Learning from Mentor Texts

Mentors teach and inspire us.  They set examples for us to follow, and we benefit from their guidance.

The same is true of mentor texts.  These are pieces of writing that we read and analyze so that we can figure out what the writer is doing that is so effective.  What moves does the writer make to set a scene, create a mood, or sketch a character?  Once we’ve figured that out, we can try those same moves in our own writing.  Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

In some of our blog posts this week, you’ll notice us giving credit to Suzanne Collins and Gayle Forman for inspiring our writing.  The following passages were lifted from the first chapters of The Hunger Games and If I Stay:

     Sitting at Prim’s knees, guarding her, is the world’s ugliest cat. Mashed-in nose, half of one ear missing, eyes the color of rotting squash. Prim named him Buttercup, insisting that his muddy yellow coat matched the bright flower.  He hates me. Or at least distrusts me. Even though it was years ago, I think he still remembers how I tried to drown him in a bucket when Prim brought him home. Scrawny kitten, belly swollen with worms, crawling with fleas. The last thing I needed was another mouth to feed. But Prim begged so hard, cried even, I had to let him stay. It turned out okay. My mother got rid of the vermin and he’s a born mouser. Even catches the occasional rat. Sometimes, when I clean a kill, I feed Buttercup the entrails. He has stopped hissing at me.
      Entrails. No hissing. This is the closest we will ever come to love.

                                                Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

      You wouldn’t expect the radio to work afterward. But it does.
   
 The car is eviscerated. The impact of a four-ton pickup truck going sixty miles an hour plowing straight into the passenger side had the force of an atom bomb. It tore off the doors, sent the front-side passenger seat through the driver’s-side window. It flipped the chassis, bouncing it across the road and ripped the engine apart as if it were no stronger than a spiderweb. It tossed wheels and hubcaps deep into the forest. It ignited bits of the gas tank, so that now tiny flames lap at the wet road.
    And there was so much noise. A symphony of grinding, a chorus of popping, an aria of exploding, and finally, the sad clapping of hard metal cutting into soft trees. Then it went quiet, except for this: Beethoven’s Cello Sonata no. 3, still playing. The car radio somehow still is attached to a battery and so Beethoven is broadcasting into the once-again tranquil February morning.

                                                          Gayle Forman, If I Stay

What do YOU see in these passages?  What are the writers doing to help you hear, feel, see and understand what is being described?  We’re learning to recognize and name writer’s craft, and we’re starting to apply our new understanding in our own writing.

For examples of student work inspired by the above mentors, see Carly’s blog post, William’s blog post, and Tristan’s blog post.

For an example of student work inspired by our use of Beowulf: A New Telling as a mentor text, see Erin’s blog post and Julia’s blog post.

 

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