For the last few months I have watched teachers and leaders truly see the value in mentor texts. Until you are exposed to the purpose and value of mentor texts, the phrase has no meaning. Once you have that a-ha moment, everything changes.
This year, I found the hashtag #Read15in15, where educators are committed to reading 15 books in 2015 and sharing their recommendations with others. I also stumbled upon (somewhere else, though I can’t remember where!) the book Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan. When I read about the book, it was recommended as a great book to start Writing Workshop in a classroom, with upper elementary students. What I found was so much more.
It wasn’t until I finished this beautiful story that I read about why MacLachlan wrote this book. She explains that after being asked to write about her writing process, rather than tell the same old stories, she turned her school presentations into a narrative for students.
Some of the language used was so poetic and engaging for me as a reader (and a writer!). Here are a few of my favorite lines:
“You have a story in there, Lucy,” she said, touching my head. “Or a character, a place, a poem, a moment in time. When you find it, you will write it. Word after word after word,” she whispered.
“Some words may make you happy, some may make you sad. Maybe some will make you angry. What I hope… is that something will whisper in your ear.”
In addition to celebrating the figurative language used throughout the story, there were a few pivotal moments that called out to me for use as a mentor text in a writer’s workshop with young writers.
Too many verys
There is a scene in Chapter 5 where a character is upset about her parents adopting a new baby. She says, “My very, very, very dumb mother is going to adopt a very, very dumb baby.” Her friend says,”Too many verys”, to which she replies, “There can never be too many verys about this”. This immediately made me want to ask students to write a scene that was so great, so bad, so important, or so meaningful to them, that there could never be too many verys.
I also thought about how in some ways this sounds very childish, but I could quickly come up with my situation where there could never be too many verys. What would yours be?
I miss my mother very, very, very much. No matter how much time passes, or how there is more happiness than sadness in the memories, I will always miss my best friend very, very much.
The teacher in this story shares the power of words throughout the book, while inspiring her students to see themselves as writers. Near the end of the story each student is asked to write a piece about words. Words are… Such a simple prompt but requires so much thoughtful attention by the writer. I would use this individual scene, with the students’ sample poems, as mentor texts for my students to try on their own. Here is my attempt.
Strong and soft
Hardy and fleeting
Floating in the air between us
Filling up the space around the noises
Comforting and disarming
Truth and lies
Real and unreal
Permanent yet forgivable.
- Have you read the beautiful Word After Word After Word?
- How would you use it as a mentor text?
- What other mentor texts have floated into your writer’s workshop lately?