Literacy Lenses

Focusing on The Literacy Work that Matters

A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts (K-5)

Link to Wakelet Artifact of all tweets in the #G2Great chat

On Thursday, February 9, 2023, Carl Anderson joined the #G2Great chat to discuss his new book, A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts Grades K-5. Carl is no stranger to #G2Great. Carl was with #G2Great in 2017 for How’s It Going? and 2018 for another Classroom Essentials text, A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Conferences K-8. This chat was also paired with last week’s chat with Penny Kittle’s Micro Mentor Text book for a two week focus on Mentor Texts. Check out Brent’s blog here for a recap of that chat.

Mentor texts.

I didn’t hear about them in undergrad or graduate school. My courses were pretty traditional as workshop type reading, writing, or play were not ever mentioned. So that first time I tried to write a review for a book in Amazon, I read several reviews. Probably close to a hundred. I then focused on five or six that I liked and tried to determine what I thought “worked”. That was then my goal. To write a review that would entice a reader (without boring them) and yet be both an invitation as well as a strong endorsement of the content, craft, and organization of the text. I’m still in the novice stage but I’ve leaned on a “process” for locating and using “mentor texts” in a variety of formats including that initial foray into Amazon reviews.

As I worked on this blog and tried out several drafts, I struggled with finding a focus or story that would carry me through. I kept going back to this book’s Table of Content in Heinemann’s series of Classroom Essentials. That framework became my mentor for this blog. It felt like cheating since that Table of Contents was written before I started the blog and that’s so NOT me. I’m not an outline writer BEFORE I write. I prefer to complete my outline at the conclusion of my writing so I can follow the path where my writing led. See if this makes sense to you, the reader, as you follow along this journey through Carl’s tweets, the Table of Contents, and additional writing resources.

What is a Mentor Text?

We began our chat by tweeting out our own definitions of mentor texts as well as looking at Carl’s definition. You can find even more details if you choose to preview the book through this sample chapter 1 available free at the Heinemann website here.

Here is what Carl said:

Reading Like a Writer

Carl’s thoughts about mentor texts and reading like a writer are succint.

Reading and Writing are interconnected. Some view them as intertwined processes. Others view them as complementary pathways. It’s important that authors write like readers and that readers read like writers as further explained by the Braintrust Tutors here. NCTE also cites research on the connectedness of reading and writing in Lisa Fink’s blog here. And Colleen Cruz lists the following reciprocal moves in this edweek article that encourages us to consider the power of writing in order to strengthen reading.

  • “Show-not-tell in writing helps readers to infer in reading.
  • Plotting in writing helps readers to make predictions in reading.
  • Developing objects as symbols in writing helps readers interpret symbols in reading.
  • Defining a word in writing helps readers to understand the meaning of an unknown word.”
C. Cruz, Edweek, 2020.

And of course, mentor texts provide inspiring models that are the “keys to the kingdom” as Carl’s first tweet in this section said! Have you ever said to yourself, “I wish I had said that” or “I wish I had written that”? That’s the role of fabulous mentor texts.

Steps to Using Mentor Texts Well

This graphic from Melanie Meehan and The Responsive Writing Teacher with Kelsey Sorum is a favorite of mine.

It’s a favorite for me because I can use it with teachers as they identify craft moves in text, and I can also use it with students as they identify craft moves that they want to explore in their own writing. What a win/win for multiple audience use. Carl’s five steps are very similar.

Step 1: Find Your Own Mentor Texts

Who are your mentor authors? What texts do you use? Where do you find mentor texts? Encourage students to find their mentor texts.

Step 2: Get to Know Your Mentor Texts

Study Them. Identify the craft moves. Mark them up. Collaborate with peers. Encourage students and teachers to find published mentors as well as personal mentor texts.

Step 3: Immerse Students in Mentor Texts

Provide choices. Let students choose the mentor texts that spark their own ideas and connections. Make sure students do the work!

Step 4: Lead Whole-Class Text Study

Check out these resources. Teach students how to “mine text” for mentors.

Step 5: Teach with Mentor Texts

Choose examples that are familiar to students. Encourage students to “spread their wings and soar!

In conclusion, mentor texts are valuable for both readers and writers. Capitalize on the power of mentor text as your read like authors to explore the many mentor texts available whether you choose micro texts like the examples from Penny Kittle or some of the examples listed in the wakelet from our chat with Carl Anderson. Your readers AND writers will benefit from their study and use of mentor texts.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Additional Resources:

Micro Mentor Texts: Using Short Passages From Great Books to Teach Writer’s Craft

By Brent Gilson

For a record of this chat, please check out the Wakelet archive here

Last week the #G2Great community had the absolute pleasure of having Penny Kittle join us to share her new book Micro Mentor Texts. To say folks were excited would be an understatement. On a personal note, Penny has been a mentor of mine, and as a past Book Love Grant winner, I always look forward to the opportunity to visit with her virtually.

Today I sat with my students as we looked at a passage from King and the Dragonflies, an example from the early pages of Penny’s book focused on how authors craft settings with the use of sensory details.

As an early teacher, I was introduced to the importance of sensory details in writing and have always focused on it with my students. We use some of the early pages of Nightmares: The Lost Lullaby.

The lesson has always been more powerful with the example in my hand as I read, pause, think aloud, read, and question. The scene comes alive with the beautifully creepy crafting of a swampy setting; students left hanging as the mystery noise is waiting to be revealed. I have always focused on just the use of sensory detail. The conversations were energetic but essentially just an exercise in naming— outside of appreciating craft.

With Micro Mentor Texts, Penny provides a nudge, a blueprint for teachers to begin a more purposeful journey in exploring craft with our students. Using the example Kacen Callender supplies, readers can explore the use of sensory details, experimentation in sentence formation, figurative language, and voice, and how all of these elements interact to provide the reader with a new experience. Today in Room 157, student discussion was rich as we worked through this example. Noting simple things that authors do to elevate a text, the wheels started turning as they began to plan their own writing. This book will certainly enhance my teaching; it will provide little sparks of text that will light fires of wonder as students ask to read the rest as they did today, “dying to find out what happens next” books do that for our students. They provide us with endless opportunities to explore new worlds, and Mirco Mentor Texts, with Penny’s thoughtful guidance, will help teachers guide students to explore in new ways.

As for the chat, it was a lively one, with book suggestions being shared.

A fantastic collection of titles was shared, and TBR lists grew as teachers explored how one might determine what makes an excellent micro mentor text.

The purposeful way in which we decide on the texts is crucial to the success of this practice. The purposeful way teachers plan gets a new layer but one that ultimately provides even more support to our growing writers. What is the saying… There’s a book for that.

As the chat continued to buzz, the topic of balance came up. Much like we see discussion on reading instruction, we also must ask ourselves how much of the study of a text is the “drone view” vs the Micro mentor text level. Penny provides great guidance.

The chat moved to the close as teachers shared different micro mentor texts our students may encounter in the “wild” outside our classrooms. Podcasts, Instagram, and TikTok, were all suggestions. I was delighted to see Penny suggest obituaries, as a past student preparing to graduate spent a Project-Based writing round exploring that form of writing a few years ago. Those same students are now wondering how to write their “Last Will and Testament” for their yearbooks. Perhaps tomorrow we will dig some old ones out and study.

As I mentioned earlier, Micro Mentor Texts will provide students and teachers with new and engaging ways to explore writer’s craft. It will spark interest in more books and serve as a foundational piece to a growing reading community.

This is a great thing!

#G2great is grateful to Penny for joining us for the chat, sharing her work, and being such an incredible example of book love. As many of you know, The Book Love Foundation works to support classroom libraries and awards grants to teachers every year. Check them out. If you have not yet done so, order a copy of Micro Mentor Texts. It is immediately helpful in the classroom. Signed the teacher of room 157.