Marchetti and O’Dell give us point by point questions to ask ourselves before we select a mentor text to utilize in our classroom. These questions are used to give the best possible text to use as a way to teach our students. We want to prepare the students the best way possible and these authors discuss how it starts with the materials we bring int o the classroom. There are 5 steps they suggest you go through before selecting the text. I will include these below and my interpretation of each.
- Will the text engage my current students? We want our text to engage the students. If the class is interested in the material it makes them more willing to interact with the literature. Another question you could think about would be how relevant is the material to my students lives? My mentor teacher suggested materials that include sibling rivalries for the middle school, since that is a common part of many of their lives.
- Does the text pass the highlighter test? By “highlighter test” these authors are referring to your ability to specify specific instances in the text that grab your attention. Is there a line that you connect with? An overall feeling you understand? You want your material to be dissectible by both you and your students.
- Is the text accessible to my students? How much scaffolding will the reading require? When selecting a text you want to make sure that the text is appropriately aged for your students, this can include things like vocabulary or material content. You want the students to be able to connect and interact with the text, this is easier when the level of difficulty matches the abilities of your students.
- How long is the text? How might the length affect how we use it? As a teacher you want to be aware of how much time you have to dedicate to the text. If it is too long will you be able to go through all that you need to? Can you dedicate more than one class to it? Will you have to assign the reading outside of the class? You want to be aware of how the length can effect your class plans. There are challenges to assigning work out of class but it can also be hard to assign more than one class to going through the text. Just be thinking of the implications of having a text too long or too short!
- Is it mentor text gold? Marchetti and O’Dell are referencing how well known the author is and how comparable one piece of work can be against another. With more well known authors you can establish styles, or content preferences of the author where as less known authors may have a smaller pool to pull from.
The text I chose that passes all of Marchetti and O’Dell’s criteria is Eleven by Sandra Cisneros. I chose this text with middle school students in mind.
“Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros
What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.
Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.
You don’t feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don’t feel smart eleven, not until you’re almost twelve. That’s the way it is.
Only today I wish I didn’t have only eleven years rattling inside me like pennies in a tin Band-Aid box. Today I wish I was one hundred and two instead of eleven because if I was one hundred and two I’d have known what to say when Mrs. Price put the red sweater on my desk. I would’ve known how to tell her it wasn’t mine instead of just sitting there with that look on my face and nothing coming out of my mouth.
“Whose is this?” Mrs. Price says, and she holds the red sweater up in the air for all the class to see. “Whose? It’s been sitting in the coatroom for a month.”
“Not mine,” says everybody. “Not me.”
“It has to belong to somebody,” Mrs. Price keeps saying, but nobody can remember. It’s an ugly sweater with red plastic buttons and a collar and sleeves all stretched out like you could use it for a jump rope. It’s maybe a thousand years old and even if it belonged to me I wouldn’t say so.
Maybe because I’m skinny, maybe because she doesn’t like me, that stupid Sylvia Saldivar says, “I think it belongs to Rachel.” An ugly sweater like that all raggedy and old, but Mrs. Price believes her. Mrs. Price takes the sweater and puts it right on my desk, but when I open my mouth nothing comes out.
“That’s not, I don’t, you’re not…Not mine.” I finally say in a little voice that was maybe me when I was four.
“Of course it’s yours, ”Mrs. Price says. “I remember you wearing it once.” Because she’s older and the teacher, she’s
right and I’m not.
Not mine, not mine, not mine, but Mrs. Price is already turning to page thirty-two, and math problem number four. I don’t know why but all of a sudden I’m feeling sick inside, like the part of me that’s three wants to come out of my eyes, only I squeeze them shut tight and bite down on my teeth real hard and try to remember today I am eleven, eleven. Mama is making a cake for me for tonight, and when Papa comes home everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you.
But when the sick feeling goes away and I open my eyes, the red sweater’s still sitting there like a big red mountain. I move the red sweater to the corner of my desk with my ruler. I move my pencil and books and eraser as far from it as possible. I even move my chair a little to the right. Not mine, not mine, not mine. In my head I’m thinking how long till lunchtime, how long till I can take the red sweater and throw it over the schoolyard fence, or leave it hanging on a parking meter, or bunch it up into a little ball and toss it in the alley. Except when math period ends Mrs. Price says
loud and in front of everybody, “Now, Rachel, that’s enough,” because she sees I’ve shoved the red sweater to the tippy-tip corner of my desk and it’s hanging all over the edge like a waterfall, but I don’t care.
“Rachel, ”Mrs. Price says. She says it like she’s getting mad. “You put that sweater on right now and no more nonsense.”
“But it’s not –“
“Now!” Mrs. Price says.
This is when I wish I wasn’t eleven because all the years inside of me—ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one—are pushing at the back of my eyes when I put one arm through one sleeve of the sweater that smells like cottage cheese, and then the other arm through the other and stand there with my arms apart like if the sweater hurts me and it does, all itchy and full of germs that aren’t even mine.
That’s when everything I’ve been holding in since this morning, since when Mrs. Price put the sweater on my desk, finally lets go, and all of a sudden I’m crying in front of everybody. I wish I was invisible but I’m not. I’m eleven and it’s my birthday today and I’m crying like I’m three in front of everybody. I put my head down on the desk and bury my face in my stupid clown-sweater arms. My face all hot and spit coming out of my mouth because I can’t stop the little animal noises from coming out of me until there aren’t any more tears left in my eyes, and it’s just my body shaking like when you have the hiccups, and my whole head hurts like when you drink milk too fast.
But the worst part is right before the bell rings for lunch. That stupid Phyllis Lopez, who is even dumber than Sylvia Saldivar, says she remembers the red sweater is hers. I take it off right away and give it to her, only Mrs. Price pretends like everything’s okay.
Today I’m eleven. There’s a cake Mama’s making for tonight and when Papa comes home from work we’ll eat it. There’ll be candles and presents and everybody will sing Happy birthday, happy birthday to you, Rachel, only it’s too late.
I’m eleven today. I’m eleven, ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, and one, but I wish I was one hundred and two. I wish I was anything but eleven. Because I want today to be far away already, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny—tiny you have to close your eyes to see it.
Engagement of Students
This mentor text is about a girl who is turning 11. This about the age of the middle school students and they can all easily relate to the feeling of growing up and celebrating a birthday. She talks about how she doesn’t quite feel 11 when she wakes up the morning of her birthday and I think that is a common feeling everyone has on their birthday growing up. The text talks about growing up and the parts of you that stay the same and things that change. The context is very relatable since the main character is about the same age as my target audience. The situations that arise in the text are very simple and common, again making it easily relatable.
The characters in this short story are dynamic and way Sandra Cisneros uses comparisons and deep descriptions to show the audience what she wants to portray about the characters. This allows for various lines to be attention grabbing either by the elaborate diction or the utilization of an extensive metaphor to explain how the main character grows. By reading this you understand that for an 11 year old she is rather wise about what that means and it is interesting to track this thought the story.
This is definitely age appropriate for a middle school classroom; the content in the story is very typical for a middle schooler. The vocabulary used is pretty simple however there are some words that may be above what they are used to. With the vocabulary words the student may not know the context of the sentence surrounding it should provide enough details that the student can understand and make an inference about its meaning. With the context of this story it can spark meaningful conversation in the classroom about hat growing up means to everyone or maybe some experiences in the past that allows them to relate to the story.
Length of Text
This is a short story so it holds all the components of a narrative yet compacted into a couple pages. This means that this lesson would not take up an entire class period. I chose to use a narrative style text because it is something the students struggle with. They have difficulty creating a coherent story and incorporating dialogue. This specific story has a clear story line and has dialogue placed throughout the text. This is a good text that the students can come back to as an example of narrative style. Its easy to reference since it is not too long, and it still includes all the details of a story.
One of the primary reasons I chose to use this short story is because of the background of the author. She is an American writer who grew up with both Mexican and American influences, knowing both languages. She actually became a teacher later in life and was a large supporter in writing your story. Various aspects of her life can be seen in her writing. She is a reliable author that the students can use to reference back to, having written a novel and various other short stories. Another aspect of her that I think brings a unique perspective to light is her background in activism. She uses her poetry, novels and some short stories to bring the social issues she’s passionate about to the readers attention.