Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Back to the Mentor Texts

Since my last post, we have been building our schema around the early people of Colorado and analyzing feature articles as a way of sharing interesting information. Approaching this unit of writing through the lens of inquiry has allowed my students to recognize the authenticity of what we are doing, as well as become really engaged. Students naturally began to determine what characteristics feature articles possess as well as decision authors of features articles make. Yay!

As pleased as I was, I once again felt stuck. I knew we needed to 'write under the influence', but I didn't feel like we had 'closely studied' a mentor text to improve our own writing. After grappling with this for days, Michelle, helped me navigate my next steps. In talking with her I realized that our room is already full of mentor texts. Instead of looking at an entire piece, I've decided to use many different mentor texts to highlight different aspects of feature articles. For example, I have chosen a few articles with great leads that hook the readers. I'm also planning on finding a piece full of details and content specific vocabulary to compare to our own work. Do we as authors sound like experts on this topic?

Once again, as I type this it all seems so simple, but it's easy to get lost in the big picture. As I said in my last post, I'm following Katie Wood Ray's lens of inquiry, and I was getting caught up between two stages. When in the 'close study' stage I knew I wanted to purposefully use mentor articles but in my classroom I felt like we were ready to 'write under the influence'. I've come to the conclusion it will be more purposeful for my students (& myself) to closely look at mentor texts as we are writing. So, we're going to bounce back and forth between the two stages. Write a little, go back and analyze mentor text, write some more, look at more mentors, revise, write some more...

This was my big realization. In order for our mentor texts to be purposeful I need students to jump in and begin writing. Then, we can go back to the mentor texts as tools to help us. In past units, I think I've been caught up in finding the 'just right' text and using it/them at the 'just right' time. It's going to be a messy process, but we have a strong start. I feel like I'm growing in my understanding of mentor texts, and now, the hope is we will see an impact on my student's writing.


  1. Jamie, I like the idea of studying the mentor text and then writing, studying the mentor text and then writing. When the writing occurs, is it independent writing, are you writing a piece together, or perhaps just modeling the writing for students?

  2. Colleen,the writing has been a little bit of everything. I've been modeling my own writing for students, and they've been independently writing their own pieces. Through conferring, I was able to pull student's work to use to highlight different crafts and skills. That was actually one of the most powerful pieces for me. Students like looking at other student's work way better than mine!