What do these have in common?
Golden Girls theme song,
Literary giants: Ken & Yetta Goodman, Jerry Harste, Donalyn Miller, Reba M Wadsworth, Katie Wood Ray
Authors: Ezra Jack Keats, Abby Hanlon, Cindy Ward, Linda Oatman High, Meg Kearney, Julie Brinckloe, Leo Lionni
Books: Ralph Tells a Story, Apt. 3, Cookie’s Week, Beekeepers, Trouper, Fireflies, Fish is Fish
Peeks / Previews: Three Hens and a Peacock, Moving Day, The Leaving Morning, Snow Day!
The number of books by Eza Jack Keats with Peter as a main character? (7)
What do they have in common? Lester!
(Lester Laminack – In case you know multiple Lesters!)
Where was I?
. . . In a land where learners were not to raise their hands to garner attention but were still expected to LEARN.
. . . In a land where KIDS were first and foremost.
. . . In a land where adults were mesmerized by storytelling.
. . . In a land where “Movie Reads” (AKA first reads) were like gold.
. . . In a land where “sitting perfectly still” was NOT required.
. . . In a land where THINKING was required (not optional)!
. . . In a land where conversation is buzzing about a Summer Read Aloud Festival!
But what did I learn?
And how am I going to use it?
Well, the content in this book is SOOOOO insightful!
Reading and writing are reciprocal skills, or as Lester says “opposite sides of the same coin”. This book is about more than just mentor texts because it answers the question “WHY do we need to study and use texts?” As an example, Lester recited the opening lead from Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge.
“There was once a small boy called Wilfrid Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what’s more he wasn’t very old either. His house was next door to an old people’s home and he knew all the people who lived there.
He liked Mrs. Jordan who played the organ. He listened to Mr. Hosking who told him scary stories. He played with Mr. Tippettt who was crazy about cricket. He ran errands for Miss Mitchell who walked with a wooden stick.He admired Mr. Drysdale who had a voice like a giant. But his favourite person of all was Miss Nancy. Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper because she had four names just as he did.”
Not just a “party trick”
Instead this was a demonstration of the power of a well-crafted text when the lead was incredibly effective. When do leads work? When do they not work? Teachers need a deep understanding of leads as both a reader and writer. Using Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge as a mentor text might have students imitate the beginning in their own text. But how would a teacher REALLY know that any one student or the whole class really had a deep understanding of what they read or wrote?
AHHH! . . .
So the goal is NOT to just write a lead like Mem Fox’s!
Not just imitation!
So then what is the purpose of using mentor texts?
There are several purposes, but it’s not just about “copying a craft move” into personal writing. Using a mentor text is about studying and loving that text as a reader in order to fully understand and appreciate the care and attention that the writer has given to the work. The “depth” of the qualities of the literature allow for multiple rereads or visits to the text in order to both admire and study the words, paragraphs and story. It’s the reason that the literature may transcend time and cause us to revisit an “old friend”.
Using mentor texts is also not about just reading one text and then turning around and using that text as a model for an “activity” that involves writing. True workshop writing means writing day after day, developing, growing and naming those moves discovered from reading that are now a part of writing craft. But that takes time and study – multiple books, multiple reads, talk, and thinking. Not just being told in a mini-lesson to “Do this!”
What does that sequence look like?
Lester Laminack said it begins with a “Movie Read” of a carefully chosen “Best Friend” book. A book that the reader loses himself/herself in and becomes a part of the story. A book that students must hear the whole book!
Then parts of the book may be revisited with students asking questions. Students may go in search of other examples . . . text structures, meaning, story elements . . . but moving beyond a surface look to a deep study involves time, purpose and attention to how reading the book enriches one’s own life. Reading, talking and thinking!
It’s not a new book every day. It’s a planned, deliberate sequence that ends with students being able to revise and improve upon a description or substitute a “telling” for an inference. It’s work but yet it’s fun without artificial motivation (punishments?) because students have stories they are bursting to tell and real audiences who can’t wait to unwrap those stories.
As teachers, we need to be more planful in our use of Read Alouds. We need to carefully study the texts and consider how they can inform our instruction. Use precise language. Check in on students’ schema and background knowledge. Don’t stop when students have cows with “fish bodies”!
Read! Write! Think!
Be true to students and their needs!
K – I – D – S!
Videos of Lester and Reba talking about their book here.
Tweets from the @IowaASCD #Fallinstitute2015 are archived here.
(First draft / Round One of my thinking from a day with Lester Laminack!)