By Frank Murphy
Recently, Lynne Dorfman wrote a Teacher to Teacher post about using my newest book, Take a Hike Teddy Roosevelt, as a mentor text to help guide the instruction of teachers of young writers. (Of course, I was, and still am, flattered!!) Soon after, on a Saturday in January, we co-presented on the same topic for some dedicated members of the Capital Reading Council in Harrisburg, PA.
In a nutshell, I started the event off by sharing the story of how Teddy became so dedicated to environmental conservation; then Lynne went about analyzing how she could use this book as a mentor text for elementary school student writers. (If you’ve never seen Lynne present – she’s like a literary surgeon on Skittles!!). She focused on many things, from strong verbs to exact nouns. Even artful sentence fragments! (I hope she thought that one was artful!) All of Lynne’s analysis forced me to recollect so much of the writing and rewriting and imagining of writing that I did over the last few years of constructing and crafting this book in collaboration with my editor, Anna Membrino. It also made me reflect on a recent lesson that I taught to my current sixth grade students that I’ll discuss later. Read more
by Lynne R. Dorfman
I am always amazed how much fun I have rediscovering the joy of studying a new read as a mentor text. In this case, as I am reading and rereading Take a Hike, Teddy Roosevelt – the newest book by author Frank Murphy, I am thinking about the first time I met Frank fifteen years ago. Now a fellow of the Pennsylvania Writing & Literature Project and a personal friend I know well, I remember that Rose Cappelli and I had absolutely no idea who Frank was the summer day he arrived at our PAWLP Author Study course on the West Chester University campus to present his books, Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares and The Legend of the Teddy Bear. Chris Coyne Kehan had recommended him, and we trusted Chris’s judgment. Frank was personable and exciting to listen to, but he completely won us over when he spied our copy of Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray. Clutching it in both hands he declared, “I used this book to write my own!” Indeed, Katie Wood Ray is one of our mentors for our books about mentor texts (along with Ralph Fletcher, Shelley Harwayne, and Regie Routman). Read more
By Lynne R. Dorfman
How can you tempt your students to take the writing plunge in the beginning of the year? I have always found that poetry is the great equalizer for student writers. Especially, the found poem helps writers gain confidence in creating something quite wonderful. Mentor texts for found poems are everywhere: newspaper articles, street signs, graffiti, speeches, letters, novels, picture books, or even other poems. Like a collage art form, the writer simply takes existing texts and refashions them as a poem. In its purest form, a found poem retains the exact words of the original text with a few omissions or additions. The writer creates a poem, making conscious decisions about line breaks and the order of the ideas.
Found poetry accomplishes several goals for readers and writers. First of all, it clearly gives students a chance to read like a writer – to find the best in prose (what often sounds like poetry). It asks readers to reread many times in order to write an effective poem; thus, deepening comprehension of text. Found poetry helps all children to be successful. It will help you get what all teachers want – 100% engagement. Found poetry is easily differentiated by text choices. In addition, it is easy to build in opportunities for collaboration. Read more