This week during our summer Teacher Bible study: Grace Changes Everything, we mentioned the book The Monster at the end of this Book. Bethany and I thought it would be fun to share some ways you can use the book as a mentor text in your classroom.
Soo… let’s dive in…
What is a mentor text anyway?
A mentor text is a piece of literature that can be used to help students build skills in reading comprehension, writing, word structure, etc. When students can isolate patterns within a piece of literature, it helps them to be able to mimic those patterns in their own writing as well as allows them to be able to remember those patterns when reading alone, helping them be able to comprehend a book more fully and often at a higher level.
There are so many different skills that you could cover with this book.
Option 1: Introducing Text and Thought Bubbles
I would begin by allowing your students to take time to observe some things that they see on the cover of the book.
- brick wall
- trash can
Help your students to observe that Grover is saying, “Hello.” Tell them there are two ways we know he is saying hello. 1. With his hand 2. With the text bubble. Take a few moments to explain text and thought bubbles. As you read the text, take time to let the students decide if Grover is speaking or thinking different parts of the book.
Mentor texts should spark students to think and apply concepts to their own individual reading and writing assignments. In my kindergarten class, we would likely take some time after reading the book to respond with writing. I would say, “Boys and girls, today we learned that Grover was able to express his feelings about a monster at the end of the story with text and thought bubbles. As you write today, I would like for you to use text bubbles to express what the characters in your story are thinking and feeling. Have fun writing!”
You could use this story to teaching sequencing and retelling of the story. Take a few moments to walk through the book observing all of the pictures. Let your students take their time pointing out what Grover is doing on each page. Ask questions like: What is Grover doing? Is he upset? What makes you think that?
Create an anchor chart showing the items that Grover used to keep us from turning the pages. In order to teach this concept, I would re-read the book over several days. Each time you read the book, allow the students to complete sentences. Stop and ask, “What does Grover say on this page?” After a couple of times reading the book, you will notice your students will be able to help you read the book and finish your sentences. The book has now become a class favorite. Tell them, “Wow! You guys have become such great readers! You know how to retell this story.” You could bring in visual clues to remind them of the obstacles that Grover tried to prevent you from turning the pages in the book. Use those objects to help students retell the story. I would pass out those objects and let students practice with their partners retelling the story using the same voice and inflection that you did when you read the story to them.
This whole process would take you about 5 days, and your littles will love it!
Mentor texts are used with both reading and writing. In reading, I may hand-pick three short stories that all focus on using setting to create mood. Helping students to recognize this pattern will help them understand, for example, why Willing Golding spends a forever number of pages giving details of his setting at the beginning of Lord of the Flies. In writing, the same principle applies – a student who struggles to know how to break a repetitive writing habit will benefit from seeing an author write using different structures. That student can then mimic the author’s pattern in his or her own writing. Soon enough, they will begin using the variety of syntax or diction patterns they’ve seen in a mentor text without thinking twice about it.
I know this may sound crazy, but I L-O-V-E using “baby” books – as my beloved middle and high schoolers call them – in my “big kid” classroom. Eric Carle? Great for adjectives. Drew Daywalt? Great for personification. B.J. Novak? Great for teaching the power of words, inflection, onomatopoeia…the list could go on and on. So it should be no surprise that my preschool babies’ favorite book can be transposed into my middle and high school English classroom. Wait for it…it’s coming to my classroom this year!
When I crack open the pages of this beloved book, here is what I see through my English teacher eyes:
- Irony – Y’all…it’s everywhere! Look at page 1 – a monster is telling us that a monster is going to be at the end of the book. Can we say situational irony? And if you want to really blow their minds, make a case for reversed dramatic irony…Grover played a trick on his readers. HE knew what was coming. (And yes, I know reversed dramatic irony isn’t really a thing, but you know what I can guarantee? They’ll never forget that dramatic irony means we know more than the characters because this book will pop into their minds EVERY time you use the term the rest of the year!)
- Rhetorical Questions – They’re basically on every page, too! Grover is talking to himself/his readers, which is an opportune time for those good ol’ RQs.
- Rhetorical Appeals – It would be quite the interesting assignment for them to defend whether they think Grover is using ethos, pathos, or logos the most (and maybe which one he is using the least). The fact that he sets out to trick the readers means he has had to really employ all three on some level, but he almost uses some reverse psychology. To hear students discuss this would be a great critical thinking activity.
- Grammar, Grammar, Grammar – Don’t we English teachers love mentor texts to teach writing?? I think you could teach/review/introduce multiple grammatical concepts in here. Let me mention just a few because there are a TON: introductory prepositional phrases, inverted word order, interjections, syntax (specifically complex, fragments, and compound), sentence types (declarative, interrogative, imperative, exclamatory), verb tense (This could be as simple as recognizing the tenses or determining the purpose of switching from tense to tense.), adjectives (Though, they are much fewer than Eric Carle or even Dr. Seuss.), sentence patterns (Subject-Linking Verb-Predicate Adjective or Subject-Linking Verb-Predicate Noun or Subject-Action Verb-Direct Object, etc.)…and the list could go on!
- Other Literary Terms – Again, let me just give you a list of a few because…whoa y’all! Apostrophe (You can argue that Grover is talking to someone who truly is not there.), anaphora (quite a bit), onomatopoeia, tone and mood (either by page or by sentence), diction, author’s style, assonance, alliteration…and more!
Now, your next question may be: So what do you have students do with these concepts because that’s a LOT?? Well, for one, NOT try to find all of these concepts at once! Waaaaayyyyy too overwhelming! I would pick ONE category for focus. In other words, I’d either focus on rhetorical appeals or just grammar or just anaphora. If you picked grammar, you could combine several like concepts: sentence patterns and syntax for example, but just keep in mind that if you ask them for too much, it will overwhelm them. The number one thing my kiddos always say with an activity like this is “I never knew kids’ books could be so hard!”
What I typically do is create a recording sheet for whatever concept I want them to find. My kids have tablets, but depending on what I’m doing with the book determines whether or not I print the recording sheet or upload it into OneNote for them. If it’s going to be a race, I don’t want them running with tablets, so I print them. If it’s a group activity, I’ll upload it because they aren’t running wild; they’re sitting still and discussing. Either way, my recording sheets always ask for three things:
- the concept they’re looking for
- the sentence they believe is the example of the concept (text evidence)
- author’s purpose (Why did the author include it? PIE…persuade, inform, entertain)
You can grab some editable recording sheets that you can use with this or any book with the Bigs here.
Side note for groups: I don’t typically have numerous copies of one book, so if I’m having them work in groups, I usually have more than one book we are evaluating that day. They’ll rotate through the book centers, looking for different concepts in each. It’s a beautiful thing to use centers in upper school 😉
A book is a book no matter how small.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you they’re no use at all.
Whether written for littles or intended for bigs, books of all kinds are useful for filling our hearts and our heads.