Thursday, May 12, 2022

Breakfast on Mars: Mentor Texts for Essay Writing

Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays:
Your Favorite Authors Take A Stab at the Dreaded Essay Assignment

edited by Rebecca Stern and Brad Wolfe

This is a FANTASTIC book I bought years ago for Becca when she was in eighth grade. It is hilarious. Famous authors were given standard elementary and middle school essay prompts. Given the chance to respond to them, they were able to take boring prompts and turn them into interesting and well-crafted writing. They are great fun to read and it is nice to have good examples of essays to look at when you are teaching writing!

In the introduction, the editors write,

    'If you want to be a writer,' Stephen King accurately prescribes in On Writing, 'you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.' As teachers, we put this principle into effect when we teach kids the craft of fiction writing and poetry. Yet, when it comes to teaching kids how to write essays, King's advice is discarded. We let kids plow ahead into this genre without arming them with inspiring examples... We need a map to know where we're going. We need to visualize what's ahead. Great essays are the maps our kids need.

As always, I love to take the time to write down the table of contents, so that I can easily find what I need later from my collection of teacher books. I hope this is helpful -- and, even better, inspirational -- to others as well!!!

Personal Essay

Describe a time you had to do something you really didn't want to do.

    "Camp Dread or How to Survive a Shockingly Awful Summer"
    by Ransom Riggs

If time travel were possible, what moments from your past would you revisit and change? Where would you go in the future and what would you do?

    "The World Is Full of Time Machines"
    by Steve Almond

Write about a strong memory and what it means to you.

    "Recall and Defend"
    by Rita Williams-Garcia

Write about a before and after. What was life like before? What was life like after?

    "My Life Before Television"
    by Elizabeth Winthrop

Write about a memorable encounter you had with someone you didn't really know.

    "Natural Light"
    by Sloane Crosley

What makes your family unique?

    "Home Girl"
    by April Sinclair

What makes/made your upbringing unique?

    "Raised by Wolves"
    Sarah Prineas

Write about a loss and how it has affected you.

    "Death Is Only a Horizon"
    by Alane Ferguson

Is the grass always greener? Write about a time when someone else's circumstances or belongings seemed more appealing than your own.

    "Blue Jeans, Cat Stevens, and My First Kiss"
    by Lise Clavel

Write about a time you had to make a hard decision. Were you happy with the outcome?

    "A Thousand Truths: (Mostly) a Good Dog"
    by Steve Brezenoff

What are you afraid of? What strategies do you have to cope with your fears?

    "Showering with Spiders"
    by Clay McLeod Chapman

Write about a time a friend helped you, or you helped a friend.

    "A Good Lie"
    by Laurel Snyder

Write about an object or family relic that is especially meaningful to you.

    by Marie Ruthoski

What makes someone or something "cool"?

    "Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll"
    by Léna Roy

Write about a time you helped make the world a better place.

    "A Single Story Can Change Many Lives"
    by Craig Kielburger

What is the strangest/worst job or chore you've ever had?

    "The Only Job I've Ever Had"
    by Joe Craig

Personal Essay / How-to Essay

Write a plan to fix an area of your life that you have been neglecting.

    "Creative Boot Camp"
    by Joshua Mohr

Personal Essay / Graphic Essay

If you could pick any name for yourself, what would it be and why?

    "Hello, My Name Is"
    by Jennifer Lou

Write about a time when you had to experience pain in order to get a huge reward.

    "A Rite of Passage (And the Importance of Penguin Etiquette)"
    by Chris Epting

Write about a crazy experience or adventure you've had.

    "Death by Host Family"
    by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

Graphic Essay / Personal Essay

Write (and/or draw) about a time when you felt like an outsider and how you dealt with it.

    "On Facing My Fears"
    by Khalid Birdsong

Graphic Essay / Informative Essay / Personal Essay

If you could change an event in history, which one would you choose and why?

    "Laida Endings"
    by Nick Abadzis

Persuasive Essay

Pick a myth or an urban legend and argue why it must be true.

    "Sasquatch Is Out There (And He Wants Us to Leave Him Alone)"
    by Kirsten Miller

Make an argument in favor of something you care about. Then make a convincing counterargument addressing that same topic.

    "Breakfast on Mars: Why We Should Colonize the Red Planet"
    Part 1: Argument
    by Chris Higgins

    "Robots Only: Why We Shouldn't Colonize Mars"
    Part 2: Counterargument
    by Chris Higgins

If you could steal one trait from an animal, what would it be and why?

    "Why We Need Tails"
    by Ned Vizzini

Should schools and libraries be allowed to ban books?

    "Banning Books -- An Un-American Act"
    by Sarah Darer Littman

When is it okay to break the rules?

    "Break the Rules"
    by Ellen Sussman

Informative Essay

Pick a superpower and explain its pros and cons.

    by Maile Meloy

Write a research report on an unusual animal.

    "The Incredibly Amazing Humpback Anglerfish"
    by Michael Hearst

Think of something you enjoy doing. Then, in essay form, write the directions for how to do this activity.

    "How to Fly"
    by Wendy Mass

Personal Essay / Informative Essay

What is your favorite place and why?

    "River Girl"
    by Gigi Amateau

Informative Essay / Persuasive Essay

Pick a belief that is widely accepted and then debunk it.

    "Warning: This Essay Does Not Contain Pictures"
    by Scott Westerfeld

Character Analysis / Persuasive Essay

Put yourself in the shoes of "the villain" and write an essay from his or her perspective.

    "It's On Like Donkey Kong"
    by Alan Gratz

Literary Essay

Analyze a character from a fairy tale.

    "The Most Famous Fairy-tale Cat of All Is a Furry-faced Fabulist"
    by Daisy Whitney

What is your favorite story? Explain what makes this story so compelling.

    "King Arthur's Great Power"
    by Mary-Ann Ochota

Look back at one of your written or artistic creations and then describe the inspiration behind it.

    "From Seed to Flower"
    by Michael David Lukas

Compare and contrast two characters from the same story.

    "Princess Leia Is an Awesome Role Model"
    by Cecil Castellucci

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