In 2017, I shared the book Out of Wonder by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth with illustrations by Ekua Holmes. You can read all about it here.
I LOVE mentor texts! I started this blog because I love them so much and I see the power in how to use them. At any moment in time, writers always have mentors, people who have come before us, people who have led the way, people who guide us. But we have to know how to call on them.
Out of Wonder is an awesome place to start with mentor texts because it's literally a book of poems inspired by poets. The authors chose twenty poets to learn from and wrote poems in honor of them and their style.
In the Preface, Kwame writes, "I believe that by reading other poets we can discover our own wonder." This reminds me of a quote from Mary Lou Kownacki, "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story."
When we share mentor texts with students and invite them into life of a writer. We say, welcome to the party! See all these other awesome people? They write just like you. We give them role models to look up to.
This is why it's so important to read widely and select texts that represent a variety of lived experiences. In this way we show our students that we value diversity and that we celebrate being in community with those who might look like us and those who might not.
I suggested in my original post about this book that you can invite students to choose a poet from Out of Wonder, read the poem that was written in honor of them, and then go research them and their poetry. I decided to try this myself with Kwame's work. In my notebook I made a list of his work that stands out to me.
Depending on your students, you can decide if you do this together or if they do it on their own. You can decide if you give them links to an author and their work or if you let them research on their own. With my middle schoolers, I know they have music they love and I think it would be super interesting to let them try this with bands or singers that they listen to.
I started by making a "What I Notice" list. Kwame's writing has rhythm and is fun. He pays attention to word choice and word length and sometimes he plays with how the words are arranged on the page. And then I had to go and listen to the The OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO for Kwame Alexander's THE PLAYBOOK (with Music by Randy Preston)
Kwame reminds me to have fun!
But he also reminds me to take a stance in Take a Knee.
I decided to try this myself and here's what I came up with.
life to live
dreams to pursue
soul in one body
hugs to give
step to take
miles to walk
turn to take
shots to make
breathe to take
sighs to exhale
heart to beat
people to meet
life to live
So many chances
to live big
Which poet are you interested in celebrating? I'd love to hear your favorite poets or your students favorite poets. If you love this and want slides so you can use this as a mini lesson in your anti-racist writer's workshop, join the Story Exploratory Patreon community here.