Learning Craft and Content Using Mentor Texts Continued

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SWBAT analyze a personal narrative ("Pets") for craft techniques.

Big Idea

What the story is about and how it's written?: Two different but valuable qualities.

Reading Time

10 minutes

Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time.  This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.

Guided Reading: Craft In "Pets"

20 minutes

The previous lesson introduced craft techniques in personal narratives. As a way to continue that work, students will work today with another narrative as a way to practice finding and highlighting craft techniques. Today's lesson focuses on reading a narrative while looking for certain craft techniques. The narrative we will be working with is a chapter titled "Pets" from a book called Ghosts Of War by Ryan Smithson. We use a chapter title Pets. This is a fantastic memoir about a 19 year old serving in Iraq. I love using excerpts from this book as they are very accessible for my students and it generates interest in some students to read the entire book.

I begin the lesson by first pulling up the Craft and Content In Personal Narratives Powerpoint on the Smartboard. This powerpoint provides the structure for the previous lesson and this lesson. Since both lessons are so closely connected, having one powerpoint helps to keep the flow of the lessons manageable. It also makes it clearer for students how one lesson moves into the next. I review the questions on slide 5. These questions give students a way to analyze the narrative as they are reading it so they are not reading it blindly. Since students are new at looking at craft techniques, they need guidance and the questions help with that. The questions are as follows:

  • ™What is/are the tone/tones of the piece and how is/are they achieved? What does the author do to achieve it?
  • ™How does the write achieve conveying theme/so-what?
  • ™What other qualities/techniques does Smithson use in crafting his piece and what purpose do they serve?
  • ™™Try and outline the structure of the piece. What affect does it have?

This is really where I differentiate depending on the class. Sometimes I pass out the narrative first (here is the first page of the narrative: Pets Page 1) and we read through the entire piece once. This works well for lower level students. They are able to understand the content of the narrative first. We can then read the narrative a second time trying to answer the questions above as we look for craft techniques. For other classes, I give them the questions first and we look for the answers as we read. Occasionally this will require some model initially. I will begin reading and I will pause as I find answers to the questions. As we continue reading, students should work on finding the answers on their own.

Keep in mind the length of the excerpt. Since it is rather lengthy, it usually takes me about two or three days to cover this.

Class Analysis and Discussion: Craft In Pets

13 minutes

After students understand the content of the narrative, we then work together to begin analyzing the craft in the piece. The excerpt is great to use for analyzing craft techniques as there are so many different aspects of it. Students can find different aspects no matter their level. Some techniques, such as description, are very obvious. Other techniques, such as turn in focus, are subtle, and work will with students with higher-level analysis skills.

For the rest of the lesson, we review the narrative and discuss the various craft techniques in it. We do this by creating a list of techniques that students noticed as they read the narrative. We work together to keep a class list. The list is on the last slide of the Craft and Content In Personal Narratives Powerpoint and covers the following areas

  • extended metaphor
  • switch in tone
  • turn/change in focus
  • sensory details
  • effective use of dialogue

I ask students first for what they noticed to see if they are able to find the major craft techniques. After our initial conversation I then review the list on the powerpoint. These are are areas that I want to make sure we get to as a class so I keep them on the Powerpoint and make sure students jot them down in their notebooks as well as underline examples throughout the narrative. There are examples that students may come up with on their own but those are the ones I feel the writer does an exceptional job of incorporating so I make sure we look at them. I refer back to my own Pets Teacher Notes  throughout this process and this video explains the notes:Pets Notes Explanation. These are areas that are also ones that show up often in narrative writing and are touched upon in the Common Core.