Minds in Bloom is excited to have April Smith of Performing in Fifth guest posting today! This post is packed with great ideas on using mentor text. Enjoy!
If you teach writing, you've invariably used, or heard about, mentor text. Mentor text is a book that you use to show your students examples of excellent writing, which they can then go imitate in their own writing. Mentor text is often in the form of a picture book, because students can easily relate to them. As a language arts teacher, I was skeptical when I was first approached with the idea using mentor text in my writing instruction. I had many concerns, including the fact that the mentor text I was given to use with my 4th-6th graders was at a 1st grade Lexile level. After years of checking the Lexile level of everything we read, I was worried that these texts wouldn't be useful for my students. After my first year using mentor text, I was sold on the idea. My students were more interested in writing, and their writing skills drastically improved.
Why is mentor text so effective?
- Mentor text is engaging. There's nothing more exciting to a 5th grader than when you pull out a pack of stickers or a coloring sheet. Students feel the same excitement about picture books.
- Mentor text is understandable. Even my struggling readers understand the words and concepts in mentor text.
- Mentor text is efficient. It allows me to model a difficult standard in a 25 minute mini-lesson.
Once I realized how successful mentor text was in my Writing instruction, I asked
myself, "How can I used mentor text to improve my Reading instruction?
In Reading, I realized that mentor text can be used to show students excellent examples of all the story elements. After hearing that many teachers were struggling with the new Common Core standards, I realized what an amazing resource mentor text can be to help make the standards more understandable.
How do I choose mentor text?
The best mentor text gets students interested. My absolute favorite for the upper grades is Train to Somewhere by Eve Bunting, a historical fiction book about orphans that travel by train to find new families. I read this story with my 4th, 5th, and 6th graders each year, and they've always been on the edge of their seats waiting to see if she is adopted. The best thing about mentor text is that you can reread it throughout the year, teaching a new standard each time. I can model 6/9 of the Common Core Reading Standards for Fifth grade with just this one mentor text. Find a book that you love, and your students love, and find out which story elements are apparent in it. You'll be surprised by how many standards you can fit into one mentor text! Remember that the author's craft connects reading and writing standards, so you can reuse mentor text in both subjects!
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.1 - Inferencing
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.2 - Theme
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.3 - Compare & Contrast Characters
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.5 - Text Structure
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.6 - Point of View
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.5.9- Compare & Contrast Books in Same Genre
I can model each of these standards using a mentor text, and then facilitate while my students apply what they've learned to reading literature in their lexile band. Because they have a good example of the standard in a mentor text, they can easily transfer that knowledge to more difficult reading.
Can I use mentor text with my current curriculum?
Yes! Mentor text can be easily paired with your curriculum. I use a mixture of mentor text, Harcourt curriculum, and my Interactive Reading Notebooks. Mentor text is an important piece in my ELA puzzle. Once you find a few good mentor texts, you'll find yourself using them over and over again!
Mrs. Smith teaches 4th-6th grade ELA and Math throughout her career. She strives to make learning enjoyable for all of her students using high-interest activities like Interactive Notebooks and Project-based learning. You can read more about student engagement on her blog - Performing in Fifth, or download here free Project-based Learning pages from her Teachers Pay Teachers store.
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