Writing Lesson of the Month Network

...sharing thoughtful, mentor text-inspired lessons your students will love!

In the box below, you can type or paste your mentor text review.  Once yours is posted, look over a few of the other class members' reviews and activity ideas; can you add a comment that suggests, extends upon, or clarifies an idea?

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Mentor Text: I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse
Review: This is a story of how a mother tells each of her sons how she loves them as individuals using red or blue as a descriptor, and combined you have purple.

1. Read the story to the students.
2. Discuss how the author uses a different color for each of the boys.
3. Ask the children to think of two people they know/care about (their parents).
4. Have the children write two different pieces, one for each person using the style used by Joosse. Title the piece the color achieved when the two colors describing the two people are combined.
The Blue Spruce by Mario Cuomo
This is a story that inspired Mario Cuomo as a young boy. It is a book about dreams, dedication and a relationship between a father and son. It is the relationship between a human being and nature; a tree.
My activity for my students would be to introduce the story and talk about dreams and things that are important to them. I would read the story aloud and have them create alpha boxes using key words from the story and also words that they would like to write about using the topic of dreams and important things. The students would then generate their own short story using the tool of the alpha boxes to guide them along their writing.
Another activity would be to draw a picture of a tree and as a class each generate ideas of why nature is so important to us. Each student would use a branch to talk about a time when we took advantage of nature, i.e. camping with family, going to Lake Tahoe, etc. The students would each draw their own tree and write their story of why nature is important to me.
By Stephanie Meyers
Chapter 1
Voice Development Lesson by Karen Hintz
Skill #1 - Using voice to convey passion towards the message for the writing or the topic using emotion or emphasis through words.
The purpose of the lesson is to write using passion over a subject they have regretted doing.
“ Bella,
I don’t know why you’re making Charlie carry notes to Billy like we’re in second grade- if I wanted to talk to you I would answer the
You made the choice here, okay? You can’t have it both ways when
What part of “mortal enemies” is too complicated for you to
Look, I know I being a jerk, but there’s just no way around
We can’t be friends when you’re spending all your time with a bunch of
It just makes it worse when I think about you too much, so don’t write anymore

Yeah, I miss you, too. A lot. Doesn’t change anything. Sorry.
“I ran my fingers across the page, feeling the dents where he had pressed the pen to the paper so hard that it had nearly broken through. I could picture him writing this- scrawling the angry letters in his rough handwriting, slashing through line after line when the words came out wrong, maybe even snapping the pen in his too-big hand; that would explain the ink splatters. I could imagine the frustration pulling his black eyebrows together and crumpling his forehead. If I’d been there, I might have laughed. Don’t give yourself a brain hemorrhage, Jacob, I would have told him. Just spit it out."

Writing Topic Suggestion-
Explain about a time when you regretted something you said or did out of anger or frustration. How did it make you feel, and what words would show how much you regretted it. Do you think you did it out of intense emotions?
“In English of Course” by Josephine Nobisso
Are you looking for a book with great visual illustrations cues and voice? Can I just say the voice is so strong! She uses cues from Ralph Fletcher’s writer’s notebook when he says write as you speak. The story is told from the position of a new ELL student and how she tells her life story from the old country. Josephine Nobisso is the main character and narrator in this story. She is writing about what she knows and is able to give strong voice to her writing. Some of her strong sentences are “is many animals, Josephine answered”, “When that cow she kick me, I falling down in river. That cow, she hiding, but that pig, he push cow in river.”, “ Ah! The teacher exclaimed. I didn’t understand everything at first!” Josephine assured him, “Neither me!”
This book lends itself to show how to expand your sentences with details. Also it is great at showing students how to write the way they speak, that is the just of the whole book. I would have students dictate their sentences to another student and then illustrate the sentences on index cards in the style of the book. Students should be able to use quotes and commas in the writing of their sentences, to make their writing more interesting with details and voice.
Book Review: This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff
This memoir is about Tobias Wolff’s life beginning in the fifties from grade school through graduation. His writing is true to life and relatable to a lot of students. He tells about all the bad things he’s done in his life such as shooting a squirrel leaving him with a guilty conscious and even stealing a car. This book is impressive because Wolff doesn’t hold back with all the difficult experiences he’s been through in his life, even the embarrassing ones. He openly lets the reader see his ugly side. He gives the reader an insight into the mind of a boy manipulating his single mother and what he goes through as she marries a man that he does not get along with. This novel carries an important theme of how a person can continuously try to reinvent themselves yet never escape who they really are. This is a great story of self-discovery.

Possible Lesson:
As a lesson in idea development, this story is great for having students learn about themselves and figure out who they are. Often students seem to struggle with finding their own persona and this memoir really makes a person think about whom they are and some of the things they’ve done in their lives. Students could create a Life Map of themselves. It is as though they are on a trip of self discovery and they use the metaphor of a road to map out where they’ve been in their lives. Along the road they may sketch items that symbolize big events in their lives. They could sketch a house early on the road to signify their first home. Maybe further down the road they sketch an airplane to show a trip they took. Next, after making the map they could look at the events they thought of and decide what kind of person they are. This could be done best with a class discussion of types of people in the world (maybe focus on positive aspects of people) such as, generous, funny, older than their age, quiet, thoughtful, focused, determined, and so on. It may be important to stress that no one is just one of these things, but they are to just choose one today. After this choice, students could write a narrative poem or short prose about themselves where they exemplified that trait. Finally, publish the artwork and the writings around the room or on a class website and have other student’s view each others work. Of course, some students won’t want to share their stories since they may be too personal and that’s okay too.
Writing prompt: Write about a time that your feelings got hurt. Describe using telling and reflecting.

Standard: To convey passion towards the message of the writing or topic

For this lesson we will study the last page of the last chapter of the book Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer. The story of Eclipse shares two protagonists. One is the character of Bella, a human girl who has fallen in love with a vampire and the other is a werewolf named Jacob who has fallen in love with Bella. In the last chapter of Eclipse, Jacob receives a letter from the vampire that explains that the vampire and Bella are to be married. Jacob feels betrayed that he received the letter from Edward the vampire rather than Bella and he begins to transform into a werewolf.
Thus, students will look at the following excerpt and indentify how the writer uses telling and reflecting to get in the mind of the character and make the reader feel the emotions of the werewolf.
My fingers were clamped down on the wood hard enough that it was really in danger. I loosened them one by one, concentrating on the action alone and then clenched my hands together so that I could not break anything… I was running before I hit the trees, my clothes strewn out behind me like a trail of crumbs as if I wanted to find my way back. The trees blurred into a sea black flowing around me. My muscles bunched and released in an effortless rhythm. I could feel their worry in my head; try hard to drown it in the sound of the wind and the forest. This was what I hated most-seeing myself through my eyes, worse now that their eyes were full of pity. They saw the hate…If the silence in my head lasted, I would never go back. Maybe if I ran far enough away I would never have to hear again…I pushed my legs faster, letting Jacob Black disappear behind me.
After reading this text I would have them underline each part where the writer puts you into the main character’s head, and then the students will share what they underlined and see if they had any similarities.
Students will then have to use this guideline page for creating telling and reflecting before writing their essay.
1.) Explain how your body felt when you went through the hurt.
2.) Explain how you think other people viewed you.
3.) What thoughts went through your mind as you experienced the pain?

After listing notes using the guideline page for generating ideas, students will apply their ideas into their narrative essay.
The Tracker, a true story of Tom Brown Jr. as told by William Jon Watkins is a moving first person narrative about a boys’ adventures in nature. What makes this read unique is the spirituality of the subject matter. Tom meets Rick and subsequently his grandfather Stalking Wolf, who was an ancient Apache. Together the boys learn survival in the old Indian ways in the wilds of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. ”I found my first skull in a swamp a mile or so from my house in Beachwood, right off the Toms River, in a place that is a marina and a parking lot now. It was the only a pile of broken bones when I found it, but I took it home and fit the pieces together until I had the answer to what it was… I am still following the trail of questions that I picked up when I make that little pile of bones into a skull. This book is the story of that trail as I have come down it so far… all the years I had spent learning to track had been justified. I was where I should be. And I was happy and thankful to be there.”
There are many ways I could go with this book. It is sprinkled with illustrations of tracks. I could have students think of a time they followed a track, it could have been a tire track, a lost dogs’ print in the mud, or a trail of popcorn to their brothers’ room. I could bring in a plaster cast of a print as a lead in to a free write. This story culminates with Tom finding a lost person and his feelings of overwhelming happiness in being in the right place at the right time. Students could write about how they helped someone else or how they were helped by a stranger.
Mentor Text: I’m Gonna Like Me
By: Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell

This sweet story encourages the characters, a boy and girl, to alternate sharing personal traits that they are not totally fond of, and yet, instead of simply complaining, they turn each trait into a triumphant skill, quality or ability. It challenges the reader to turn each idiosyncrasy into another way to simply “…like me”!

I love the authors tone towards this universal theme of self-esteem, and the cultivation and establishment of this simple, yet daunting idea of loving oneself, no matter what!

Ask the students to take a piece of binder paper and fold it in half (lengthwise), and label the first column “Trait I Hate” and the second-column “Ways it Pays”.
Under the title “Trait I Hate” have each student list 10-15 personal traits that they are embarrassed by, bullied about, want to hide, wish each birthday to change or forget about to prevent depression.

Now, have them turn this paper over and put each of these 10-15 traits inside their own web, so they can do a quick brainstorm for each trait. Ask them to list two-three positives for each of these traits.

Trait I hate: being the tallest student in each class

I could easily find myself in school panoramic pictures, I was scouted by the basketball coaches on the first day of school and I could always see my crush coming down the hallway, so I had time to prepare.

After the brainstorm is finished, have them pick the one positive they like the most for each of the traits they hate and add it to the column “Ways it Pay”.

Once this assignment is complete, I would encourage the students to take this home and tape it to their bathroom mirror or keep it inside their bedside table, so that when they are feeling self-conscious they can remind themselves that each thing they hate pays them dividends in the end!
The Way I Feel by Janan Cain is an excellent book for people of all ages because it deals with the subject the students know best: themselves. The book examines one’s feelings and emotions and talks about them in four different ways. (1) What you do or cannot do that gives you this feeling. (the cause of the feeling); (2) What outside influences give you this feeling; (3) How you look when you have this feeling; and (4) What you do when you have this feeling. (the result of the feeling)
Let’s look at some examples: (1) I am FRUSTRATED because I can’t get my computer to work. (2) I am SAD because my best friend is mad at me. (3) My eyes sparkle when I am HAPPY. (4) I jump up and down when I am EXCITED.
The book is written in rhyme, but the students may choose not to use this particular technique. It is also illustrated in a vivid, colorful style. The students may illustrate their writing with magazine pictures, photographs or their own drawings .
Through brainstorming in small groups and discussing examples the teacher creates, students can get a basis for what is required in their writing. They will be prompted to examine their own lives and feelings and get a feel for “what makes them tick.”
Writing Activity: Each student will examine some of the emotions he feels (perhaps 5-10 different emotions) and write 2 sentences about each one. After this is done and revisions are made, it would be nice to incorporate the students’ writings into a book, which can then be copied and distributed to everyone in the class.
Mentor Text Review.
Baseball Saved Us written by Ken Mochizuki Illustrated by Dom Lee
The book Baseball Saved Us is about a Japanese boy who is living in an internment camp during World War II. The whole book is told from the point of view of the boy and what he goes through to survive the camp and how the game of baseball becomes vital to their mental health. The illustrations show a bleak existence for all who live there. But out of nothing comes the will to survive and even thrive. The reason I chose this book was due the strong voice of the main character, which remains nameless throughout the book.
My main goal for using this book is word choice. The author does such a wonderful job of incorporating interesting adjectives and strong verbs to keep the writing strong. An example is on page four, “This Camp wasn’t anything like home. It was so hot in the daytime and so cold at night. Dust storms came and got sand in everything, and nobody could see a thing. We sometimes got caught outside, standing in line to eat or go to the bathroom.” I would have my students create a mind movie in their heads of this scene from the book.
Another example of word choice would be on page 14. “I glanced at the guardhouse behind the left field foul line and saw the man in the tower, leaning on the rail with the blinding sun glinting off his sunglasses. He was watching, always staring. It suddenly made me mad.”
I would highlight these two examples and have my students find more examples of interesting adjectives and strong verbs. These would be in mini-lesson form. I would then have my students write about themselves or an experience they had recently using interesting adjectives and strong verbs. The students would share their writing with their classmates.
Diary of a Worm---written by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss
Idea development-writing trait
Selecting a unique topic to write about- sub skill
The book is a diary of a few typical days in the life of a worm. It describes his family life and various activities. The author also has the worm talk about the pros and cons about being a worm. It is written from the worm’s point of view.
After reading this story to students, the teacher would have the students brainstorm about a particular object or animal that they would like to write about. They can get into small groups and discuss their topics, and make a list of different events that might happen in the life of their topic. The teacher can also brainstorm with them about different events in their own life(birthdays, holidays, etc) and apply those to their pretend diary. Students will make a small book and pretend to write the diary of the topic they have chosen.
Book Review: The House of Joyful Living by Roni Schotter, pictures by Terry Widener.
This charming memoir recalls the neighborhood where Schotter grew up and the people who inhabited that world. We meet a variety of caring people who make up a vibrant community and who influence the author’s life. An underlying theme in the narrative concerns Schotter’s apprehension about the impending birth of a sibling. We learn that this situation is resolved when the author tells the unborn child that it needs to “come out” because it is missing out on so many wonderful people and events in the neighborhood.
Students would benefit from applying Schotter’s method of bringing setting and characters to life by using rich descriptions and details. Schotter uses sensory details such as, “In other apartments, they bake breads and cookies and cakes. The smoke and smells waft and weave their way through the hallways of the House of Joyful Living, until they reach the roof and surround it in a halo.” Mrs. Ling’s character comes to life when we learn that she “wears her gardener’s apron with pockets filled with seeds for our garden. Always she brings flowers. ‘You share the bread, so I share roses. Bread and roses,’ she says. ‘To be happy, people need both!’”
To challenge students’ developing skills in Idea Development, first have them think of descriptions of their neighborhood as well as descriptions of the people who live there. They could then complete a graphic organizer that lists this information in these categories. Next, have them construct a rough draft narrative paragraph in which they describe the setting and then a paragraph in which they describe the people, followed by a conclusion in which they share an opinion about their neighborhood based on these descriptions and details. Following revision and editing, students can share their final drafts and compare notes about their neighborhoods and what makes them special or unique.




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