When I taught first grade, I spent my weekends rummagaing through yard sales, thrift stores and used books stores (stop by McKay’s if you’re ever in Tennessee) searching for the best books for my class library collection. It was so much fun to come to school on a Monday morning and share the books I discovered over the weekend to my 1st graders. A few years ago when I moved from Tennessee to Idaho, it was a lightning fast move, and I had to leave many of my beloved books behind. I’m still mourning the loss. However, there were a few titles that I made certain would join me in the cross-country journey. Here is a list of those books, and how I use them in my classroom…
* Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, Illustrations by John Schoenherr
Every year my kids and I write memoirs, and Owl Moon is one of the books I use as a mentor text in this study. When I read this book, the kids go deep into a dream-like state, totally mesmorized by Yolen’s words and Schoenherr’s illustrations. This book helps them recognize the value in simple memories. I also use this book to teach setting/mood in my Reading class.
* The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, illustrations by Stephen Gammell and When I was Young in the Mountains, also by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Diane Goode
Cynthia Rylant is a genius as far as I’m concerned. Her writing inspires my students and me. I use both of these books as part of my memoir study, but I also use them to model making connections with a text in my Reading class. When I read these two treasures to my class, I always get a lot of smiles. This year, I included The Relatives Came in a mini-lesson on leads, and I plan on using it as a model for circular endings.
* Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes
Who doesn’t love Chrysanthemum? This book is a great one to use for modeling text connections, as well as teaching theme. I also used Chrysanthemum in a lesson taken directly from Aimee Buckner’s Notebook Know-How. For days I heard kids wandering around the classroom whispering their names to themselves, just like Chrysanthemum does in the book. Yes, a little creepy, but I took that as a sign they liked the story!
* The 10th Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Eric Blegvad
This book did not accompany me on my cross-country trek, as I just discovered it a few months ago. It’s been around since 1987, though. This year I used it as inspiration in English. I read the book to my class, then we created our own “The 10th good thing about” lists. Some kids wrote about a pet, others wrote about a family member or a sport. I also plan on using this book to show the connection between setting and mood later on this year. It could easily be used as a book to teach text connections and inferencing as well.
If you’re looking for more interesting ways to use these books, check out these websites I recently discovered…
Maury County Schools, Tennessee literacy coaches website: http://www.mauryk12.org/Literacy/Mentor%20Texts.htm
David Stoner’s Writing Workshop: http://zzwriter.com/
Scribd website: http://www.scribd.com If you visit this site, type mentor texts into their search box and take a look at all of the goodies they’ve got!