Guitars & Mentor Texts

My first slice of life story challenge!

I took out my brother’s very smooth, shiny, and expensive breedlove acoustic guitar out of it’s case tonight.  I started practicing some of the chapel songs that my students will sing on Friday. I thought it would be nice to play the guitar in class when we practice the songs. However, as I started playing the very easy songs I had chosen, I was easily reminded of why I don’t play. I sounded awful. My strumming was off, especially for really slow or really fast songs. There’s really only one tempo I can play to.

As I played my songs frustrated at the sounds coming out an idea popped into my head. I decided to look up the song version on youtube and play along to it. I knew there must be a good version on youtube that I could try to play like. I came across a video of a girl, looks like she could be fifth grade, playing the song on guitar. So I watched the video a few times and tried to imitate her strumming. It was helpful to see and hear someone else strumming. My strumming  was still pretty offbeat and not that great, but some improvement.

Trying to pick up the guitar tonight after such a long time reminded me of a few things.  When you are learning to play the guitar or any instrument, it is always helpful to learn from an expert. Whether it’s a teacher or a youtube video, when you have a model, I believe you will become a much better musician than having no model. The same thing goes for learning how to write. For the writing workshop we always have “mentor texts” that students use to help them with their writing for each unit. These mentor texts are examples of really strong writing from published authors or sometimes even students.

As I get ready for our first major writing unit on personal narratives, I have a set of mentor texts that I will read aloud(many times) and students will have copies of. I was able to buy a few more great mentor texts while I was home in NY this summer, including Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe and Hey World, Here I Am by Jean Little. I’m excited to add these mentor texts to my collection. In addition to those, I made copies of really good personal narratives that my students last year published.

The last thing I learned is that anything worth learning takes time, practice and pain. After 4o minutes, I had to stop practicing as my fingers on my left hand started hurting where I have to press down on the strings. Writing for the reluctant writers in my class is going to be a bit painful for them at first. I’m going to make them write a lot this year, whether they like it or not. One of my very expressive boys in my class said the other day was evaluating each period in this manner:







Later that day, as we walked up the stairs from lunch, I told him that by the end of the year, when he thinks of writing time, he will go “YEAHHHHH!” Let’s see what happens! 🙂

4 thoughts on “Guitars & Mentor Texts

  1. blkdrama says:

    Nice connection- guitar and writing with a mentor. I know about guitar playing. GIve me a classical and I will struggle and love it.
    Good luck with both,

  2. literacyspark says:

    Your post reminds me how essential it is for us to continue to learn, if only to remember what if feels like to be just starting something new. As I struggled through reading a very simple picture book in Greek about a month ago I said to my husband, “I need a sight word list for Greek.” He stared at me like I was crazy. But I suddenly understood, I mean really understood, why it was so important for younger readers to learn those words. Great post!

  3. Stacey says:

    Is this the brother from the story in James Howe’s class? Love it! Because of that, I immediately connected with this SOLS.

    So glad to have you as part of our Tuesday group. Hope you’ll continue to come back Jee!

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