I had so much fun sharing my innovations with you. I actually learned about the concept of mentor texts and genre studies from a Katie Wood Ray workshop I attended several years ago. She inspired me to create a mentor basket of books to help teach writing workshop. Using the mentor texts to teach craft and structure has made such a difference.
I’ve grouped all of my reading and writing workshop units into genres, which I’ve blogged about before. My favorite unit is the fantasy one. We read and write fantasy for nearly four weeks to produce our own picture books. As we read a variety of fantasy picture books, my students really get it! By the time they’re ready to write their own books, the ideas are flowing and they don’t want to stop when time is up each day. If you’re having trouble with writing workshop, I would recommend genre studies 1000%. You can purchase a copy of my fantasy unit in my store to get you started if you need to. After I taught a few genre studies, it was so much easier to plan future ones.
I also learned to weave craft lessons into writing workshop using the mentor books. For example, I use Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel to teach word choice. I usually pull my students back to our meeting area to read the book and do a short lesson. After that, they are off and writing extensions at their desks. The best part is the transfer of these lessons to students’ every day writing. Again, I have craft writing units using mentor texts in my store if you need some to get you started.
Gathering mentor books can take some time (and money!), but you can always borrow them from your library at first. After I figured out which books were my favorites and worked best for our room, I purchased copies so I’d always have them nearby for quick reference during conferences. Be careful though, hunting for mentor books is addicting and I’m always on the look out for more!
You can grab a copy of my mentor book spreadsheet. What are some of your favorite mentor books and how do you use them?
These are some of my favorite writing resources for teachers. They are all on my bookshelf with sticky notes sticking out. That’s the sign of a good book to me!