We all need mentors…

Katie's latest book

As writing teachers, for years, we have used the idea of mentor texts with our students. One of the teacher/writers who has made it her life work to think deeply about effective use of mentor texts is Katie Wood Ray.

I was lucky enough to see Katie speak at the CCIRA conference sponsored by Colorado’s IRA affiliate. I first saw Katie speak about 8 years ago in Denver right after she published Wondrous Words, and I have followed her work ever since. She continues to help me change my practice.

At last Saturday’s presentation, Katie talked about how important it is to help our students build identities as writers. She compared writing to building a house – when we build something, we are very attentive to the parts. When we write something, we are also very attentive to the parts. And the “parts” can be found in any well-written text.

Katie took us through close readings of several texts, from magazine articles to novels to picture books. I thought I was pretty good at noticing things, but Katie taught me so much about the craft of writing that I had never thought about. Most importantly, she encouraged me to continue to build my own identity as a writer, because in this way, I can also build my identity as a teacher of writing.

Thanks for being my mentor, Katie.

Here is a title Katie shared that I had never heard of: Boss Baby by Marla Frazee. I loved Rollercoaster by the same author, but this book is hilarious. Perhaps more appropriate as a gift for new parents who want to know who is really “the boss of them”, but definitely full of writing crafts. A book worth reading and worth studying…

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One Response to We all need mentors…

  1. Patrick says:

    Thank goodness for Katie! I needed a fix given all the strange and uncanny changes in writing instruction that we’re being “exposed” to lately, but I’ll save THAT discussion for email. Mark, it’s a pleasure to read your blog, knowing how lucky the teachers you work with are to have you! By the way, Marla Frazee is one of my favorite writers… brilliant!
    I wonder how many teachers find their writing identify wrapped in strange orthodoxies that pop up around us in the name of “instruction”? Perhaps WE need to create a pretty binder and sell it… my manual would have minimal pages and very few words (with absolutely no apples, templates, or primary colors). Here’s the possible layout… Page one – Read; Page two – Write; Page three – Explore; Page four – Think, Page five – Be Authentic; Page six – Talk; Page seven – Listen; and Page eight – Repeat!

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