I am always looking for a great read aloud to use as a mentor text. One of the strongest visuals for beginning writers is a finished product that uses the writing technique you hope they will use.
In kindergarten, it can feel like pulling to teeth to get them to extend their thought process and put their ideas on paper. We see a lot of “I like my mom” or “I love my mom” or “I like pizza”. We have put “I like” and “I love” to rest. We are working beyond that in our classroom.
A privilege my students have is to go read their writing to the principal. The principal loves to hear their creative stories and see the progress in writing. Most of what they write is independent. That independence takes A LOT of front loading during writing workshop mini lessons. We work together to figure out how to stretch out words, put our thought on paper, and make those ideas more interesting. The students know how to rate their writing on a 1-4 scale (more on that in another post). They also know the principal loves to see writing that ranks at a 3 or 4.
As part of my mini lessons on extending ideas, I turned to my tried and true old friend Skippyjon Jones. I love him for many reasons – he is a Siamese cat with identity issues (thinks he is a Chihuahua), his imagination is out of this world, and the books are fun to read! I pulled out Skippyjon Jones Lost in Spice because we were studying space during our unit time. The children thoroughly enjoyed the story of the kitty boy venturing to Mars and rolling around in spice (the cayenne pepper he used to turn his bed into the big red planet).
After reading we talked about what the story would be like if the author just wrote that Skippy went into his closet – and that was it. What if we never learned about his chimichangos? Or if we never found out he saw an alien? Would the story still be as interesting? The answer was a resounding NO! We then discussed our favorite parts. I modeled adding to a simple 2 sentence story by asking the students what I could add or what questions they had.
As students wrote independently, I did have a few strugglers who just couldn’t get past one sentence. I would simply say – what would Skippy do? They would giggle and buckle down to try another sentence.
I found this to be an amazingly rewarding experience. I know that whenever we find ourselves in a writing rut – we can count on Skippy to “bounce-ity, bounce-ity, bounce” us out.