Developing Theories About Craft Moves

mentor textsThis past summer I spent a week at the TCRWP Summer Writing Institute.  One of my week-long courses was about mentor texts.  Emily Smith, the section leader, introduced us to a book, But That’s Another Story edited by Sandy Asher.  This book contains shorts stories from a variety of genres, such as science fiction, folktale, adventure, fantasy, and historical fiction.  We spent a good portion of our week examining “Alligator Mystique,” the book’s humor piece, which is written by Barbara Robinson.

I noticed Robinson using a lot of questions to move the story line forward.  I did some writing about this, using some prompts Emily gave us to help us push our thinking about a text.  The prompts, which you can use with your own students, are underlined.  (Specifically, the writing I did below was about the text on pg. 24.)

I wonder why so much of the text on this page was written as questions.  Maybe the author wrote it this way to invite the reader into her way of thinking about the text so the reader can interact with it more.  Another reason the author might have written it this way is so the reader could understand all of the doubt and uncertainty in David’s head.  In my writing, I’d like to try using more questions (short and long) like Robinson did when she made David question things that were happening.

If you’d like to introduce a humorous text, which has many uses, to your students, then check out “Alligator Mystique.”  (I think it’s appropriate for at least grades 4 – 8.)  While I picked up on the use of questions, other people in my class picked up on things like using a list in various forms, which the author might have done to show the speed of the main character’s thoughts.

If you’d like to have your students grow some thinking about author’s craft, when reading like writers, then this text is brimming with opportunities to do some writing, like I did above, about the reasons behind the author’s craft moves.  As you’ll notice, I developed a theory as to why Robinson used questions.  I came up with two reasons she might have done this, which is useful since I cannot ask Robinson why she chose to write like this.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter why she did it… thinking through the reasons she might have used a particular crafting technique will help me as a writer when I want to try using this technique in my own writing.  (Hence, the reason for the “plan” I created in the final sentence of the writing I did about the text.)