I am participating in a mentor text challenge hosted by the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP). The goal of the project is to generate a detailed collection of quality mentor texts that teachers can use with students to enhance writing. Each month bloggers will link up to a main site to share great mentor texts and how they can be used with students. While I haven’t taught in a classroom of my own in many years, I work with coaches and teachers daily and believe that the use of mentor texts can strengthen writing instruction at all levels. My first mentor text submission, Love That Dog, is here.
My submission for October is The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series) by Rick Riordan. I actually read this novel to see if it would be a useful text resource for 3rd grade teachers during an upcoming unit of study that includes a focus on myths (it would!), but found the figurative language and author’s craft elements exciting and interesting along the way!
Passage of Time
The author has a creative way to show the passage of time, which would be an interesting author’s craft study for students. An entire portion of the story revolves around the characters arriving in LA (from NYC) by a specific date. Riordan marks the passing of time with a line such as, “The next afternoon, June 14, seven days before the solstice…” (Riordan, p. 143). At the beginning of a chapter, this anchors the reader to the fast-approaching deadline (the solstice) and demonstrates how much time has passed since the last date. When another similar line appears in the next chapter, the reader is quickly reminded of the importance of that looming deadline.
I would use this, in conjunction with other ways author’s mark the passing of time in narratives, as a lesson for students to explore how they would like to show time passages in their writing.
This novel is rich with golden nuggets of descriptive language. Here are a few of the lines I would highlight with students when adding details to our writing or working on specific elements of figurative language:
- “Standing behind us was a guy who looked like a raptor in a leisure suit. He was at least seven feet tall, with absolutely no hair. He had gray, leathery skin, thick-lidded eyes, and a cold, reptilian smile.” (Riordan, p. 179)
- “He looked like a cherub who’d turned middle-aged in a trailer park.” (Riordan, p. 45)
- “…the sky looked like ink soup coming to a boil.” (Riordan, p. 87)
- “I slashed up with my sword, heard a sickening shlock!, then a hiss like wind rushing out of a cavern- the sound of a monster disintegrating.” (Riordan, p. 120)
- “Everywhere we turned, the Rocky Mountains seemed to be staring at me, like a tidal wave about to crash into the city.” (Riordan, p. 143)
While you could use this entire novel with a class for an in-depth study of many elements of fiction, you could also use chapters, excerpts, and even individual lines as mentor texts. The author’s use of language is poetic, descriptive, engaging, and even gruesome at times, hooking students into the story or an element of writer’s craft to explore in their own writing.