Books Teachers Love: January's Owl Moon

I know you are probably days away from enjoying a well-earned long break! I have until next Thursday (I'm trying not to be bitter), but how good would it feel to have a few read alouds planned for when you return in January?! If you are looking for a rich mentor text to help your writers, especially with narratives, then Jane Yolen's Owl Moon is where it's at.

It's a classic if you ask me, as I remember reading it as a kid and I find myself now as a teacher turning to it year after year. Here are the top 4 ways to use Owl Moon as a mentor text in your classroom this month:

This story focuses on one specific evening out. If your students are struggling with coming up with an idea to write about for a personal narrative, give them the prompt, "It was late one (season) night." Have them make a 4-square in their notebook and label each box with a season. Then have them brainstorm memories they've had in the evening of that season. This will help them focus in on one specific night and tell it bit by bit. Last year, I taught 3rd grade, so the focus was on personal narratives in our curriculum. This year, I'm in 4th grade and so they are encouraged to write realistic fiction. This strategy could still work where students think about possible events you could do in the evening of those seasons and pick one to write long about.

Owl Moon slowly builds. It sets up the hook of a story beautifully. There are lots of ways to start a story, but I love the description Yolen uses to open the scene and set the mood. She uses almost all the sense: hear (the train whistle and dogs), see (trees and moon), feel (no wind and woolen cap). She then moves to telling the story bit by bit. You can feel the suspense build as they wait to encounter the owl. You can map this out with students on chart paper and then have them plan out their possible story arch. Want a free template? Visit this past post to download one. Using a triple timeline with the senses can help students think of the same moment in different ways.

Yolen includes loads of similes and metaphors throughout the book... and some are a bit more abstract. We study them together and then replace them with that they really meant so that students could see the impact these figurative language examples have on setting the mood and making us feel like we are a part of the experience. We then find spots in our writing where we could replace what we really meant with a more figurative example. You can make a chart like this one to show students how to form their own similes and metaphors.

Need I say more? Again, some of these are actually examples of figurative language, which is often one of the tools we use to help students show instead of tell. I love how Yolen incorporates so many senses throughout the story. You could do a great lesson on types of adjectives to use and which sense it goes with. For example, short and round go with sight; icy and cold and wet go with touch and so on. I often would write these sentences without the adjectives at all and then we place them back in to see how our mental image changes.
As you can see, this book is a gem when it comes to studying the craft of writing a realistic fiction or personal narrative story. You really get your bang for your buck with this one. If you don't have it in your library yet, you are missing out!

Want to win your own copy of this book and 3 other books? By entering the giveaway below, you could win any 4 of the books presented this month by the ladies of the Book Teachers Love group! Which teacher wouldn't love to win free, amazing books that they could use?!

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