What is a Mentor Text?
Mentor texts are books that model for students what good readers and writers do — the craft and skills involved in reading and writing.
Mentor texts give children authentic, real-world examples of different kinds of writing from which they can learn. Or they can provide examples of reading structures and skills.
Teachers focus on any specific craft moves in writing or any specific strategies and skills in reading.
Mentor texts can be almost any piece of writing including picture books, chapter books, articles, nonfiction books, magazines, and poems.
The experts at the National Writing Project say, “Mentor texts are pieces of literature that you — both teacher and student — can return to and reread for many different purposes. They are texts to be studied and imitated… Mentor texts help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats. They should be [texts] that students can relate to and can even read independently or with some support.“
When we ask children to read published books and articles, it gives them examples they can learn from. When we read critically / metacognitively, we can notice how other writers write and the specific craft techniques that writers use.
I’m continuing to make lists for teachers and homeschoolers to use for different topics.
How to Use Mentor Texts in the Classroom
Read mentor texts to study things like genre or text structure such as problem and solution as well as practice reading strategies and skills such as inference.
Most authors will tell you that the NUMBER ONE thing you can do to become a better writer is to be a READER. What’s even more powerful is LEARNING TO READ LIKE A WRITER. That’s where mentor texts benefit our students.
We can use picture books, chapter books, nonfiction, middle-grade books, and so forth to show growing writers examples of writing craft.
First, we find exceptionally written children’s books that are mentor texts for a writing concept. You might want to teach thinking of interesting IDEAS, describing with VIVID VERBS, writing with SENSORY DETAILS, or concluding with SATISFYING endings. You’ll read the book, notice the craft strategy, and label where you see it. Explicitly. (Where are the vivid verbs, for example?)
And finally, you will help kids apply the strategies from the mentor text to their own writing.
Mentor Text Book Lists for Elementary Classrooms
Each list focuses on one important text structure, craft move, literacy strategy, or reading skill.
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