Walk Around in the Author’s Syntax...

Nov 5, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Sentence fluency; conventions Mentor Text Suggestions: The Whale’s Song by Dyan Sheldon Crab Moon by Ruth Horowitz Shortcut by Donald Crews Description: This strategy, described in Mentor Texts by Dorfman and Cappelli, is an effective way to help students try out a variety of sentence structures and help them begin to internalize language conventions. Lift an excerpt from a text such as the example below from Shortcut by Donald Crews: I HEAR A TRAIN!” Everybody stopped. Everybody listened. We all heard the train whistle. Should we run ahead to the path home or back to the cut-off? Read the passage aloud several times so that students can hear the rhythm of the text. After discussing what they noticed, have students participate in a shared writing experience. Give them the beginning sentence and...

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Show, Don’t Tell

Nov 4, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: Ways with words; creating mind pictures for the reader Mentor Text Suggestions: Night Noises by Mem Fox Widget by Lyn Rossiter McFarland The Painter by Peter Catalanotto Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes Description: Mark Twain said, “Don’t say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream.” In other words, show, don’t tell the reader what is happening. Instead of telling the reader that the character is happy, excited, angry, or scared, the writer should show it. When reading aloud picture books to students, look for examples where the author shows rather than tells. For example, in Night Noises by Mem Fox, instead of telling the reader that Lily Laceby is old, Fox shows us: “Her hair was as wispy as cobwebs in ceilings. Her bones were as creaky as floorboards at midnight.” These...

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Paint a Picture

Nov 3, 2009 by

  Writing Trait/Strategy: Word Choice; Sentence Fluency Mentor Text Suggestions: Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse The Storm Book by Charlotte Zolotow Twilight Comes Twice by Ralph Fletcher White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan Description: To introduce this technique, select a picture of something from a catalog or magazine. Without showing it to the students, tell them that you have a picture of an “amazing car”, “a cute puppy,” “an awesome bicycle,” or whatever. Ask students to form a mental image of it and then draw a picture of it. If they ask for more details, give them adjectives like neat, great, fantastic, delicious. After giving them time to draw, show them the actual picture and compare. Students will realize that you did not give...

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Be Specific

Nov 2, 2009 by

Mentor Text Suggestions: Beach by Elisha Cooper Bigmama’s by Donald Crews Outside, Inside by Carolyn Crimi In the Tall, Tall Grass by Denise Fleming Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse  by Kevin Henkes Bunny Cakes  by Rosemary Wells Description: One way to dramatically improve student writing is to teach them about specificity of nouns and verbs. Many students have been taught that adding adjective makes writing more descriptive. The truth is, stronger nouns and verbs hold the secret to better descriptive writing. “Verbs are the engines of sentences. The more specific the verb, the more energy and specificity the sentence will have.” –Georgia Heard, The Revision Toolbox “Verbs are the most important of all your tools. They push the sentence forward and give it momentum…flail, poke, dazzle, squash, beguile, pamper, swagger, wheedle, vex.” –William Zinssner, On Writing...

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Using Color

Nov 2, 2009 by

Writing Trait/Strategy: word choice; sentence fluency Mentor Text Suggestions: Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill White is for Blueberry by George Shannon Color Me a Rhyme: Nature Poems for Young People by Jane Yolen My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss A Color of His Own by Leo Lionni Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra and Myles Pinkney A Rainbow All Around by Sandra and Myles Pinkney The Black Book of Colors by Menena Cottin Description: Color is a tool used by writers to enhance their descriptive writing and create mind pictures for the reader. The mentor texts listed above can be used to show students how different authors use the concept of color to develop their ideas. We can even have students borrow the structure of these books...

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