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Craft Tables for You — Part I of III

Craft tables are a way to organize one’s thinking about a books teachers will be use as a mentor text.  Since a good deal of the mentor text work we do with students in writing workshop happens during one-to-one writing conferences and during small group strategy lessons, it helps to know books really well.  Hence, craft tables are ways to flesh-out one’s thinking about a given text so you know it like the back of your hand when it comes time to teach students using the text.

A craft table was the capstone project of the graduate course I taught over the summer.  My students had to select one book as an exemplary model of literature that could serve as a mentor text in the writing workshop they teach. Each student developed a craft table using one picture book that could be used as an exemplar to teach the qualities of good narrative writing.

Here is a brief overview of how to create a craft table:

  • Read the book several times.
  • After reading the book through at least two times, use sticky notes to flag craft moves.
    • Record page numbers if possible.  If the book is not paginated, create your own page numbers starting with the title page (if it’s in the front of the book).
  • Sort through the sticky notes to find the moves that appear twice andwill enhance students’ writing abilities.
    • There must be at least two places in the text that highlight the craft move you are planning to teach your students. If you cannot find two places in the text where the author used a particular craft move (with the exception of a strong lead or satisfying ending), a different craft move should be selected.
  • Explain the craft move in-depth using as much jargon-free language as possible.

My students were asked to create a three-column craft table, which included the craft move (e.g., “show don’t tell” or “vivid verbs”), the pages where the move can be found in the text, and an explanation of the craft move.  The explanation of the craft move is where the heart of the assignment was located.  This was the place for my students, most of whom are classroom teachers, to develop a theory of why an author wrote in a particular way.  The explanation was supposed to be a hypothesis since we, as teachers, cannot get inside of author’s heads and tell why an author wrote in a particular way.  Therefore, when we hypothesize or grow theories about why an author wrote in a particular way, we are helping our students to understand that there might be multiple reasons an author wrote in the way s/he did.

Please note: The craft tables they created are meant to be used in conjunction with the book that’s being referenced.  You should plan to buy a copy of the book if you’re going to return to it over and over again in your writing workshop.  (Or, if you only foresee yourself using the book for one unit during the school year, then check it out from the library.)  Regardless, you must have the read the book aloud to your students at least once, if not more, prior to using it as a mentor text in your classroom.

This week I’m sharing two students’ primary grade craft tables with you.  Jen Blystone, who teaches second grade, created a craft table for Old Bear by Kevin Henkes.  Cheryl Tumas, a Kindergarten teacher, created her craft table for Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.  Both women have given me the permission to share their craft tables in this forum.  If you download one or both of the craft tables below, please take the time to leave a comment for them on this post since this assignment became a labor of love, and more than an assignment, for each of them.

Click on the link below this image to download a copy of the craft table for this book.

Old Bear Craft Table by Jen Blystone

Click on the link below this image to download a copy of the craft table for this book.

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt Craft Table by Cheryl Tumas

Next Thursday check out part ii of this craft table series.  I’ll share two more students’ craft tables, which were created with older students in mind.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

17 thoughts on “Craft Tables for You — Part I of III Leave a comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing! It is great to learn more about using mentor texts effectively, and categorizing all of those thoughts that just float freely through my gray matter–onto paper in a manageable format.

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  2. Jen and Cheryl- These craft tables are a wonderful resource for any teacher who wants to use mentor texts effectively. Thank you for being willing to share!
    Stacey- How fortunate your students are to have someone guide them in creating such great examples- then sharing them with the world!

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  3. I love the book, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. The craft table is a new concept for me. Thank you for the specific details. This example will serve as an excellent guide for me as I plan a workshop that will focus on examining children’s literature with nature as a focus.

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  4. Great post, Stacey! I’ve seen this idea before but I love that you provided us as readers with tremendous examples we could really dive into and think about. Cheryl, I studied your analysis because my son is really into your title right now — wow! I’m captivated and want to try building my own craft table!

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  5. Jen and Cheryl: Thanks you for these two examples. I need to print them out and digest the concept of craft tables; then I look forward to applying this idea to mentor texts for my first graders. Thank you for sharing.

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  6. Stacey, Jen, and Cheryl – These are wonderful! It’s so important to think through the language you use with students and I can tell a great deal of thinking went into your work. You uncovered so much craft in these books – true mentor texts! Thanks so much for sharing.

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  7. Great! Can’t wait for the older-student versions. This method will help me better sort out my own thinking about a mentor text–before I present it to my class.

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  8. Jen and Cheryl, thank you for sharing your craft tables! Your attention to details makes them easy to use. Your craft tables will spur further conversation about how to better use mentor texts. i appreciate you making them available here.

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  9. I just started talking about using mentor texts with some beginning intern teachers. Thank you Stacey for sharing this, & to Jen & Cheryl for the detailed explanations in your craft tables. I especially enjoyed the multiple ideas that both of you shared in using the same book. Writing is complex & it’s good for students to be able to begin that understanding, too.

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  10. I too want to dig into the books! I love the idea of creating a “satisfying ending” since I run out of ways to convince my second graders that “the end” is not satisfying to the reader! 🙂 Thank you so much. Happy fall.

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  11. These are great! Both examples are well thought out and show deep thinking about how to teach using the mentor text. It makes me want to dig into the books I use most often a little more deeply! I love the idea of having a table at my fingertip to return to for ideas from year to year. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I am impressed with the depth of reading and thought that went into these craft tables. I am wondering if you have ever had older students make their own craft tables about a picture book. I have given my students stacks of poetry books, sticky notes, and a list of literary elements, and asked them to find the elements in poems. I can see having my sixth grade gifted students doing a craft table for a picture book.
    I appreciate the work that went in to each of these tables. Not only will it help me to teach these books, but it will also help me to create my own. Thanks for sharing!

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  13. Jen, thanks for sharing your work with us. I love Henkes books, but I haven’t used this one yet.
    Cheryl, I love this book and look forward to using it better with your plan.

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