Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Not So Ordinary Mentor Text

Summer always seems to get away from me.  I have been doing so much reading and planning to prepare for my new role as a Literacy/Instructional Coach that I let my blogging slip a little. (Insert the sound of me slapping my own hand here.)  It wasn't until I saw Kelly Gallagher again last week in Madison that I was reminded of this incomplete entry. What I am about to propose is a great way to start students off writing small pieces right from the beginning of the school year. Not to mention, an excellent opportunity to get to know your students and have them get to know you!

Every time I get the opportunity to listen to Kelly Gallagher, I come home with a whole new batch of ideas.  [Two things I love most in life--Kelly Gallagher (one of my many professional crushes) and a "whole new batch of ideas."] When I had the chance to hear him at WSRA last February, he had recommended some great titles to use as mentor texts to model writing with students.  One of the books, Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal was particularly intriguing. It is a pseudo-memoir of her life--organized alphabetically by topic.  She also places some of her life tid-bits into charts, graphs, and even bubbles of random memories.  For the low, low, price of $.01, I was able to order a used copy from $3.99 for shipping and handling. Using sections of her book to model, I quickly learned that the results were anything but ordinary. However, I recommend reviewing the book and pulling out parts to use in advance as there are some that may be considered inappropriate for middle school students. Overall, though, the concept is a good one and can be used in both middle and high school.

After spending time with Mr. Gallagher, one begins to find she starts to read everything a little bit differently.  The fact that I am constantly finding sections of text that I want to use to emulate with my students can be quite distracting.  I just never read anything the same anymore.  I subscribe to People magazine and noticed a fun column usually found in the last pages of every issue.  It is entitled "One Last Thing" in which they ask a celebrity to answer the "last thing" about 5 topics. (The last thing I texted...The last time meal I cooked...etc.) I started collecting this page from every issue I receive.  We used the copies I had provided in class to compile a list together of topics as well as add some of our own! It became another model that I emulated and incorporated with the activities I used from the Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. My students then used this to practice writing about themselves in small anecdotes that qualify as narrative writing. 

I have included a Flickr slide show of some of the texts I used to model from, some of my own examples--which I completed right in front of my classes--and, of course, some student examples.

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