Monday, September 16, 2013

Monday Mentor - Mentor Sentences

How was your weekend?

If you've read the last few posts of mine, you'll know how amazing mine was.

First I released my 100 Follower Giveaway with incredible prizes (have you entered yet?). Then my favorite new play toy arrives in the mail, the Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener. Yes, the caps are necessary because it is that cool! Finally, out of the blue I get notice that my donorschoose projet has been FULLY funded! That was completely unexpected.

The fun continued on Saturday when I got to hang out with my BBB, Jivey, at the Farmer's Market. We shared tomatoes, we shared basil, but for some reason she wouldn't share the fresh made mozzarella. Hmm. Well at least one of us enjoyed a caprese salad.

I also talked to a really helpful crusty Old Salt at the Sport's Authority. He was able to help me pick out a much needed knee brace and give me full details on how to get rid of the pain I've been having in my patella. After icing it a few times, it already feels better. Yay!

So, hopefully your weekend was full of unexpected goodness, good food, and helpful advice.

If it wasn't, I might be able to help. I've been doing some grammar work in my classroom for the past three years called Mentor Sentences. I first heard about it when I attended a Summer Literacy Institute put on by our county. One of the guest speakers was Mr. Jeff Anderson, he of the 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know fame. On that day he detailed the entire process of Mentor Sentences and the genius behind it simply blew my mind. I knew this was one staff development I would get a lot out of.

I began the school year with this new procedure and found that the students took to it easily and readily. It was so much easier to understand than another worksheet given at random. I used to have my students look at a sentence that had at least four or five things done incorrectly to it. They had to find it and correct it. Boy, was I wrong. Research has shown that students were actually remembering the incorrect way of writing and using that in their own work than recalling how to do it correctly. WHAT?

Jeff suggested a five day plan that would introduce students to great sentences and invite them to find what made them so great. You can read the book that includes your Mentor Sentence ahead of time, but I prefer to read it on the second or third day of the rotation so students can have the joy of discovering the sentence as I read. They get so excited when they hear it. Also, there involvement in the story increases as they attend more to the text. Win-Win.

I decided to use one of my favorite beginning of the year texts, Thank You, Mr. Falker, by Patricia Polacco,  to start out the lessons. I get so much from this book (check out my TpT product: Mr. Falker Activity Pack) and find something new every year. It was perfect for my first foray into Mentor Sentences because I knew the book backwards and forwards. I could find that excellent nugget sentence that would show students the correct way of using a grammar concept.

For this week, I choose subjects and predicates which is always interesting to teach nine year olds. They aren't even sure which words are nouns or verbs and now I am throwing them into the lion's den with locating the complete subjects. Oy. I picked this sentence from the first page:

The little girl knew that the promise to read was at last hers.

I just love that line. It sounds like poetry and offers so much hope. But like life, Trisha's journey is not an easy one. However, Mentor Sentences are!

I printed out several copies of this sentences on one piece of paper, cut them apart, and handed them out to the students to glue onto their Mentor Sentence sheet. 

Now I would print this sheet out for them to cut and glue into their notebook maybe for the first week or so, but then they start writing it out for themselves each week. I don't have a separate notebook just for Mentor Sentences, but I have seen people do this. It is completely up to you. 

If you can see from the Mentor Sentence sheet, Day one is called Invitation to Notice. The students look at the sentence and try to pick out a feature they think I might be focusing on this week. They might write down *Nouns. I have to stress to them to also include what the nouns are in the sentence so they get some practice if finding the different parts of speech. Their notices are usually very simple at the beginning, but we build on it each week. Eventually, their notices start looking like this:

I Notice:
*Nouns - girl, promise 
*Verbs - knew, to read, was
*Adjectives - little 
*Capitals - at the beginning of the sentence
*Punctuation - period - Declarative sentence

For Day Two, I pick another sentence from the same text and display it on the board. They are to copy it onto their Mentor Sentence sheet and then try to decipher how this sentence is similar to the one from yesterday. 

I might use:

The other kids would crowd around her and watch her do her magic with the crayons.

Again, their notices are simple things. Both sentences include nouns, or verbs. Or they are both telling you something with a period at the end. We discuss what they have found whole class. If no one picked up on my focus for the week here is where I point it out. I would highlight the complete subject for both sentences and have them do the same on their sheets. 

Day Three is about imitation. They've seen each sentence and we've discussed them so they are familiar with the format. I invite them to give it a go and try to write a sentence that is similar to the ones we've been looking at. Some kids will copy the sentence but change a word or two, yet others will go off on their own to write different context. Can you say Differentiation? Yay! I am walking around the room as they write their sentences and asking them questions about what is similar between their sentence and Ms. Polacco's. Here is where I can point out capitalization errors or lead them towards a subject that includes at least one adjective. I am also looking for a student or two that has a really great example. I give each a sentence strip for them to copy out their sentence. Then I 'make them famous' as I put their work on the board and we all look at how well they did with the assignment. 

Day Four is the hardcore grammar lesson. The one from the book. You use this time for whole class instruction on your chosen concept for the week. You can discover who is getting it quickly and who needs more attention. 

Day Five is a little quiz to assess their understanding. Jeff Anderson calls this day an Invitation to Edit. The students are presented with the sentence from Day One with a few changes to it. Hopefully they remember enough about the correct way to write the sentence that they pick up on the glaring errors right away. They use proofreading marks to fix the sentence and then rewrite the whole thing correctly. There might be some multiple choice questions about the concept and a short answer for them to explain what they know. This hits all of the angles of assessment that the Common Core would love us to use.

I have been keeping a record of their responses during the week on anchor charts and keep it posted around the room. During the next week I tell them to keep an eye out for other examples of sentences that we could add to the chart. There's a little bucket of index cards for them to copy out any they find and we glue it to the chart.

With Mentor Sentences, I find that my students are watchful and aware of what author's are doing to create good sentences. As we move along their understanding and attention becomes much more elaborate and they can notice such higher order skills such as the author used cultural idiom to help the reader get a better sense of the character. Well, they aren't that eloquent, but you get my meaning. Give them a try. Your students will thank you.
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