It is Sunday and I am just in time to link up with my BBB's at Collaboration Cuties for their Mentor Text linky!!
This week's topic is back to school mentor texts!
Last year I used the book Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes for the first time when working on building writing stamina at the beginning of the year. The students really got into it because what nine year old doesn't like to talk about their name?
Amazon.com review: Until Chrysanthemum started kindergarten, she believed her parents when they said her name was perfect. But on the first day of school, Chrysanthemum begins to suspect that her name is far less than perfect, especially when her class dissolves into giggles upon hearing her name read aloud. That evening, Chrysanthemum's parents try to piece her self-esteem back together again with comfort food and a night filled "with hugs, kisses, and Parcheesi." But the next day Victoria, a particularly observant and mean-spirited classmate, announces that Chrysanthemum's name takes up 13 letters. "That's half the letters in the alphabet!" she adds. Chrysanthemum wilts. Pretty soon the girls are making playground threats to "pluck" Chrysanthemum and "smell her."
Kevin Henkes has great compassion for the victims of childhood teasing and cruelties--using fresh language, endearing pen-and-ink mouse characters, and realistic dialogue to portray real-life vulnerability. He also has great compassion for parents, offering several adult-humor jokes for anxious mommies and daddies. On the surface, the finale is overly tidy and the coincidences unbelievable. But in the end, what sustains Chrysanthemum, as well as this story, is the steadfast love and support of her family. And because of this, the closure is ultimately convincing and utterly comforting. ALA Notable Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Horn Book Fanfare Honor List. (Ages 4 to 8) --Gail Hudson
In addition to the writing stamina activity that I used last year (discussed below), this book would be great for the beginning of the year when discussing classroom expectations and how we treat our classmates!
I read about using this mentor in the Notebook Know-How by Aimee Buckner (pgs. 15-16).
I downloaded these handouts to use with the writing about your name strategy from Super Pig and Tyrant King. Click here to get her handouts.
My experience last fall using this activity: First, I had students complete the first worksheet in class. Then, I assigned the "Investigating My Name Interview" for homework to interview a parent/guardian. The next day, without discussing the "Work on Writing" rules, I had students free write for a few minutes about their name in their first journal entry. I told them that they could write anything. Ready, set, go! I was curious how the students would handle work on writing. I have the top third of the 4th graders in my class. So, the first student raised their hand immediately. I walked over to this bright student and he asked me, "What am I supposed to write about my name?". I replied, "Anything you want. You have a lot of information."
Next, a student raised his hand and said, "I'm done." This was after writing two sentences.
This was a great learning experience for me to see where the students are in their writing stamina. We have already began Read to Self and made an anchor chart, modeled the correct/incorrect behaviors and have been working on stamina (they only lasted 2 min. 30 sec. the first time we tried it...and these are the top readers in the grade!).
We discussed the percentage of time spent working on reading vs. working on writing since they were young. Most students agreed that it was about 80% reading and 20% writing. They really have had very little practice writing about a topic freely. Their name (how they got it, how they feel about it, etc.) is something they should be able to write about for 5 minutes, especially after interviewing their parents the night before! I mean, they had the worksheets right on their desk and students were "done" without including any of the information they learned about their name!
After discussing the Work on Writing expectations and why we need to practice writing freely, the students did a much better job the next time with their stamina and there were no more hands in the air. They wrote for an additional 10 minutes about their name.
Looking back at this journal entry from September now really is encouraging! The students grew so much as writers throughout the year. Wow!! Back to school will be coming quickly and we will all have another set of kiddos to transform in about 9 months:) Are teachers amazing or what?!? :)
Be sure to check back at Collaboration Cuties for all the other back to school mentor text ideas!