Friday, May 4, 2012

The Power of Using Mentor Texts in Writing Workshop

Each year I work hard at collecting and providing my students with multiple mentor texts for each unit of study in writing workshop.  At the beginning of each unit, we immerse ourselves in the collected mentor texts to analyze the structure of the genre or type of writing and the craft of the student/published authors.  Then students choose which mentor text(s) they want to personally use to help them with their writing pieces throughout the unit.  I also have two crates full of copies of mentor texts that we use throughout the year that students can access at any point to help them with their writing. 

At this time of the year, we are given a choice as teachers as to which unit of study we will focus on for the last month of school.  With the help of one of my teammates, we decided to give students a choice about what genre/type of writing they would like to focus on and explore as writers for the remainder of the school year.  I loved this idea – thanks Heather! 
This week I introduced the unit to my writers and explained the different options and choices they had such as:
·     Writing fiction (short stories, picture book, chapter book)
·     Turning a picture book into a play and writing the script
·     Writing articles (feature articles, editorials, working on a group newspaper or magazine)

The students were so excited and even some of my reluctant writers could not wait to start writing each day this week.  Although my students always have choice in writing workshop and can choose their topics at all times, they are restricted by the genre or type of writing we focus on in each unit of study.  So you can imagine their excitement when they could choose the genre!
Some of our favorite quotes this week from students, who used to be reluctant writers, are:
·   “We aren’t going to have enough time for writing.”
·   “Please can we just go off and write.”

These quotes show how students who used to avoid writing at the beginning of the year and come up with as many excuses as they could to not write, are now enjoying writing and can’t wait to write! I love seeing this transformation in students!

Since I always begin units of study by immersing ourselves in mentor texts, I had the students collect their own mentor texts this week according to the genre/type of writing they chose.  It was amazing to watch this collection in progress as they sifted through picture books, newspaper articles, online articles, and magazines to select their mentor texts. 

Today I had students share their mentor texts and explain how mentor texts help them as writers. 
This is what some of my students shared:
·     Reminds me to zoom in on one small moment.
·     Give me inspiration and ideas for the genre.
·     Gives me a visual idea.
·     Helps me revise my planning and ideas.
·     Inspires me by making a personal connection.
·     Teaches me the structure and layout of the genre.
·     Teaches me how to take into account different perspectives and points of view

I love to see that my students have internalized the importance of mentor texts and how they can truly help in many ways during the writing process.  I’d love to hear other ways you are using mentor texts in your classroom so please share!  

Happy Writing! :)

1 comment:

  1. I love this! This is how I teach my units of study. Following Katie Ray's writing cycle which includes immersing in text before we start writing. I have never tried having them find their own mentor text and sharing how it helped; sounds like it might be interesting and powerful :)