Teach Fantasy Writing – Mentor Texts in a Middle School Setting
We teach a unit on the Fantasy Genre usually in May/June. In addition to doing a novel study, we have some kind of mini-project we do with our students. This year I created the book tasting activity to prepare our students for the upcoming author visit by Vivian Vande Velde. In the years past, we used picture books as mentor texts and wrote our own fantasy stories.
One version of this activity uses Kevin Henkes CHESTER’S WAY. We read the story out loud several times and analyze the story arc. Then, we have the students create their own “sequel” by carrying on the pattern of the story. The pattern introduces a new character named Victor, so our students wrote his story!
We brainstormed on large anchor charts. What did Victor do each season? What did Victor never leave home without? What did Victor have in his back pocket? Then, partners brainstormed and filled in a graphic organizer which followed the basic pattern of the story map of Chester’s Way…but using Victor as the main character instead. We had the kids complete a story board and work with partners to complete an 8 panel shortened version. One partner was the writer and one illustrator…or both shared the responsibilities. [I’ll update when I find some photos to go along with this here…] Overall, the kids enjoyed listening to each group’s new sequel. The audience members had evaluation forms to complete while listening.
Last year, I changed up one item. I pulled all the picture books I used for Read Alouds in class all year. Most picture books end up fitting nicely into the Fantasy unit (talking animals, etc.). We spend a day exploring and re-reading first with our partners. The second day, the students had to pick one picture book to use as a mentor text. Then, the same process continued. Brainstorming characters, traits, props. Filling in story maps, graphic organizers and story boards. Then the partners wrote. But, they had a choice on how to present their end product. They could use the story board, pop up book, powerpoints, you name it. I was so pleased with the outcome and was in awe of the presentations.
Although there were many who stepped up with completed and outstanding projects, one presentation stood out among the pack. The two girls Bethany and Hannah demonstrated creativity and enthusiasm in their end product- a skit. They used the book THE DAY THE CRAYONS QUIT as their mentor text and wrote and performed THE DAY THE G2s QUIT. [G2s were the end of the year phenomenon last year…similar to this year’s fidget spinners!]
Anyway, I asked the girls to make a recording of their project…and finally…I get to share it today. They were courageous enough to act it out in front of their peers. You can hear their dedication to making their skit come to life. Bravo, girls – I’m so proud of you! Thanks for sharing your work.
SIOUX CODE TALKERS OF WORLD WAR II
by Andrea M. Page (Pelican Publishing Company 2017)
Order on your copy at Pelican’s website click here.
Read the Kirkus Review here.
School Library Journal Review
Gr 7 Up—This well-documented title vividly brings to life the story of John Bear King and other Sioux code talkers during World War II. What makes this nonfiction text unique is the painstaking detail the author, the great-niece of King, took to research actual coded messages in military archives and transcribe them into the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota languages. Page consulted not only scholars in this field of research but also native Lakota speakers. The perspective of the Lakota and their cultural values are carefully woven into the narrative, which recounts their history with white settlers from the 1800s to the advent of the Second World War. Page provides a balanced account of the Lakota, who, in spite of numerous broken treaties with the U.S. government, always fought to defend their homelands and the United States. The book is engaging from start to finish, with a well-written text that is enhanced by period photographs and reproductions of significant documents. VERDICT A valuable work for teens studying code talkers and American Indian contributions to the U.S. victory in the Pacific theater.—Naomi Caldwell, Alabama State University, Montgomery
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