In setting out this curriculum, I’ve tried to make things as accessible and as budget-conscious as possible. Most months contain a minimum of two lessons where mentor texts are used. You may be able to find the titles at your local library. If you’re in a situation like us, without access to a well-stocked local library, fear not. I have budget-friendly suggestions for you too.
These lessons will be used to allow your children to experience what good writing sounds and feels like and to develop a hunger to write well themselves.
On the days you share mentor texts, there may not be much time for actual writing. We’re moving our family to a four-day schedule. Each week we’ll have two writing lessons. We’ll repeat the reading of mentor texts, so two mentor texts per month will work just fine. However, if you have more time to give to writing instruction, you may want to consider investing in an additional resource I’ve found to be truly inspiring:
No More “I’m Done!”:Fostering Independent Writers in the Primary Grades. There are numerous lessons in here that will flesh-out your writing instruction. Many of them can be done with very little preparation, and they follow the same monthly scheme I’ve laid out here. [This title is also available as an ebook for Kindle or Nook]
The same author has also published a book with reproducible graphic organizers to get students started in writing, for use with all six traits, called Trait-Based Writing Graphic Organizers & Mini-Lessons. It is an excellent complementary resource. [This title is also available as a printable ebook at this link.]
One further note: You may not find it practical to teach writing Conventions (spelling, grammar, punctuation) all in one month, but prefer to spread it out over the teaching year. Feel free to make adjustments to the suggested curriculum to suit your own family’s learning needs. There are plenty of lessons in the other months to accommodate these adjustments.
Wherever possible, I’ve tried to include resources to save on building your picture book library. If you’re a book addict like me, it’s hard to resist buying them all, but budget often forces us toward restraint. I’ve included links to YouTube readings of some picture books as well as links to Tumblebooks, an online picture-book resource. There is a separate page with a brief tutorial to using Tumblebooks. If the sky is the limit for your budget, go ahead and indulge in the real thing.
I recommend starting two writing habits with your child:
- A Writer’s Notebook (for more on this, see A Writer’s Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You). Your child will use this book while listening to the picture books (although not on first reading). The purpose of the writer’s notebook is to create a space where your children can take note of techniques and language authors use that they want to emulate or that fulfill a certain purpose. (For example, Today we’re going to listen for words the author uses that sound like their meaning–onomatopoeia.)
- Keep a portfolio of student writing on loose-leaf paper (or use a tool like Junior Writer). Students need to feel as though they can make mistakes, or try something and change it later, cross things out and make a mess. Often there is a certain reverence for a notebook that won’t allow such freedom in writing. Using loose-leaf paper solves that issue.