The second activity I did last Friday at the Nevada Reading Week Conference was similar to the first activity, but we used a different mentor text: Marshfield Dreams: When I was a Kid by the great Ralph Fletcher.

I am not shy in saying that I believe this book (especially when you accompany it with Fletcher's How to Write Your Life Story) is the absolute best mentor text to have available when teaching narrative writing with elementary students. I make use of the text every time I work with a group of 4th or 5th graders.

Each chapter of the book is practically its own short story, capturing a real moment from Fletcher's boyhood.  Fletcher doesn't use lofty language like many other authors who write about boyhood; he writes with similes and verbs and adjectives that kids already know.  You don't teach vocabulary with this book; you teach students about skillful writing because this book is skillfully penned. 

On Friday, we read one of the shortest chapters from the book, which is called "First Pen."  It's about a gift that young Ralph received that meant a lot to him.  This chapter is so short, if you hand-wrote it out on Nevada's Writing Test Form, it would just fit.  To me, it's the perfect example of short, effective narrartive writing.

I can't legally post the entire chapter for you here, but I can show you two fourth grade samples that tried to imitate Fletcher's style as they wrote short narrative about important gifts they had received.  If you have a copy of Marshfield Dreams--or if you obtain one--spend some time comparing what these two fourth graders did with their writing that Ralph Fletcher also did!  Because they analyzed the writing (using the Post it below) they could do so much more than just impersonate the idea.

Click here to open/print these student samples!

Finally, below is the Post-it I designed to have the participants analyze and evaluate Fletcher's skills in the "First Pen" chapter!

I'll be posting my third and final activity from last Friday tomorrow!


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