Mentor Texts

:
Teaching Writing
Through Children’s
Literature, K-6
By: Lynne Dorffman and Rose
Cappelli
Andrew Betances

Table of Contents
What are Mentor Texts?
………………………………………………………………………Page # 3-5
Useful Writing Strategies
…………………………………………………………………. Pages 10& 12

2

What Are Mentor Texts?
Definition: Mentor Texts serve to show, not just tell, students how to
write well. They help students find ideas and breath courage into their
writing by helping them take risks and think outside their writing “box”.
In conferences, teachers collaborate with mentor texts to help their
students solve problems with drafting and revision. As mentor text
become part of the writing community, they inspire students and
teachers to set goals that will help them continually reinvent
themselves as writers

What Cappelli and Rose Believe:
They believe that a mentor text is a book that offers myriad
possibilities for our student and writers.
Characteristics of Mentor Texts:

Teachers often revisit mentor texts because they help students


examine structure.
They influence students to connect with their own memories.
They inspire students to think about how setting creates mood,

or find places where an author shows instead of tells.
They help writers notice things about an author’s work that is not

like anything they might have done before.
They empower students and writers to try something new.
Importance of Mentor Text

3

The important thing to remember here is to find stellar literature that
will inspire students to “copy” the author’s style, focus, or organization.
This is called literary borrowing.
Check-list of Things to Look for When Choosing Mentor Texts
o
o
o
o
o
o
o

You must connect with the book and love it.
Look through the book to find examples of author’s craft.
Powerful language
Effective repetition
Predictable patterns
Use of imagery, or rhythm and rhyme
Does the book serve my students needs and connect with the

curriculum?
o Is this a book students can relate to and/or read alone with a
partner?
o Does it provide examples of the kind of writing you want from
students?
o Can it be revisited often for multiple purposes, providing
opportunities for lessons across the traits of writing?
o Choose some text for cultural diversity because they
demonstrate lessons for living in a social world.

Examples of Mentor Texts

4

Picture Books: Make

great

mentor texts because they can be read and reread many times within
the course of a school year. Students can easily hunt through them to
find the craft idea they are hoping to imitate. In addition, picture books
are in wonderful illustrations that layer the text and pull in our more
reluctant readers and writers. Although most of our mentor texts are
picture book, you will find that we sometimes use excerpts from
chapter books and young adult literature. They add another layer to
the use of literature as mentor texts.

Useful writing strategies

5

Quote:
“Almost nothing does more to sustain a culture of writing than a
teacher who writes with students, thereby underscoring the
importance of writing, and also allowing students to see the processone writer’s version of it-as it unfolds”.
-

Spandel

Writing for our students is part of explicit instruction and it allows
teachers to visually illustrate their thought process; subsequently,
students can watch us draft and revise. When we establish ourselves
as part of the writing community, we can rely on our students to give
us suggestions; this is part of explicit instruction and when we get
stuck modeling in front of the students we can use their offers to help
us revise. Ultimately, we constantly model what we do as writers.

6

“Oval Office Strategy”

- The “oval office strategy” is useful when you gather your writers
together because it strengthens the writing community. Also, it helps
monitor student’s engagement and attentiveness. Do this daily so that
students can observe you thinking aloud as you model with your
writing. Talk about your writing process-the things that are going right,
the things that are going wrong, and where you are stuck. During this
time students should be listening, so that they can approximate what
the teacher is modeling. Then, ask students for help because their
responses help us assess their understanding. It also raises students to
a conscious understanding that they, too, are writers. When we write
ourselves, it helps us engage in the same struggles as our young
writers and the same problem-solving strategies we want them to use.

7

In other words, it would be difficult to teach someone how to swim if
you didn’t do it yourself.

Writing Workshop
Traditionally, the format for the writing workshop has included a short
focused mini-lesson. This short lesson is an opportunity for the teacher
to demonstrate a particular skill or strategy and for students to try it
out briefly in a supported environment. It is followed by a sustained
period of theme in which students work on individual projects or confer
with their teachers or peers. The workshop ends with a sharing session
in which students can read the work they have done that day in small
or whole groups.
- Because the majority of time in the workshop shop should be devoted
to students’ writing, the mini lesson must of necessity be just that,
highly focused and short. A technique or strategy is demonstrated, and
students have the opportunity to try it out with support.

*But for many students, this short lesson isn’t enough*
o Give extended time
o Give them time to experiment and play with the technique
- If students will have the opportunity to experiment or play
around with the technique offered by the lesson, often

8

collaboratively with teacher guidance, they get a feel for how it
will fit into the context of their own writing. Here mentor texts
play a key role. Their rich, distinctive features enable students
writers to say, “I see what the author is doing and why he’s doing
it.
Shared Writing

Can be conducted in whole group, in small group, or in pairs
*This is the most important part of the lesson*

Quote:
One of the most powerful aspects of shared writing (or reading) is that
it is here that many students begin to figure out how written language
works. Much of that learning occurs through the collaborative
opportunities and social interactions that take place, not just through
our explicit teaching (pg. 84).
After using the text
Students can discuss personal connections they made from it. Even
Though an expert is not a children’s book it demonstrates how
teachers can bring the books they are reading into the work to be
whole books. They can be one or several passages from a chapter.

9

Creating a Heart Map
Hook: Return to any personal narrative read-alouds you have used in
the classroom and talk about where the author might have gotten the
idea for the story. Encourage your writers to think in terms of “big
ideas”- Family, school, and so on.
Purpose: Sometimes it’s hard to think about something to write
about. This happens to all writers. It’s important to remember that
writing comes form your mind and your heart.
Brainstorm: Think aloud about the big ideas that are in your mind and
your heart that might give you lots of stories to write about- family,
school, a holiday, and so on. It is important to demonstrate that these
are moments of time that capture a single event. Ask the students to
share some of the things they might put on their heart maps. These
ideas can be listed on the board or simply shared orally.
Model: Share your own hear map. You can either have this created
ahead of time or quickly sketch it in front of students. Choose a section
and relate a small story that comes from it. Write a short entry on the
board on overhead.

10

Point vs. Topic
As literature is introduced throughout the day, consider taking a few
moments to pause and guide students in thinking not just about the
topic, but also about the pint this is being made. What is the
author’s purpose for writing this piece? What thoughts or images
did he think should linger on the readers mind long after the book was
finished?
- Helping students discover the point of an author’s work means young
writers will begin to understand the importance of making a point in
their own writing and the many ways in which it can be expressed. This
is closely connected to the idea of point of view.

11

Inverted Triangle
An inverted triangle is a useful tool to help you refocused on a specific
subject. Students try out the inverted triangle to take a territory and
find a specific writing topic. Students use transparencies to shore one
of their efforts that led tem to a suitable topic. Make sure that the
students have not stopped at the “general “ topic, but have moved to
a specific statement to flesh out the “ inside “ story about their writing.
Ask students to talk about their point if they end up with only a topic
statement.

Sample of Inverted Triangle:

12

Independent Writing
Invite students to complete their first draft for the specific topic they
wish to develop during workshop time. Using the Inverted triangle will
assist them in structuring their ideas and narrowing down a topic.
However, it is important that we model writing so that students have
the opportunity to develop voice by copying our style or sentence
structure. As was previously stated, we want our students to copy
organization and style; this will give them a sense of what “good”
writing looks like.
Reflection Time

13

Students are encouraged to notice things about their writing and ask
questions about how a particular strategy, craft, or organizational
format worked for them- how it improved their writing.

14