Mentor texts: do you use them in your classroom for writing instruction? You should, and here’s why.
First, what exactly is a mentor text? A mentor text is simply a text that can be used as an example of good, strong writing. They can be read and referred to over and over. Mentor texts are used to show a strategy, inspire creativity, and are models of writing in the real world.
So, why are mentor texts so important? As a teacher, you could (and should) be modeling writing for your students. However, that isn’t enough.
Here are five reasons using good, rich mentor texts in the classroom is important to helping your students grow into strong writers.
1. Students need to hear and see different voices and styles.
There is not one way to write a narrative, or one way to write an informational piece. Great mentor texts are so important because they allow us to expose our students to a variety of voices and styles. This ultimately helps them unearth their own, unique writing voice and style.
2. Students need to see and hear stories they can relate to.
“But I don’t know what to write about!” How often have you heard that from students? Great mentor texts should be relatable to students. And, that’s not a cut and dry relatability. Maybe students can relate to the actual experience of the characters, but maybe they simply can relate to the feelings and emotions. There are so many universal human experiences, and great mentor texts tap into that. All of us, our students included, have felt sadness, joy, excitement, fear, and so on, and great mentor texts can pull out those emotions and inspire great writing.
3. Students need to be exposed to new ideas, thoughts, and experiences.
In contrast with the last point, great mentor texts can make our students stretch their thinking and expand their worldview. It’s important to share life experiences that are different from what our students experience, and mentor texts are a great opportunity to do that. And, as I mentioned in the last point, even if the experiences aren’t universal, feelings and emotions are, so this is a great opportunity to tap into that and teach empathy and understanding.
4. Your modeling isn’t enough.
As teachers, we should 100% be modeling the writing process and our thinking for our students. However, that alone just isn’t enough. We are teachers and we may (or may not) have strong writing skills. Modeling writing helps students see the process, but it’s important for them to see a wide variety of voices and styles (ie our first point) and you are only one person. So, although modeling writing is incredibly important, that alone is not enough for our students.
5. Rich mentor texts teach more than just writing skills.
Rich mentor texts should absolutely help our students grow as writers, but a great mentor text is so much more than that. Great mentor texts spark discussions about world issues, character education, conflict resolution, and so on. They can also help expand your students’ vocabulary and help with reading comprehension if you’re discussing literary devices as you read.
Where can I find great mentor texts?
One of the hardest thing about the desire to share great mentor texts with your students is doing the research and finding appropriate options. There are so many amazing books out there, but it can be hard to weed through them all! But, I have some great news for you! I’ve done that hard work for you. I’ve complied a FREE, clickable & printable list of over 150 excellent mentor texts for teaching narrative, informational, expository, opinion, friendly letter, and descriptive writing for you! My Mentor Text Quick Sheets are separated by grade level (Kindergarten, First, and Second) and they include a variety of rich mentor texts including classics, new finds, diverse books, strong female characters, and some quirky fun titles you’ve probably never read. This resource should help make your writing planning much easier!
What are some of your favorite mentor texts? Comment below and let us know!