[Mentor Text Monday] The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

For my next installment of Mentor Text Monday I would like to share how I would use The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as a mentor text. This book, by Chris Van Allsburg, is actually a picture book with phenomenal pictures and very few words. In fact, each page has one picture with a title and a line, presumably from the story that would go along with the picture. But that is all. There is no more. The reader is left to imagine each story, just from these small clues. This is an incredible experience for young students who feel they aren’t imaginative or creative. I have NEVER met a person, young or not-so-young, who couldn’t imagine a story from at least one of these creative pictures.

Two of my favorites are:

  • Under the rug
  • Just Desert

During my writer’s workshop instruction, I would often use these pictures at the beginning of the year or the beginning of a new unit of study. When I wanted my students to build up their stamina and not get bogged down because they couldn’t come up with any ideas, these pictures gave them a great start.

Ways to use the pictures within The Mysteries of Harris Burdick:

  • Show the entire class just one picture (no words) and give them time to write the story that would accompany it. Be sure to allow time for sharing because students love to hear different interpretations!
  • Follow the same note above, only this time give the students the picture, the title and the line provided in the book.
  • Show the class one picture and have every student write the first line of the story. Then have each student pass their notebook to the left. Each student then reads the line in front of them and adds a second line onto that story. Continue to pass, read, and add, until each notebook has enough of a story to be entertaining. Students love reading these mismatches stories aloud!
  • Give each student (or small group) a different picture- with or without the title- and give them time to write the story.
  • Encourage students to create their own mysterious picture, then to add a title and one line of text.
  • Visit Chris Van Allsburg website to encourage students to submit their story. Each month he highlights one page from this book and calls for story submissions from students.

Have you used this book, or any by Van Allsburg, as a mentor text? Have you visited his website? I never had until I began writing this post- what a great experience in and of itself!

My inspiration to joining Mentor Text Monday is Barb and her latest blog can be found here.

Previous Mentor Text posts:

Percy Jackson

Love That Dog

Divergent Dashes

About Amy's Reflections

Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services in Southern CA, taking time to reflect on leadership and learning
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5 Responses to [Mentor Text Monday] The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

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