Here is the mentor text we used. It's from Knots in My Yo-yo String by Jerry Spinelli. We are using his memoirs as our mentor text throughout. We read a few excerpts, and then started in with this paragraph:
And here is our marked up version:
We've talked about a lot of these writer's tricks before have made symbols for some of them. Here you see that we talked about (sort of in order as you read):
--How the author gives a location and then goes into detail using the sense of smell and sound
--The use of the hyphenated modifer high-pitched (H-M)
--The juxtaposition of the two things we normally think of has high-pitched and hi mom's voice. We also noticed that this puts a small piece of humor in.
--Figurative Language that extends in the next sentence (FL)
--Repetition for Effect (^^)
Using this information, they started their own first paragraphs. These are unedited paragraphs written in about 10 minutes at the end of our discussion.
So... what we have here is a wide range of ability, reliance on the mentor author's words, and a HUGE range in skills. It is true, if you hold it up to what 7th and 8th graders have to do on command for assessments, it isn't going to cut it. You can take red pens to it, you can talk about how they should know how to capitalize, or how their handwriting is illegible. Technically, all of that is true.
I, however, am celebrating the fact that they are playing with words. That they set right to work, were eager, were helping each other, and identified writer's craft with a high level of success. that two of my kiddos with autism used figurative language successfully. That my kiddos that read at the 3rd and 4th grade level are successfully mimicking a higher-level text. That students with oppositional defiant disorder COMPLETED the assignment as given. That my students who failed all of 6th and 7th grade for not turning in a single page of work, did this AND turned it in.
For my kiddos at this point in the year, I call this a win. My poodle-heads are writers. The rest will come.