Saturday, May 5, 2012

Happy Blogiversary Teach Mentor Texts!

Visit Jen and Kellee at their amazing blog - Teach Mentor Texts

Today I am blogging in honor of Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts. It is their second Blogiversary! In honor of that they asked me to pick my favorite piece of mentor texts – for reading and/ or writing – and share with you how I use it. Easy, right?

Oh, the agony! Picking a favorite text is like picking a favorite student, a favorite child. I like this one for… But! Don’t forget! What about this one… ARGH! I have debated and debated for the past week. What should I pick?

I was about to go the easy route and do a top ten when I taught a lesson last Friday. See, my student teacher has been in takeover for the entire month of April. I haven’t taught. I might be going through some withdrawal symptoms, but that’s a discussion for another post. At any rate, we are writing memoirs right now so I picked up my favorite memoir to share with them. It is from Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories and is called Eleven by the amazing Sandra Cisneros.

Here’s a passage from the end:

Today I'm eleven. There's a cake Mama's making for tonight, and when Papa comes home from work we'll eat it. There'll be candles and presents and everybody will sing Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to you, Rachel, only it's too late.

I'm eleven today. I'm eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one, but I wish I was one hundred and two. I wish I was anything but eleven, because I want today to be far away already, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny-tiny you have to close your eyes to see it.

Can’t you just hear Rachel’s voice? I love this story for so many reasons. My students can absolutely identify with Rachel. They know what it is like to be eleven but also feel the need to cry like you are three. They know what it is like to be wrongly accused of something, even something as minor like being told it is your sweater when you know it isn’t. They know what it’s like to have your hopes for a perfect birthday party dashed. They get it.

And I love to read it to them. I read it as part of our memoir unit without introduction. I just begin reading. And I love watching out of the corner of my eyes as they being to turn their bodies towards me, some holding their breath as I read. I love the looks on their faces as the teacher forces Rachel to put on that sweater. How they move their bodies. How some of their eyes glisten with tears. And how mine do when I’m done.

A good memoir can put your right there with the author and Eleven does just that. My students’ writing improves just from listening to it. Some go back to reread it. Some make their own copy and it gets pressed into their writing notebooks. So yes, I guess there are a few mentor texts that I do hold closer to my heart than others. Eleven is certainly one, but it isn’t alone. J

Happy second blogiversary Jen and Kellee. Today you are two, but you are also one. Wishing you many more years of writing about mentor texts so we can all learn from you.