Over the next six months I am participating in a mentor text challenge hosted by the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP). The goal of the project is to generate a detailed collection of quality mentor texts that teachers can use with students to enhance writing. Each month bloggers will link up to a main site to share great mentor texts and how they can be used with students. While I haven’t taught in a classroom of my own in many years, I work with coaches and teachers daily and believe that the use of mentor texts can strengthen writing instruction at all levels.
My submission for the August Link Up is Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. I must first say that I love EVERYTHING ever written by Sharon Creech. Having said that, I must say that this novel holds a special place in my heart.
This novel is told through diary entries and poems, written by the main character, Jack, as well as poems written by famous authors and studied by the main character. The first page is how I always hooked in my reluctant writers :
Who wouldn’t want to keep reading after this opening? Who wouldn’t want to discuss what the author has already done from the first page?
According to Scholastic, the publisher of this novel, the reading level is equivalent to grade 4.9, with a Lexile Measure of 1010L, a DRA level of 50 and a guided reading level of T. They list an interest level of grades 6-8. I can attest to this, as I used this in my middle school language arts class in support of a variety of writing units.
One year I used Love that Dog as a mentor text for writing poetry. Another year I used the story as a mentor text to discuss how writers can develop characters in ways other than descriptive detail or dialogue. As a coach working with teachers, this book can be used as a mentor text about mentor texts! The entire story is Jack’s side of a year-long dialogue with his teacher, who uses poems as mentor texts. Jack’s teacher then helps him tell his own story through poetry, guiding him to view his words as poetry with value.
As a mentor text studying poetry, these lines always stood out:
- “Some of the tiger sounds are still in my ears like drums beat-beat-beating.”
- “My brain was pop-pop-popping when I was looking at those poems. I never knew a poet person could do that funny kind of thing.”
As a mentor text for teachers new to using mentor texts and/or teaching writing, check out what the teacher in this book does:
- “Yes you can put the two blue-car poems on the board but only if you don’t put my name on them… They look nice typed up like that on blue paper…”
- “Why do you want to type up what I wrote about reading the small poem? It’s not a poem. Is it?”
- “Maybe you could show me how to use the computer and then I could type up my own words?”
Love that Dog is a sweet novel that can be read in one quick sitting by an adult. I encourage you to read it and find the best ways you could use it as a mentor text to meet the needs of your classroom of writers. I’d love to hear how it goes!
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