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.
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.
I am a literacy consultant who has spent the past dozen years working with teachers to improve the teaching of writing in their classrooms. While I work with teachers and students in grades K-6, I'm a former fourth and fifth-grade teacher so I have a passion for working with upper elementary students.
I'm the author of Craft Moves (Stenhouse Publishers, 2016) and the co-author of Jump Into Writing (Zaner-Bloser, 2021), Welcome to Writing Workshop (Stenhouse Publishers, 2019), and Day By Day (Stenhouse, 2010).