Tag Archives: mentor sentence

Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge: #113texts

When we select books to read in our classroom we begin with well-written books about topics we want to address as part of our instruction.  Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox is a lovely, well-written book that has been around for a long time.  (Published in 1989)

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This book is about a young boy who lives next door to an old folks home and has made friends with the old people who live there.  One of his best friends–Miss Nancy, who has four names just like him, seems to be losing her memory.  When Wilfred Gordon hears this he goes to the other residents asking what a memory is.  Their responses:  something warm, as precious as gold, makes you laugh, makes you cry…prompt Wilfred Gordon to go home and find these for Miss Nancy.  He collects his interpretation of these things called memories into a basket to share with Miss Nancy.  When Miss Nancy unpacks the hen’s egg, seashells, puppet, and football she begins to tell the stories she remembers when she examines each object.

We started the school year a few weeks ago reading this book as a way of demonstrating the power of things to elicit stories and memories.  We asked students to bring in an object or artifact that represented something important or special to them and/or their families.

In addition to using this book to teach the concept of object-based thinking and writing, we also used it this week as a mentor text for writing.  We like to “mine” the books we have read for interesting sentences to help our students broaden their understanding of sentences, grammar, and conventions.  As our first mentor sentence of the school year we looked for a sentence that was accessible to our first graders and still “meaty” enough for our more accomplished writers.

We decided on this sentence:

He admired Mr. Drysdale who had a voice like a giant.

Asking our students what they noticed, we were able to identify the use of the simile (a voice like a giant), proper nouns (names), and pronouns (he).  We also talked about the verb admired as well as the basics like the use of a capital letter at the beginning of the sentence and period at the end.  After a couple of examples of how we might follow the pattern of this sentence from Mem Fox, students set off to write their own sentence following the pattern.

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Here are a couple of examples:

First grader, E, wrote: I love my bunnies because they love me.

Second grader, B, wrote: He loved his dog Milo even though he shedded on him if he brushed onto him.

Third grader, C, wrote: I admire LEGO makers who have a way of making awesome sets.

And another third grader, M, wrote: The people love to watch Emily who surfed the waves that were as tall as mountains.

You can see that not all students were including the simile…yet.  But all were able to expand a sentence similar to the way Mem Fox did in her sentence.

There are many other ways to use Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge as a mentor text.  Mentor texts are all around us, as close as those classroom bookshelves.  Take a close looks at some of your old favorite read alouds, you’ll be surprised at all the opportunities to use them as writing mentors!

Condor’s Egg: #113texts

Jonathan London is probably best known in children’s book circles as the author of the Froggy books, but he has many wonderful books that are varied in content and well written.  I mentioned Dream Weaver a couple of days ago as my contribution to the #113texts Mentor Text Challenge.  Today I want to tell you a bit about Condor’s Egg by Jonathan London.

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Condor’s Egg is a realistic story about a family of California Condors in the wild.  As is typical with London, the language is lyrical and carefully chosen.  His use of verbs evokes movement and creates a sense of action.  And as an added bonus, there is factual information about California Condors at the end of the book as well as a guide to using the book with children.

During the 2012-13 school year, after reading the book as part of our study of birds, we used a number of sentences from this book as mentor sentences for our students to study and then to replicate with their own content.

Here’s one sentence we studied: Circling, he rides the warm air, higher than the tops of the clouds. This is a tricky construction with the main part of the sentence between the parentheses where extra information is often deposited.

T (a second grader) created this sentence–a close approximation:  Roaring, they start their engines, then the drivers shoot off the starting line.

J (another second grader) came up with this one:  Building, Steve builds a square house, nice and safe!

Here’s one from a first grader (Okay–I know it’s not fair–this is a talented writer!): Running, she goes through the house as fast as she can, trying to get away from the pretend monster.

And here’s one more second grader: Diving, she is determined to catch it, landing on the dusty floor of the canyon.

We used many sentences from this book and explored creating our own sentences following the pattern of London’s sentences.  By doing this my students had opportunities to try out new sentence structures, which later showed up in their own writing.

I was thinking about the Jonathan London titles that I use…here’s a few:

  • Dream Weaver
  • Condor’s Egg
  • Puddles
  • The Waterfall
  • Like Butter on Pancakes

How have you used London’s books?  What titles do you like?