Friday, September 21, 2012

3 Of My Favorite Mentor Texts To Teach Personal Narratives

When I teach personal narratives, I also teach writing through different lens. During the experimenting stage I introduce three different lens that I'd like the students to try with their selected personal narrative; writing with dialogue as the main focus, writing by using small actions as the main focus, and writing by using thoughts and feelings as the main focus. In reality of course, our stories should be a combination of these things. But I find it helps the children to explore the different types of writing that's possible if I feature each one of these as a separate lens in which to look through and write with.

With that in mind, here are three powerful mentor texts that illustrate writing through each lens.

1) Writing Personal Narratives Through the Lens of Dialogue

"Trapped In The Drive-Thru" by Weird Al Yankovich

I wrote about using this last year. I don't (usually) use the whole video. Since the song is split into three acts, and the first act doesn't take place in the drive-thru, I skip ahead to the start of the second act.

2) Writing Personal Narratives Through the Lens of Small Actions

Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park

Barbara Park is the very funny author of the Junie B. Jones series. Another popular and fun book she's written is Skinnybones. This book though is heartbreaking. And awesome. It's her best work in my opinion. Much of the book revolves on the main character dealing with her brother's accidental death. So there is a lot of inner story here. But what makes this a mentor text for me is not the main plot. It's a section in the beginning of the book where Phoebe, the narrator, is remembering the last time she had breakfast with her brother. What follows is a very accurate and well-written small moment story about a  breakfast fight over a toy in a cereal box. The story is littered with small actions that make this common story not only interesting, but the details allow the reader to connect with the scene in a multitude of ways.

3) Writing Personal Narratives Through the Lens of Thinking and Feelings

Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
So yeah. I use a science fiction book about a boy who wakes up one morning invisible for my third mentor text. Specifically I use chapter 7. Bobby, the narrator, is home alone for the first time in his life. His parents are in the hospital after a car accident. And in this chapter we forget that Bobby is invisible, because the chapter is not about that. It's about coping with the shadows of an empty house, trying to scare fear away with noise, trying to occupy yourself and rationali so that the fear doesn't transform into dread, and trying to rationalize with yourself so that dread doesn't turn into panic. That chapter is a fantastic personal narrative using the lens of inner feelings and thoughts, because almost nothing happens inside the house. Bobby eats, he turns on the TV and the radio and the lights. And that's it. The entire story is what's going on inside of him. And what is going on inside of him is written great detail, word choice, and emotion. Anyone can relate to how Bobby is feeling and coping, whether they're invisible or not.

What are your favorite mentor texts for writing? I love to pursue suggestions. 

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