By Troy Hicks, The Educator Collaborative Fellow
Our best literacy teachers, especially those of you engaging with the TheEdCollab, have known for a long time that we must provide students with mentor texts in order to help them better understand the genres in which they write, the audiences for whom they write, and the purposes that their writing can serve. We have also known—and continue to make clear for our students—the idea that various text types have specific features to help the writer stay organized and to cue the reader in the process of making meaning. As we consider the possibilities for digital reading and writing, we need to make these moves for writers and clues for readers equally as explicit as we do in print.
It is with this understanding of mentor texts and digital writing in mind that I enjoy sharing examples of website articles written for children, such as the site Wonderopolis, both as a place for upper elementary to find highly-engaging non-fiction articles and as inspiration for their own digital writing. We can even invite our middle and high school writers to consider Wonderopolis as a genre, with appropriate discussion of audience and purpose.
In addition to the many typical types of nonfiction text features we might find (such as clear headings, bold-faced words, engaging images with captions, and a compelling tone in the writing itself), the affordances of the web make Wonderoplois’s articles even more interesting for students with the use of video clips, highlighting, hyperlinks, and interactive quizzes. This timely article on snow tires is just one example of the hundreds of compelling texts that Wonderoplois offers its young readers.
How then can we move our student from their initial “wonderings” into their own digital writing?
Digital Writing Opportunities using Websites as Mentor Texts
There are many ways we could consider using websites articles as mentor texts and in combination with various technologies, but two of the most familiar — and free — tools that I would encourage you to consider are Google Docs or Adobe Spark …
LINK: con’t The Educator Collaborative
What is First Chapter Friday?
About two months ago, I published a post about my success with First Chapter Friday. I began using the hashtag #FirstChapterFriday on Instagram. Teachers asked questions and shared their experiences. Now that I’m into my second semester of reading for First Chapter Friday, I wanted to answer the most common questions I’ve had.
Yes, I do model.
I read for students and use inflections and pauses. I will look up a word in the dictionary if I am unsure of it. If an image pops in my head, I share that. If I think an actor should play one of the characters, I tell students. I treat it a bit like a book club discussion.
Do you “sell” the book?
Some. I will read the inside cover or show a book trailer. I provide background information if necessary, and I show book-to-movie announcements, worthy news pieces, or a Twitter feeds if relevant.
When I read one of Sharon Draper’s books, I tell students that I follow her on Instagram and that I own every book of hers. When I read one of Sarah Dessen’s books, I tell students that she teaches creative writing at a university and that I want to take her class.
LINK: con’t Language Arts Classroom
By Michelle Waters
One of the most important goals of any English class should be to help students learn how to express themselves to an audience — how to tell their own stories, how to provide much-needed information, and how to convince others to see things from a different perspective.
Below are some essays students can read, not only to help them see how such writing is done in the real world, but also to learn more about the world around them.
Note: This is a living list. I will continue adding to it as I find important essays and articles, and as my readers make suggestions.
If You Think Racism Doesn’t Exist by Jordan Womack | Lesson Plan
A 17-year-old Oklahoma author details incidents of discrimination he has faced within his own community. Brief, yet impactful, the author’s authenticity strikes readers at their core and naturally leads the audience to consider other perspectives.
Letter from a Vietnamese to an Iraqi Refugee by Andrew Lam
Vietnamese lecturer, journalist, and author Andrew Lam offers advice in this letter to a young Iraqi refugee he sees in a photograph on the Internet.
Allowing Teenage Boys to Love Their Friends by Jan Hoffman
Learn why early and lifelong friendships are as vital for boys as they are for girls and what happens when those friendships are fractured.
Chris Cecil: Plagiarism Gets You Fired by Leonard Pitts Jr
The Miami Herald columnist and 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary winner castigates a Georgia newspaper editor for plagiarizing his work. This column would go great with this followup article from The Boston Globe: Ga. Editor is Fired for Lifting Columns.
LINK: con’t reThinkELA