Using Organizational Scaffolds to Help Us Write

I am participating in #SOL17 and thank the twowritingteachers team and the community of writers they have helped to form for this wonderful experience!

Often, to get started, I borrow an organizational structure from a mentor text to help me get started with my writing. Here are two examples. The first one is borrowed from When I Was Young in the Mountains by Cynthia Rylant. I realized I could focus on a small moment in time just like Rylant did in each vignette she explored in her book. Doing just that, I could return to that scaffold a dozen times or more to write about growing up. This snapshot explores walking to school on a wintry day.

When I was young in the Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia, I walked six long blocks to Edmonds Elementary School.  When winter came, I pulled on my thick socks, high boots, and mittens.  After I wrapped a heavy wool scarf around my neck, I stepped outside. Almost immediately, the cold air nipped at my nose and made my eyes water. Tiny snowflakes marched to the ground like obedient soldiers. My little sisters and I trudged through the deep snow to school.  I was amazed when the snow piles on either side of shoveled sidewalks were taller than my sisters and me! Sometimes we took a shortcut across the church’s parking lot near the school.  Our cheeks were rosy red by the time we walked into our cozy classrooms. Our wonderful teachers always greeted us with a warm smile.

The second mentor text gave me a scaffold to explore broader themes and myriad feelings, all within the same writing piece.


The Important Thing About Lynne

(with a nod to The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown)

The important thing about Lynne is that she is a godmother of twins, Alex and Brooke (and has claimed Caitlyn as a goddaughter as well!).

She now has two Welsh Corgi dogs and can walk them at the same time (unless it is pouring and she needs to balance an umbrella).

She writes in her notebook about everything and anything, often using different colored pens – but especially loves the moment when a poem simply pours from her heart.

She moves from task to task and job to job, while reading three or more books at the same time.

Although she loves to write, she loves the time in her gardens to plant flowers in the spring and watch them bloom and grow.

Something that may surprise you about Lynne is she taught horseback riding until she was forty and earned money during her college years by mucking stalls. She was good at it!

She is amazed that her husband actually took the plunge and said, “I do” four years ago, this spring, and still puts up with her!

She is extremely grateful for her friends and family – they are fabulously fabulous!

But the important thing about Lynne is that she is a godmother of twins, and she loves them with all her heart!



15 thoughts on “Using Organizational Scaffolds to Help Us Write

    • Thanks, Michelle, I love books with repeating lines or phrases such as In November by Cynthia Rylant and Meanwhile… by Jules Feiffer. They are often a big help to struggling writers – providing a jump start, so to speak.


    • So great! Thanks for your comment! Rose Cappelli and I just finished revising our book Mentor Texts published by Stenhouse. It is completely updated and coming out this June as a second edition. The Treasure Chest has many choices of mentor texts and has also been updated (any out-of-print books were replaced by more recent books).


  1. I love mentor texts! Everything I learned about them I learned from you and Rose. The two of you did a presentation at our district many, many years ago and I had the privilege of meeting you at the Millersville Writing Institute. You have always inspired my writing and I’m glad you’re participating in the SOLSC again this year! ~Amy


  2. I used these a lot for poetry after I watched you last March. I still have a hard time using them with narrative, but they really work for me with poetry. I will have to keep trying…
    — I love the line about walking two dogs unless you need to balance an umbrella – great visual.


    Liked by 1 person

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