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Developing Writing Techniques through Mentor Sentences

Students can hone a variety of writing styles and techniques through the practice of imitating mentor sentences.
by

Sonny Harding

on 27 June 2011

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Transcript of Developing Writing Techniques through Mentor Sentences

Developing Writing Techniques
through Mentor Sentences by Sonny Harding East Paulding High School 9th Grade Literature & Composition Journalism / Yearbook Problem: Student writing often lacks style or an authentic voice. Possible Causes: 1. Limited knowledge of various techniques. 2. They don't know what their voice sounds/reads like. Inquiry:
Can imitating sentences from established authors expose students to new writing techniques and help shape their own voice? "It's a way for you to have a template for yourself until yourself fills up your own self. And there's no reason you can't be influenced by other people." (Maron) Mentor Sentences DEFINED:
sentences that students can emulate to exercize a particular grammatical or stylistic technique. RESOURCE:
Lauren Wolter's site
http://greatsentences.blogspot.com/ How do I teach it? 1. Pick out a relevant mentor sentence.

2. Ask "What do you notice about this sentence?" 3. "Now you try to do it, using the sentence as your model." How is it structured?
Is there a pattern?
How is punctuation used?
What is the intended effect on the reader? let's try it! "He sat by the windows, hunched down in a rocking chair, scowling, waiting." (Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird) She ran towards the street, choked from the strain of her leash, snarling, growling. The Research Harry Noden. Image Grammar Chapter 4: "From Imitation to Creation "...freshman composition students who imitated professional sentence structures 'for a semester wrote papers that were graded higher than those written by student who had no'" (Noden 69). Novelist R.V. Cassill:
Those who "'try a few imitations now and then will learn something about their craft that can hardly be learned so quickly in any other way'" (Noden 71). Tips:
Punctuation almost always stays the same.
Don't be afraid to add words where you don't see them in the mentor sentence.
Don't be afraid to take words out.
Rememer: the goal is clarity. "Corky walked around the front of the building awhile, always glancing back to the door, checking to see no one came out." (William Goldman, Magic, 61) Michael paced outside the door of the hotel lobby for an eternity, seldom looking up from the ground, hoping Martha would see him before he saw her. “A number of Holmes stories center around the activities of sinister lodgers in boarding houses, machinating stepparents, or people who keep their loved ones locked away” (Chabon 40). but Can we imitate literary analysis? A number of Vonnegut stories center around the actions of dissatisfied everymen in dystopian futures, contradicting timelines, or people who struggle to make sense of a chaotic world. A number of vignettes in To Kill a Mockingbird center around the activities of poor farm children in public school, hypocritical racists, and people who reveal their true nature through their actions. “Much of Kipling’s phraseology is taken from the Bible, and no doubt in the second stanza he had in mind the text from Psalm 127: ‘Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain’” (Orwell 118). Much of the Coen brothers’ characters are taken from The Odyssey, and no doubt in the scene when a trio of clothes-washing ladies lure in our protagonists they had in mind the text from book twelve: “At sea once more we had to pass the Sirens, whose sweet singing lures sailors to their doom.” Benefits of imitating texts: opens up a conversation about the power of punctuation, word choice, etc. allows teaching of conventions within a writing/reading context exposes students to new techniques that may influence their own style "Every time a child...sees print in written form, this data fills the child's linguistic data pool" (Anderson 18). Jeff Anderson. Mechanically Inclined
TONS of writing tips, many of it using mentor texts.
Index lists grammatical issues. thanks for your time Successful imitations can be displayed alongside their mentors.

Students can take ownership of the process, identifying mentor sentences in their own reading. be careful! "Imitation is a dangerous cliff above the cavern of plagiarism. Student can plunge into unethical depths if the teacher doesn't emphasize the difference" (Noden 70).
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