Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mentor Text: ¿Qué puedes hacer con...?

Using mentor texts has become fairly standard practice in writing workshop classrooms.  Teacher books like this one and this website provide excellent bibliographies of books that serve well as mentor texts.  Unfortunately, these lists rarely suggest any Spanish texts.  So, we are going to begin a quest for excellent Spanish literature that we can use to enrich our students writing in Spanish and transfer those skills into English as well.

Let’s begin with two books that I just discovered at the library:  ¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta? and ¿Qué puedes hacer con un rebozo?  Both are bilingual books written by Carmen Tafolla and illustrated by Amy Córdova. 
 What Can You Do with a Paleta / ?Qu? Puedes Hacer Con Una Paleta?   [SPA-WHAT CAN YOU DO W/A PALETA] [Spanish Edition] [Hardcover]What Can You Do with a Rebozo? / ?Qu? Puedes Hacer Con Un Rebozo?   [SPA-WHAT CAN YOU DO W/A REBOZO] [Spanish Edition] [Paperback]
Taking everyday objects, the author poses the title’s question.  She then proceeds to brainstorm lots of things to do with the object.  I think this book would make a great mentor text for teaching second through fourth graders about how to come up with ideas for a piece.  In these two books, Carmen Tafolla doesn't go on to develop one of the ideas like we would for a personal narrative but her text is a great starting point in our journey to teach students to think divergently before converging on one single big idea.

You can begin the mini-lesson by discussing that good writers always begin with a good idea.  Often the best writers use an idea from their daily lives.  Carmen Tafolla does exactly that.  After reading the book at least once to just appreciate its beauty and language, revisit the book, page by page, and create a graphic organizer that lists all of the ideas.  I chose to use a web but you should use whatever makes the most sense to you and your students.
Any of the ideas above could be further explored or "exploded" as Barry Lane has described in order to create a personal narrative.  It is Tafolla's creative brainstorming that we want students to take away and emulate as they continue their writing during the workshop.

The next day, let students sample Tafolla's ¿Qué puedes hacer con un rebozo?  Provide a blank version of the same organizer that you used the previous day.  Upon the second reading of the book, ask students to take notes of the ideas that the author comes up with for the many uses of a rebozo

Throughout the week, ask students to come up with a list of objects that they interact with every day (scissors, hat, spoon, chair, etc.).  Assign an object to partners or small groups and have them brainstorm an idea web of creative ways they might use this object throughout their day. 

You may choose to have students select an idea and develop it or create a piece that descriptively lists the uses just like Tafolla does.  In this instance, it doesn't really matter if your students ever produce a completed text based on this mentor text.  Tafolla's books can mentor students in the process of divergent and creative thinking which is so necessary in laying the foundation for good writing of any type.

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