The Rule of Three (because three becomes a thing)
I have written about Katie Wood Ray’s advice to “read like teachers of writing” and my habit of recording examples of writer’s craft I find in my reading that I want to use as mentors in writing workshops with students and teachers. I believe this lens also means that we read the world as though it is one big source of mentor texts. I am always on the look-out for forms of writing or organizing structures that students could try out and when I find a group of at least three similar texts, I think that is the magic number for an inquiry. Three makes it a “thing.” Three (or more) similar texts allow students to answer the question, “What do you notice about the way these texts are written?” and find commonalities across the samples. Groupings of texts widen the opportunities for writers to look at the text and ask themselves what elements they might like to incorporate into their own writing.
A few weeks ago, we hosted a workshop for high school teachers called “Increasing the Volume of Reading.” One of the strategies we modelled was the use of high-quality mentor texts in the reading workshop. We created a text set of three memoirs based on place and asked the teachers to identify characteristics of the texts while we created an anchor chart. These were the texts we chose:
- An excerpt from On Writing by Stephen King where the author describes his childhood bedroom where he started his writing career (and collected rejection notices on a nail in the wall).
- Looking Back On My Montreal Kitchens by Heather O’Neill
- July 10 by Molly Wizenberg
Here are some other groupings I’ve been collecting lately:
- Texts Organized by Numbers:
- Texts that are about “how something or someone did something”:
- Illustrated Field Guides:
Once you notice a text with an interesting structure that makes you think, “This would be a powerful model for writing,” I guarantee that if you keep your eyes open, you’ll find a discover more! I find most of these texts on Twitter and save them to a Padlet for later use.