September 1, 2013

Mentor Text: Stories with Holes

I'm once again linking up with Collaboration Cuties for their weekly Mentor Text party. This week's feature is text for teaching Language Arts skills.

I have HUNDREDS of texts that I could possibly share for Language Arts skills; I've taught Middle School Language Arts for over thirty years and have amassed an extensive library of books about every subject and of every genre. However, one set of titles stands out as a particular favorite of mine. Not really a picture book, not really an anthology of stories, not really a typical book, Stories with Holes is undoubtedly my eighth graders' favorite thing we do each day. You can find all kinds of websites for Stories with Holes, but the widespread popularity of the stories and this set of 20 books designed to encourage imaginative and intuitive thinking is attributed to Nathan Levy.

I had the pleasure of attending one of Mr. Levy's workshops a few years ago and was introduced to his Stories with Holes.That day I purchased three volumes (16, 18, and 19), and have purchased another seven (1-6 and 10) over the ensuing years. I have another ten volumes to go before I own the complete set. I am working on it! It was also at this workshop that I was introduced to 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science, the mentor text that I shared two weeks ago. This workshop was probably THE BEST that I have ever attended!

So what exactly is a story with a hole? It's a short story, shared orally, with important detail(s) missing. It is the listener's job to determine, via questioning, what the complete story is. The listener may ask only questions that can be answered by the reader with a simple "yes" or "no."

Here's an example:

Mitch lives on the 20th floor of an apartment building. Every time he leaves, he rides a self-service elevator from the 20th floor to the street; but every time that he returns, he rides the same self-service elevator only to the 15th floor, where he leaves the elevator and walks p the remaining five flights of stairs.

Q; Does the elevator go all the way up?
A; Yes
Q: Does he want to exercise?
A: No
Q: Does the elevator not work correctly?
A: No
Q: Does he have a girlfriend on the 15th floor whom he stops to see each day?
A: No
Q: Is there something different about him?
A: Yes
Q: Is he a robber"
A: No
Q: Is he a real person?
A: Yes
Q: Is he a tall person?
A: No
Q: Is his size important?
A: Yes
Q: Is he too short to reach the button for the 20th floor?

Besides being a fun addition to our Language Arts classes, Stories with Holes acts as a magnet for getting my eighth graders into the room and settled in record time. They LOVED these stories in sixth grade and love them even more now. Other skills learned and practiced with this five to ten minute "game," as my kids call them, are listening closely, critical thinking, imagining, connecting text with schema, following a line of reasoning, et al.

Happy Reading,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6


  1. I have a few of these books and my kids love them. I tend to use them as a "filler" when we have a few spare min before a special, or before we go home.
    Thanks for sharing how you use them.
    Hunter's Teaching Tales
    Find me on Facebook

    1. I started out using them as fillers with my present class of eighth graders. However they got so into them the stories just had to become routine. Thanks for the reminder about this. I want to introduce them to my sixers but our time is sooo limited.

  2. One of my former fifth grade teaching partners used to use these stories and loved using them. I will past your post on to another of my former fifth grade partners... Thanks so much for sharing!

    Sarah @ Hoots N Hollers


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