Teaching with Mentor Texts

8 Tips for Teaching With Mentor Texts

It should come as no surprise that students learn better when they are provided with examples. And in my experience, using mentor books as part of a writing lesson is one of the most successful ways to teach writing. Students can learn to desire to write effective pieces of their own by looking at published works of good writing done by experienced authors. This is especially beneficial when the student writing in question is published work.

But for many students, the experience of reading to learn about writing is brand new and extremely different from what they have done in the past. This is because reading to learn about writing is a new experience. This does not imply that they will not gain anything from mentor literature; however, it does mean that you will have to demonstrate to them how to do the task.

Especially for the first few times, taking things slowly and building on what they already know will be helpful. Make as many preparations as you can and put the following advice into practise to ensure that everyone has a positive experience. When your students have reached a point where they are confident in their ability to analyse mentor texts, you may then go on to my 14 questions for any mentor text.


1. Introduce any new language and provide definitions right away. Students who are not used to reading material that is tough frequently become discouraged by the difficult vocabulary and give up as soon as they come across an unfamiliar word. Consequently, you should allot a few minutes to go through any phrases that kids might consider discouraging.

2. Either read the passage aloud to the class or allow students independent reading time in the classroom. Although I am aware that not all educators think that children should be read to, I have found that reading aloud to my students who are having the most difficulty keeping up with the reading is one way to help them stay on track, especially when the reading is difficult. If you don’t feel comfortable reading to them, offer them time to read in class instead of assigning a difficult work to be read alone at home; this will almost never result in a good session.

3. Begin with questions that are directly related to the material being discussed. In most cases, students are accustomed to responding to questions that focus on the primary arguments presented in texts and the methods that writers use to support those arguments with evidence or examples. In addition, in order for pupils to be able to analyse how a writer has produced a text, they will first need to comprehend what the text is trying to convey to them. In order to prepare them for the more difficult questions that will follow, you should first ask them questions about what the author says and how they make that point.

4. When you return to the text to examine the strategies, you should be as detailed as possible, specifying specific sentences or words wherever it is possible to do so. Instead of letting them figure out what they need to know from the text on their own, draw their attention to the specific sentences you want them to focus on. Questions such as “When the writer states ____ in the first sentence, how does she make you want to read more?” are considerably more beneficial for learners who are resistant to learning or who are having difficulty learning than questions such as “How does the author hook the reader?” If it is at all possible, number the lines or paragraphs, quote particular words or phrases, and demonstrate to the students exactly where you want them to focus their attention. It is acceptable to ask students who are having difficulty with the material to identify parts of the text on their own; nevertheless, you should ask them at least a few questions that point them in the right direction.

5. If you want pupils to try a certain method, give them many examples of it. For instance, if you want students to organise a personal essay by beginning with an event and then going back in time to describe how they got there, you could give them an example of a big game and the season of practise that led up to it, or you could give them an example of a busted party and the series of poor decisions that led up to it. Both of these examples would be appropriate. Give them more than one example of how figurative language can be used into an essay if you want them to try adding it to their descriptions and you want to encourage them to do so. For many students, merely having a strategy specified is not sufficient on its own.

6. During teacher conferences, whole-class courses, or discussions, make frequent reference back to the mentor readings you have chosen. Do not make the mistake of assuming that pupils have assimilated a strategy and are prepared to utilise it in their own writing simply because they have answered one set of questions on that technique. They might not remember or they might not understand that what they were being taught was something they could try out on their own, but either way, it’s possible. On the other hand, they might not have been prepared for the lesson when it was presented, but once they have begun working on their own piece, they might be more ready to try mimicking a technique from the mentor text. If this is the case, the lesson could have been taught earlier.

7. Demonstrate to the pupils that you are also using the tactics. If you demonstrate a new strategy by using it yourself in front of your students, they are considerably less likely to feel scared to attempt it themselves. It is of even greater significance to demonstrate to them that you may have to exert effort in order to design your writing. By letting students know that no one is just naturally gifted at writing, you may go a long way toward encouraging them to take risks and flex the writing muscles they already possess.

8. Keep in mind that for students who are having difficulty, this is most likely a new experience for them. Be patient and keep attempting to think on a higher level; for most people, this style of thinking does not come naturally. You will come to appreciate the rewards, and the acquired knowledge will be well worth the effort.