Studying the work of an experienced and accomplished mentor is the best way to acquire and refine new skills. Learning how to become a writer is no different. Mentor texts provide learners examples of writing genre, language structures and conventions, and individual and
stylistic choices made by the author. Through intentional, systematic observation and analysis of a mentor text, students try out different writing styles as they develop their own writing voices. Hess Academy's 4th and 5th grade class studied the mentor text Just Because by Matthew McConaughey. In this book, McConaughey playfully explores the complexities of life in a funny and thoughtful series of couplets.
Most of these students have hit double digits, and they know a thing or two about the ups and downs of the world. After studying McConaughey's book, the students were abuzz with ideas. The more challenging task was how to get these ideas into couplets. First, the group explored the question, "What is a couplet?" To answer this question, students studied
additional children's books with couplets, including Chicka, Chicka, Boom, Boom, The Lorax, and Good Night Moon.
Students revisited rhyming words and practiced using the rhyming dictionary. Students talked about what it means to give advice and examples of advice they have received from others. Next, the class brainstormed a list of opposites that can exist at the same time such as peaceful and active or small and mighty. Next, the students were ready to write their own couplets. Each individual drafted, refined, and edited a page in the class book. After they were finished writing, each student illustrated his or her writing with ink and watercolor. The
highlight of this experience was sharing the book with Carmen Deedy when she visited the school. Encouragement and positive feedback from successful, published authors is truly the best. We think you will agree that the final products are fabulous!