WritingFix: Our Mentor Texts of the Year a network that shares ideas for using great texts about the topic: what writers do
What's a MTotY? Occasionally a well-written mentor text addresses a topic we're quite fond of here at WritingFix: how do you write like a real author. A mentor text that explores this important theme deserves to be brought out again and again (and again) during the same school year. An enjoyable book about the craft of writing is a true treasure because it can continue to inspire good writing with each sharing! Each year, our Mentor Texts of the Year project selects two complementary books that share advice on writing from published and popular authors.
Share how our chosen Mentor Texts inspire a lesson! Teachers users of WritingFix are invited to obtain either or both texts, incorporate them into a writing lesson or two (or ten!), and share how they used the books with us. Our favorite ideas submitted to our webpage will be published here at WritingFix, and teachers whose lesson andd prompts are published will be sent a complimentary copy of one of the Northern Nevada Writing Project's Print Publications.
Join Us at our Ning if you Plan on Sharing. Each year, we hope teachers will consider sharing any of the following with us by posting them (as simple write-ups or as attachments) at our Improving Showing Skills Interest Group at our Ning.
Activity write-ups inspired by the mentor text(s) of the year; here's an examplewrite-up inspired by 2009's Mentor Texts of the Year.
Complete lessons inspired by the mentor text(s) of the year; here's an example lesson inspired by 2010's Mentor Texts of the Year.
Original handouts, overheads, or posters created to complement the mentor text of the year's presence in your classroom; here's an example poster inspired by 2009's Mentor Texts of the Year.
Student writing samples (typed or photographed) inspired by using the mentor text(s) of the year; here are some student writing samples inspired by 2008's Mentor Texts of the Year..
Both mentor texts of the year are easy and fast to read, they both have excerpts that are worth sharing out loud in class, and they could easily find their way into a piece of instruction that's worth sharing back with our website. This page of resources is set-up to be a network. We hope you're inspired to share; we do send NNWP Print Guides to the teachers who sent us our favorite ideas!
And...If you'd like a hand in helping us select the MTotY for the 2012-13 school year, anytime is a good time to nominate texts. Click here to see texts that have already been nominated.
Our 2011-2012 Theme: Showing Skills: Combining Voice & Idea Development Techniques
This page changes themes every school year with our selection of two new Mentor Texts of the Year.
This year, our theme is "The Year of Idea Development & Voice Skills." Our goal is for us and for our teacher users to discover and share new ways to encourage student writers to use showing skills for narrative, informative, and persuasive assignments.
If you are interested in using showing skills to to help students improve the writing they do, then join us! This page is built by teachers' suggestions, and we want yours to be a part of this growing online collection!
The Mentor Texts of the Year for the 2011-2012 School Year!
We're very excited to be announcing our MTotY theme and mentor text titles for the upcoming school year. In September of 2011, we'll be launching our "Year of Idea Development & Voice Skills," and our two chosen texts very much focus on this theme. When idea development skills and voice skills come together, students learn to show their writing. This next year, we want all students to learn better showing skills--for narrative writing, for expository writing, for persuasive writing. We'll be hosting local workshops for Nevada teachers, and we want teachers outside of Nevada to participate with us! If you would like to work on these ideas too, please know that we're going to be publishing ideas all year long at WritingFix, and if you send us inspirations based on our theme of the year, you might earn a copy of the NNWP's newest print guide: The "Show Me Your Story" Guide.
Mentor Text #1: Because of past success, we have decided to continue celebrating the simply-put-yet-profound advice of author Ralph Fletcher; this is the third year in a row we've featured one of his books in this annual program of ours. This year, we will be studying the ideas he shares in Live Writing: Breathing Life into your Words. Like the previous two Fletcher books we've focused on, this little gem of a book is perfect to not only quote during your already-created mini-lessons, but its chapters can also easily help you make brand new lessons to inspire your writers. We will be quoting Live Writing with every Lesson of the Month, starting in September. We hope you trust us that this is a great book for your classroom bookshelf, and having a copy of it next year will further inspire you to try our lessons of the month with your students. At $5.99 from Amazon, you can probably afford to have several copies of this book on hand.
Mentor Text #2: This second mentor text is a bit more expensive than Live Writing, but it comes with several interactive features that make it worth the extra few dollars. Show, Don't Tell: Secrets of Writing by Josephine Nobisso speaks directly to student authors, providing strong examples of what an author thinks about when he/she wants to paint images on the reader's mind. To help readers understand the value of using sensory details, the mentor texts comes with things to touch, with sound effects, and with scratch-n-sniff stickers; this is why the book is a bit more expensive than most picture books. Like a more fragile pop-up book, you'll want to keep this book safe, but you'll want to bring it out and share from it often. Its advice is just that good. As is our tradition here at the Mentor Text of the Year Program, our September lesson will be based on this book. So...some time this summer, you might want to secure yourself a copy of it.
As always, if you use our links above to purchase either or both books from Amazon, WritingFix receives a small percentage of the sale. It's this small percentage that is keeping WritingFix lessons free to access and use, so thank you in advance, if you choose to purchase the MTotYs from Amazon through this page. You're really helping us out during this scary era for educational budgets.
Freely-Posted Lessons and Ideas from Teacher's Based on these Two Mentor Texts:
inspired by Live Writing: Breathing Life into your Words
In September of 2010, we began a nine-month study of Writer's Notebooks as a pre-writing tool. The two mentor texts we chose perfectly complemented each other; the first gave advice from a real author of the writer's notebook, the second provided a model of what a writer's notebook can be. Here in Northern Nevada, we help an inservice workshop and gave out 30 copies of each of these books.
2010-2011's MTotY: Our "Year of Writer's Notebooks"
Ralph Fletcher's A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer in You offers sound advice (from a real author) to student writers on a great topic: keeping a notebook of ideas for future writing assignments. If you use a writer's workshop or have students keep portfolios and don't own this book, well, all we can say is, "Oops!" Fletcher's book is strategically designed to inspire the kind of writing students do when work-shopping on designated days class. Add it to your classroom bookshelf if you have a writer's workshop system! Trust us...
And Amelia's Notebook by Marissa Moss, prominently displayed in your classroom chalk tray at all times, is a perfect tool for reminding students how creative and personal a writers notebook can and should be. Author Marissa Moss has created a wonderful book, story, and tool that will inspire your writers to collect their thoughts in a notebook. The book also shows how voice is very important in notebook writing. And it provides ideas for topics. The fact that it looks like a notebook written in a composition book is pure genius on the author's part
These are the two titles that we will be accepting lessons, activity write-ups, and inspired student samples for all year long, starting in August 2010. If you've ever wanted to have a copy of any of the NNWP Publications for your classroom, remember that we give away complimentary copies of those guides to teachers who send us their original lesson ideas inspired by the mentor text of the year. Between now and August, we invite teachers to start looking at both titles and thinking of how you could use it as a mentor text when inspiring your students!
The MTotY Authors Weigh in
I could offer some new thoughts on the writer's notebook. These two thoughts aren't exactly connected, but here goes.
I see a tendency for teachers to direct students to use the notebook in a particular way. While I understand this, I would caution against turning the writer's notebook into a teacher-directed workbook. To the extent that the notebook becomes our thing, it loses power for the students. Somehow, some way, students must feel that they own their writers notebooks.
I am very interested finding better ways to engage boy writers. If we emphasize the notebook as a place to pour out deep feelings, well, boys may not resonate with that. However, boys are collectors. (Girls are often collectors, too.) I have had good luck "selling" the notebook to boys as a place to collect stuff. That seems to make sense to them.
I'm impressed by your website and honored that Amelia has been chosen as a model notebook! If you click on the For Teachers thought bubble on my website (http://marissamoss.com), you'll find some journaling tips you can print out, as well as a sample journaling curriculum using Amelia and science journaling activities using Max.
The biggest compliment I can get is when teachers and students find my books inspiring. An 8th grade girl recently emailed me, telling me how she started reading Amelia in 4th grade and started her own journal then and hasn't stopped since: "If it wasn't for Amelia's notebooks, i would have never discovered that i love writing and drawing." I hope the discovery of the power of words and pictures happens for every child, for all of us. There's something magical about putting words on paper, shaping our thoughts, our stories, our lives. And it's a magic created with the simplest of tools -- a pen and a blank page.
As a result of our full-year focus on Writer's Notebooks, we developed a brand new page of notebook prompts, and we launched a special interest group at our Writing Lesson of the Month Ning. We hope teacher-users of WritingFix will continue to share notebook ideas with each other for years into the future!
Click here to freely access our Writer's Notebook prompts!
Hats off to New York fourth grade teacher Leslie Laurie-Nicoll, who submitted our favorite original lesson idea during the 2010-2011 school year. Inspired by Ralph's advice in A Writer's Notebook, Leslie crafted a lesson using Pat Brisson's The Summer My Father Was Ten.
Quoting Leslie: "All of us have had times when we’ve gotten caught up in the moment. A writer’s notebook is the perfect place to reflect on those times when we’ve acted impulsively, not thinking about the consequences of our actions. The following lesson inspires my students, and it makes them eager to share their personal stories."
You can access Leslie's complete lesson at WritingFix by clicking on the lesson title or the book cover above. We sent Leslie a set of NNWP Print Guides for taking the time to celebrate our MTotY and send us a new lesson.
In September of 2009, we began a nine-month study of using mentor texts to improve narrative writing about their own lives. In Nevada, our fifth graders are tested using a narrative prompt on the state writing test, and we wanted our teachers to share their own narrative models as they prepared our K-5 students for the upcoming test, and as they helped 6-12 grade writers continue to explore and improve upon narrative writing skills for college and life! Ralph Fletcher came through with two amazing mentor texts for this project. Locally, we gave out over sixty copies of both books during our new narrative inservices we created during this school year.
2009-2010's MTotY: Our "Year of Personal Narratives"
Ralph Fletcher's How to Write Your Life Story offers such sound and easy-to-relate-to advice for young writers who are challenged to write about their own histories. In Nevada, and probably everywhere else, young student writers often don't believe their personal stories are interesting enough to commit to the writing process, but Fletcher tells them otherwise in this "How to" book.
What's really useful to teachers is that Fletcher follows his own "How to" advice when he penned his autobiography as companion text for How to Write Your Life Story: Marshfield Dreams...When I Was a Kid. The chapters in this wonderful novel are short, witty, and well-crafted; they can be read as an entire read-aloud oiver time, or you can choose any chapter and study it in isolation as a short story. Fletcher's voice and his chapter topics will really appeal to your relucatant boy writers.
Our Nevada educators, especially our fourth and fifth grade teachers--who spend more time preparing for the narrative writing test than anyone else--continue to find these two books worth their weight in gold. We've been told countless times that Marshfield Dreams quickly became many of our fourth and fifth grade students' favorite book.
Fletcher shows us with both books how personal stories, no matter how "small" the event seems to the writer, can become powerful takes when crafted with strong writing skills.
WritingFix Lessons Created during our "Year of Personal Narratives"
At our local inservice classes and from around the country, great ideas just kept coming from these two amazing mentor texts. Below are some of our favorites that were shared with us!
Heart Maps -- inspired by How to Write Your Life Story
Inspiration from Favorite Chapters in Marshfield Dreams
**Oregon teacher, Paula Harpel, shared this prompt with us. We sent Paula a complimentary copy of the NNWP's Elementary Writing Guide for sharing.
Our Narrative Resource Page & Ning Group
Nevada's "Show Me Your Story!" Guide
As a result of our full-year focus on Personal Narrative, we revised WritingFix's Narrative Writing Resource Page into a much larger collection of resources. We also launched a special interest group at our Writing Lesson of the Month Ning. We hope teacher-users of WritingFix will continue to share notebook ideas with each other for years into the future!
Click here to freely access our Narrative Writing Resource Page!
The work we began in 2009 with narrative writing continued into the 2010-11 school year too.
In April of 2011, we finalized a brand new print resource--the "Show Me Your Story!" Guide--which features 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade narrative materials. The guide's materials are aligned to Nevada's 5th grade writing test's rubrics, but they are intended to be useful to teachers anywhere who are dedicated to improving students' ability to write about their own lives using quality writing skills. Nevada's Northwest Regional Professional Development printed a copy for every Northern Nevada 3rd-5th grade teacher.
In May of 2011, the NNWP began offering the guide for sale to teachers outside of Northern Nevada. Click here, if interested.
In September of 2008, we posted our very first "Mentor Texts of the Year." We chose revision as our theme because we were planning the redesign of several of our Northern Nevada inservice classes that focused on this step of the writing process. At three Northern Nevada workshops in during 2008-2009, we distributed copies of both mentor texts to 75 lucky Nevada teachers, and those teachers amazed us with the improvements they made to teaching one of the hardest steps of the writing process.
2008-2009's MTotY: Our "Year of Improving Revision Skills"
Way back in 1998, author Barry Lane presented a Saturday workshop on revision at the UNR Campus in Reno, Nevada; this event was sponsored by the Northern Nevada Writing Project, who also sponsor this WritingFix website.
The forty-five teachers who attended that workshop learned favorite revision techniques first-hand from the author of Reviser's Toolbox, Barry Lane. This book is a wonderful collection of revision techniques that are quite motivating. Years later, many of those teachers who'd attended still reported to the NNWP that this workshop remained one of the most inspirational they'd ever attended, that the skills they learned to implement on that Saturday were long-lasting. To this day, Barry remains a good friend to the Northern Nevada Writing Project.
In 2005, we discovered a wonderful picture book called Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter. In this story, a young writer--Eva--is stuck on a writing assignment from her teacher: Write about what you know, but she feels nothing ever really happens around her home, which is what she knows best. Four of her neighbors stroll by, each offering the young writer a great piece of advice on improving writing. Eva begins practicing each piece of advice while writing about the goings-on around her, and--lo and behold--and amazing story unfolds. At the end of the book, after Eva is complimented on her story by the neighbors, she says, "[Thanks], but just wait. It'll be even better...after I rewrite it."
Barry's book alongside Roni's book made a perfect pair of complementary texts to us. Both were about the craft of writing, and both spoke especially to the importance of revision. We had our first two "Mentor Texts of the Year"!
WritingFix Lessons Created during our "Year of Improving Revision Skills "
Our first year was a slow year--most of the ideas on using these two mentor texts coming from local teachers in our revision workshops. It wasn't until the next year that teachers from around the country began sharing their ideas. Still, we were pleased with the success of this first year of this new program.
Overview: After cleverly playing with the four pieces of writing advice from the book's characters, students compose a paragraph about a character with an object in a setting.Students attempt to use all four pieces of advice from the book as they create a paragraph that might launch a longer story. After revising their paragraphs, students should be challenged to turn their paragraphs into longer stories.
"I used your lesson for Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street with my sixth grade students this school year. This book truly was a mentor text for Writing Workshop in my classroom throughout the year. We often referred back to the different pieces of advice during peer collaborations/revisions, mini-lessons, and writing discussions. But, I felt like this text could play a larger role for writing beyond the walls of my own classroom. I kept playing around with the idea until almost the end of our school year and then it hit me. I have been asked to leave the classroom and step into the role of academic coach for our K-6 building. The first action I took, after signing my contract, was to order a copy of this book for every classroom teacher." Terri D. (Arkansas teacher/coach)
Dear Corbett and WritingFix,
Some time ago a teacher told me about your website and I checked it out and actually linked it to my website. I felt honored and delighted to read what you wrote and shared about my book. Now when you tell me that you have named 90TH STREET a "Mentor Text of the Year," I am truly honored!
When educators appreciate my books it is so special for me. You are the gatekeepers--the people who introduce children to the world of words and literature--a sacred trust, if you ask me. So, again, it is such an honor for me to know that you and other teachers consider my book of help and interest. I wrote it out of my passion for words and story, and out of my desire to share that passion with children and encourage them to recognize the stories in THEIR lives, and be inspired to write about them.
Reviser's Toolbox-inspired Lessons Created during our 2008-09 Revision Workshops!
All 75 participants in our Revision Workshops in 2008-09 received copies of both Reviser's Toolbox and Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street. Each was asked to create a revision lesson inspired by either book. Here are four favorite lessons we received from participants.
As a result of our full-year focus on Improving Revision Skills, we revised WritingFix's Revision Resource Exchange Page into a much larger collection of resources. We also launched a special interest group at our Writing Lesson of the Month Ning. We hope teacher-users of WritingFix will continue to share revision ideas with each other for years into the future!
Click here to freely access our Revision Resource Exchange Page!
"What a great choice for your book of the year! I have used this book for the past four years at the beginning of the year to kick off my picture-book writing lessons! After reading the book to the students, I tell them that for homework they have to pick a spot by their house, inside or out, where they can sit quietly for fifteen minutes observing everything around them. Their assignment is to write down every thing they see, hear, feel, smell, etc. in fifteen minutes.
"The next day in class we revisit the characters in the story and their writing tips for Eva. Then the students read over their lists, eliminating any thing that they don’t think will fit in their 'Nothing Ever Happens…' stories. (The title of their story will be their address put in place of '90th Street.' This really seems to personalize the story for them, as everyone likes to write about themselves!)
"Next, we talk about the elements of the story that they should include….a bit of poetry (alliteration seems to work best for fourth graders!), a hint of romance (usually they choose to have animals fall in love at this age!), stretching the truth to make the story better, and finally using 'spicy' words to make their story come alive!
"After editing and revising, the students add they own touches to the cover and we present the stories for everyone to read! They remember these writing tips all year in all of the other writings that they do, especially that the whole world is a 'stage' and there are stories everywhere! This book is also a great way to introduce the writing traits, beginning with 'ideas.'"