This year our 1st grade team has transitioned to using Mentor Texts to teach and guide students through our writing genres. It’s my first year knee-deep in mentor texts and I am in love! Narrative Writing mentor texts offer students a ‘real’ perspective on a genre and give students a ‘real’ author to model. Making writing concrete is a priority for me and mentor texts help me do this.
Storing & Organizing Mentor Texts
In October we wrapped-up our Narrative Writing unit, and I wanted to share with you some of our favorite narrative writing mentor texts (with Amazon Affiliate links for easy shopping). I pull my mentor texts for the unit, and place them in a book bin above my desk until we read them as a class. Once we’ve read the mentor text, it goes on our classroom bookshelf for students to re-read and use in their own writing.
A Growing Anchor Chart
As we read each of our mentor texts, our class creates an Anchor Chart. On the chart, we include what we could learn from the author/what the author did really well, as well as, how the story made us feel. I chose “feelings” for narrative writing because I wanted students to know that narratives don’t always have to be exciting and upbeat. Narratives can also be suspenseful, scary, or sad. Writing has power, and intentional teaching helps students see this power.
When students write and when students share writing with the class, we love pointing out which authors the friend is becoming – “Oh, I love how Jon used dialogue in his narrative just like Bob Graham in Roller Coaster!” “Pat did a great job of including 5-sense details when writing about the hospital just like Julie Brinckloe in Fireflies.”
Generating Writing Ideas
Our first writing unit is Narrative Writing and our first mini-lesson was all about “What do I write about?” I was introduced to Ralph Tells a Story through Instagram and will forever use it. Ralph is an adorable little boy who has zero writing ideas. He does all kinds of things to avoid writing – breaking pencils, using the bathroom, helping friends, getting drinks of water, etc. Then, with the help of his friends and a push from his teacher, Ralph learns that stories have been all around him the whole time! It’s precious, hilarious, and hit home for so many of my littles.
Then, during our writing mini-lesson, using a pre-cut heart, we brainstormed stories that are all around us. As students shared their story ideas, I wrote their ideas and quickly included a picture. Not all of my friends are readers yet, so we definitely need picture supports right now!
Zooming Into Small Moments
After a few minutes of hands-on zooming-in practice, we used the Mentor Text Roller Coaster to see how a famous author zooms into a story. This is a *PERFECT* text for small moments. Marla Frazee takes the reader all through the roller-coaster process (waiting in line, seeing the carts arrive, getting nervous and wanting to leave, being buckled in, etc.). Plus, she uses some great text/writing features that students love to emulate – using dashes to stretch out words, using CAPITAL letters to place emphasis on words, using sound words.
As a teacher, these are all features I pointed out as we read. I would write examples on the board and as a class, we practiced reading these phrases with and without those special features. What a difference they make!
This friend loved the sound words and the starching of words that Marla Frazee used in Roller Coaster and couldn’t wait to include them in his swing narrative. You’ll notice the swing going w-a-a-y too high and the SWOOSH of the wind.
The Shortcut is a very simple narrative and very accessible to students. My 1st graders could relate to the group of friends, loved how the author built suspense, and loved the predictable train sounds. Plus, the author (Mr. Crews) throws us into the action, which was a just-right skill for us!
This friends loved the idea of starting the action right away and wrote about our Place Value Bootcamp experience.
Sgt. W came in yelling at us. “Get in your places!” Sgt. W made me do ten pushups. We felt tired…really, really tired. I am three times sure that it was Ms. W not Sgt. W. I am still asking my Mom why she signed me up.
With mentor texts, I love seeing my friends make us parts of the original text in their own writing. Before we publish a piece, we are careful about changing out these parts but for many students it’s a just-right starting place. You’ll notice this friend loved the suspense that the first page created with shorter sentences. (Note – this was a very first draft and we have not looked at punctuation – ha!)
“Let’s Get a Pup!” said Kate is the text I chose for highlight dialogue-use in narratives. Although many other narratives could be used, I love Pup because it is written mainly in quotation marks. It recounts the story of Kate and her family going to the animal shelter and eventually having two new dogs in their home!
After a quick video from BrainPop on dialogue, my friends were ALL about quotation marks. Pretty soon our stories were launching with quotation marks, our word work sentences were littered with quotation marks, and we were even rocking the air quotes during daily conversations. #blessthem
Adding Sensory Details
Fireflies is the perfect text to talk about why zooming in matters. After reading the book, our class wrote what the story would sound like if we didn’t zoom-in. “I was eating dinner. Then, I got a jar and went outside. We all caught fireflies. Then, it was time for bed. Before they died, I opened the jar and let the fireflies go.” <insert 1st Grade GASP> My friends all agreed that this was not nearly as wonderful of a story as the one Ms. Brincklow wrote. We read it again, this time with our eyes closed, so we could make a picture in our mind.
Below is a page from a five-page narrative about a friend’s trip touring a navy ship. Words in parentheses are sounds from the ship.
Katie King (Queen of the 1st Grade Jungle) also highly recommended Saturdays and Teacakes. Oh friends, all the tears. This is one of the most poignant memoirs I have read and it was truly a special moment in our classroom. Recounting a Saturday routine full of special moments between a Grandma and her grandson. As my sweet L said after reading it, “Ms. W, my heart feels really full writing now.”
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