The Clemson Virtual Professional Development Library (VPDL) for South Carolina Classroom Teachers was designed to support Professional Learning Communities (PLC). As we know, powerful learning can occur when we view teaching and student work and analyze it together with colleagues. For this reason, suggestions for how to lead a professional development based on each module are provided. The suggestions are broken up into preparing for the session, activities to do before working on the main portion of the session with a PLC, activities to do during the session, and activities to do following the session. These ideas are simply suggestions. We know the best ideas will come from you, the teachers in the field.
Note: Because this module is filled with so many great student mentor texts, we recommend breaking your PLC work into multiple sessions based on a unit of study and grade level. As you gather texts for these sessions, you will want to consider including mentor texts from students one year above your grade level focus. Showing first grade students quality writing from second grade students, will immediately lift the level of their work. You could also go through this session using a few pieces of choice children’s literature.
“This is one source I wish I had taken more advantage of when I was a classroom teacher. Without fail, when I showed a student’s piece in a minilesson, the interest level in the class rose exponentially.” –Carl Anderson
(click on link to download a supporting document)
Preparing for the session:
- Read through the Mentor Texts page in this module.
- View the video clips in the module.
- Decide what unit of study and grade level you will focus on in the session.
- Print copies of the student mentor texts you will be using for participants.
- Print several copies of the Notice, Name, and Note form for participants.
- Provide a stack of sticky notes for participants to mark the craft in the mentor texts.
Before the session:
- View the video clips in the module with participants.
- Ask participants to turn and talk about how they use mentor texts in their teaching.
- How do you use mentor texts in your minilessons?
- How do you use mentor texts in conferring (are they carrying pieces around with them to demonstrate writing techniques)?
- Do you use student writing as mentor texts?
During the session (Notice, Name, and Note):
To assist teachers with finding mentor texts to use in their teaching, we suggest using a process called Notice, Name, and Note (Ray, 1999; Eickholdt, 2015). This three step process helps teachers discover various craft techniques found within student mentor text and/or children’s literature. You will want to hand out several copies of the Notice, Note, and Name form along with a small stack of sticky notes for teachers to use during this activity. In addition to filling out the form, teachers may want to jot down the craft move on a sticky note and stick it in their copy of the student mentor text as a reminder (this will prove to be particularly helpful when they go to use the text in a conference). Begin by going through this process together as a whole group. Once you have went through the process together once or twice, let teachers choose another text and work through the process a few more times with a partner.
- Noticing the craft in the mentor text
- Put up one of the pieces of student mentor text you have chosen under a document camera. Read the mentor text aloud to your PLC. Once the group has enjoyed the text as a reader, go back and read it like a writer. Reading like a writer begins by simply paying attention. Ask teachers to read the text again with you and notice the craft that stands out to them in the mentor text. Does the focus stand out? Is the text well organized? Did the writer elaborate certain parts or sections? Was there an interesting lead and/or a strong ending? Did the writer write with specificity? Choose one craft move that stands out to most of the participants to discuss.
- While writing is individual, it is not unique (Ray 1999). Therefore, what we notice in one text is something we’ve probably seen in another. More important, this technique has a name. Ask the participants to come up with a name for the writing technique. You will want to consider both the literary term for the technique and a simple name you can use with students. For example, it makes more sense to students if we call similes “comparisons”. A comparison is something students will remember more easily. Naming is a crucial step in this process because in order for students to emulate a writing technique, they must know its name.
- After teachers have noticed and named the craft in a piece, you will want to discuss why this particular technique is effective. How does it make the text better? Does it make the text clearer? Enable the reader to visualize? Make you laugh or cry? Considering how a writing technique affected the writing will enable teachers to explain to students why they should use it. Teachers will also want to consider how the writer probably went about implementing the technique. Identifying the steps in a writer’s process will help them explain it later to their students.
- Allow teachers to choose another student mentor text and go through the same process a few more times with a partner.
After the session:
- Ask several teachers to share their favorite student mentor texts and the writing techniques found in each. Discuss how these mentor texts could be used in the classroom.
- Send participants away with copies of their favorite student mentor texts and blank Notice, Name, and Note forms. Encourage them to search for beautiful student writing in their own classrooms to use as mentor texts. The best mentor texts will be the ones that come from the teacher’s own students.