostly loved the character of Cassius, and I re-read his dialogue carefully, trying to understand his rhetorical strategies as he convinced Brutus to kill his friend--Caesar--for the good of the government. As we got deeper into the play, I wanted to write about Cassius and Brutus during those 10-20 minutes we were given for our journals, but I couldn't; instead, I was forced to write to our teacher's prompts, which sounded something like --"Do you believe in prophecy? Why or why not? If so, what convinced you? If not, what would change your mind?" See, my tenth grade teacher wanted us to focus in on the famous quotes from the play, like "Beware the Ides of March," which explains the type of journal prompts he was giving us. My teacher wanted us to write quietly, then he wanted to share all of his own personal stories about why he kind of believed in prophecy. I had no problem discussing his area of interest from the play--prophecy--, but years later I can't help but think that we could have had some much richer whole-class, socratic seminars--or heck, even just informal discussions--if we had a choice to a) respond to the teacher's prompt, or to b) explore a different literature-based idea that we could bring to the table based on what we were finding interesting in the literature. How hard would giving us a choice have been for him? What always struck me as the most interesting thing about that teacher's Julius Caesar unit was that everyone in my class was assigned the exact same essay topic as our summative assessment to the unit; it was something like, "How do the dreams of men and the idea of prophecy shape our thinking about the future?" I wrote a lackluster essay, I'm sure, because I didn't care about that topic; now, had he allowed me to write about Cassius and his persuasive skills, I would have given him a killer essay. I truly would have.
One of my favorite poems is Judy Brown's "." I discuss Brown's poem with my students every year near the beginning. In the poem, she talks about the importance of keeping "space" between logs in order to maximize a fire's growth potential. My philosophy behind my writer's notebook and SWT routines is simple: Standards require that I pile a lot of "logs" on my students' academic plates, and our ten daily minutes of Sacred Writing Time is there chance to make some space between those logs. With ten simple minutes of daily "space," my students' fires blaze--even when we're working on writing that's less fun than the writing we do in our notebooks.
I am so lucky to work on a team of educators who all make use of this little gem of a book. There are 51 fun ideas inside that help students write about non-fiction topics in their own words. My science colleague, my math colleague, and my history colleague all have their favorites lessons from this collection.
Sometimes a page from a student shines with creativity. I store some of my favorite creative ideas at this Pinterest Board. I also store students' notebook metaphors here.
Happy Friday, friends! I’m writing this post in the car riding up to my Happy Place, so it being a Friday Favorite post is totally fitting. To top it off, it’s our very first official cabin weekend of the summer — one we’re extending for four days because of our 24th wedding anniversary on Monday […]
Purplicious was Maya’s pick and a new one to me, as Maya snuggled next to me on the sofa and proudly read aloud every word, about our heroine who loves pink but is tormented by a group of girls at school who only wear black. Alas, it was about girls and what they wore, and how their wardrobe choices defined their identities. But after Maya closed the final page, I steered the conversation to the deeper issues in the book: mean girls and peer pressure and not going along with the group. I told her my favorite color in the world is green, because I love nature, and she was down with that.
I now teach my students that great final drafts begin in well-maintained and thoughtful writer's notebooks; the process of taking a good or original idea from a writer's notebook entry to a revised and edited final draft is exactly what I try to model for my students. When time permits, I very much enjoy writing right alongside my students; when time doesn't permit, I recycle papers I had written in previous years, and I am thankful that I thought to save all my steps of the process. Here are three papers I can recycle because I took the time to save all my steps of the writing process. I share mine here, hoping teachers are inspired by my lead to begin doing the same with their own favorite writing assignments. We maintain a positive writing environment in my classroom because--quite frankly--I participate too.
This. Is. AWESOME. I am the eldest of four children and my 8 year old sister loves nothing more than to devour a book. She has a better vocabulary than half of the people in my college classes, and really couldn’t give less of a hoot about what other people think. I wrote my college application essay about how her gallantry through her celiac disease inspires me, but she has shown me so much more than that. Elli represents the person I wish I could have been 12 years ago. My life would have been so much different if I had her confidence and bravery at her age. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to help foster her sense of self-worth, and I could not be more proud of her. Thank you Latina, for reminding us that every interaction with a child matters, no matter how short.
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