On this blog we often highlight author visits or new student books, but today we’d like to take a closer look at a vital part of our programs which often flies under the radar: writing mentors. After the students have produced their first drafts, we bring in volunteers to work with small groups on improving those drafts and producing a final project; an incredibly valuable experience, especially since large classes are increasingly the norm in the high-need schools with whom we partner.
Writing mentors provide students with an opportunity to be reflective on their own work while they polish their pieces in preparation for publishing. As some of you already know, all of our programs are common core aligned, and both reflection and revision are required by the common core ELA standards across grade levels. More fundamentally, though, we believe these skills are an essential part of the writing process, plain and simple. We Were Here author Matt de la Pena confessed to revising his first novel over 100 times before it was finished! (If you’re looking for tips to get started, check out Matt’s 5 rules for revision.)
Being a writing mentor is a unique opportunity to help a student discover the possibilities of their own language. Last week, this blogger had a chance to volunteer at the Community Health Academy of the Heights, where several of our programs are ongoing; I worked with three tenth grade boys on honing their short personal narratives.
At first I was nervous, but with the students in front of me my worries disappeared. They were eager to share their stories and hungry to make them better. We joked about mistakes, discussed the possibilities of metaphors, and examined a book to puzzle out the rules of punctuating dialogue. I gave them time to sit and write, to elaborate on an anecdote or tighten up a conclusion, and then the boys proudly read what they had written; we could all see their stories taking shape. It was only an hour of my time, but the instant gratification of seeing their writing improve made it an intensely rewarding personal experience.
This year, take part in our mission to empower students’ creativity and enhance their literacy skills by volunteering as a BtB writing mentor during National Volunteer Week, April 21-27. Click here for more details on how to join us in creating readers for life!