"This is no recipe book: I have tried not to be formulaic. Rather, I want to suggest the richness of the options, the myriad of possibilities open to the writer at any given moment."
When I think about how the possibilities for writing has expanded for our students, these are the two video clips I keep going back to.
I discovered this "Saved by the Bell" Public Service Announcement years ago and have watched it numerous times.
Don't do drugs - saved by the bell from Matthew Stockmeyer on Vimeo.
It seems somewhat obvious that this was a clip scripted and produced by adults--adults who worked at a television studio. It also is interesting that the "adult' has to come in to have the final word. If I were to imagine kids watching this on t.v. I assumed not many kids watched it and thought, "Hey, I'd like to make something like that." With the technology available then, it took the big television studios, etc. to get word out about a topic quickly. It took lots of money and lots of adult organization.
Compare that to this Public Service Announcement done a few years ago by Noah Gray, a high school student:
I found this clip almost 3 years ago and I have watched it over and over again. The power of this message is amazing. From my understanding, Noah Gray was a high school student when he created this video. It was a message he cared about and the equipment necessary was easy to use. The message hit the internet and spread. You can find connected videos inspired by this video all over Youtube. It is clear that kids saw this and thought, "I can do that."
In my thinking about mentor texts, we have to keep in mind that writing has to be real and it has to have a real audience. We also have to remember that writers are ultimately decision-makers.
I've used this clip with students and adults to really begin to think about all of the decisions available to writers today. Noah Gray made so many decisions as a writer in this very short, powerful clip. He made decisions about the script, the sound and the visuals. Noah decided where to cut each person's lines and where to start the next person. He decided on the message. Here are some other decisions he made:
black and white video/no color
head shots only/not full body-same shot for each participant
casual dress for people speaking
short clips of talk by participants
boys and girls all look to be in teen years
participants showed up more than once
question as a lead into the video/script
9 people total
ending united with 9 kids shown in grid
white, plain background
no music/background sound
30 seconds long
Each of these (and many other) decisions were made for a reason. The reasons had to do with the message that Noah wanted his viewers to take away. Instead of just crafting words, as writers have done in the past, digital writers make decisions about words, sound, visuals and more.
Mentor texts in our classrooms could open up students' possibilities to these decisions-the options they have as writers. They can see that they are the decision makers and that multi-media requires creators of digital text to make many decisions so that their messages are clear and powerful. Rather than be formulaic, I want my students' mentors to be pieces that open up what is possible in their own work.