Paint a Picture with Your Words: Using a Mentor Text to Explore Sensory Details

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SWBAT identify instances where an author used words that appeal to their senses.

Big Idea

Studying a mentor text before writing will help students produce much stronger pieces of writing.

Using Your Senses

10 minutes

In class today, we are going to read Meteor by Patricia Polacco.  This is going to be our entry point for my district's required writing portfolio piece.  Each nine weeks my students have to produce a piece of writing according to a district prompt.  During this nine week cycle, our prompt is to write a personal narrative about something that happened to you.  

Meteor is a book that describes a time when Patricia Polacco's mother was young and a real life meteorite landed on their farm.  It is a wonderful mentor text for my students for narrative writing because they are not so good at including all the details.  

When the students come in, they find a graphic organizer on their desk to go along with the book.  I want the students to note what they hear that appeals to the senses- details that Polacco included to help paint the picture.   


Hear the Words and See the Picture

40 minutes

I hand out the senses chart and explain to students that as I read them the book Meteor they should note any words or phrases that appeal to their senses- sight, smell, touch, taste, sound. I tell them the idea is to notice how Patricia Polacco paints a picture using words and even when they can't see the pictures, they should be able to see in their mind what is going on.  

I read the book and do not show them the pictures.  While I read, the students should be filling in their charts.  I do stop occasionally, especially at the beginning to note instances of sensory words, but I try to let them see the book in their minds and note the words that appealed to them.  

After I read the book, we discuss the sensory words and chart everything we've just heard.

A note here:  I printed a copy of the chart and put it in our poster maker to make it life sized. You could also project it onto a white board or copy it into a Smart board slide to keep track of the students' ideas.  


Wrap Up and Homework

15 minutes

Once we're done charting, I have the students put their sensory charts into their Patricia Polacco folders and begin discussing the writing assignment that they'll be starting.  I tell the students that they are going to write about something that happened to them.  Patricia's mom told the story, Meteor and included all those details (refer to the poster) and it's going to be up to them to produce a story with a lot of details just like Patricia.  

To get their juices really flowing, I send a web home for homework.  I instruct the students to talk to their families about possible ideas for their writing.  I find this conversation helpful and I do it almost every time my students have to write about something personal.