Mentor texts. I feel like “mentor text” is a term that is both over-used and misunderstood. They’re also not utilized to their full potential. Mentor texts are probably one of the most important things you can use in your classroom at any age. They also help you save time, and as teachers, time is the most important commodity we have.
What Are Mentor Texts?
Mentor texts are rigorous texts intentionally chosen for a specific reason for the purpose of teaching multiple content areas. Picture books, articles, poems, chapter books can be mentor texts. Picture books can be mentor texts in elementary, middle and high school depending on how you use them.
Mentor texts are usually read multiple times examining different parts of the text each time. They are also brought back at different times of the year to focus on different aspects of the text for different subject areas.
What are mentor texts NOT?
They are not books you randomly pick out of your library to read to your students without a specific plan or reason to read it. These are texts that you should have read at least once all the way through and have selected a few key points to focus on based on your purpose and needs. Don’t make the mistake I use to make and not read the books for before reading them to students.
Most importantly, mentor texts are not merely a “fun read.” Don’t get me wrong, I love fun reads, but there is a time for fun reads and a time for mentor texts. This is also not to say that they aren’t fun. Some of my kids’ favorite books are the mentor texts we have used, and some of my fourth graders still remember and talk about the mentor texts I read to them when they were my first grade students.
Who uses mentor texts?
Teachers, of course, to teach! What you can teach with mentor texts, I’ll get to in the next section. Students use mentor texts too, to read and write. Also…
AUTHORS use them as well, to write. Wait! Authors use mentor texts? YES! Arturo Perez-Reverte, one of my favorite contemporary authors uses novels like Don Quixote and Las novelas ejemplares to write his books using the language and writing style of Spanish Golden Age author Miguel Cervantes.
Time & Efficiency
Using a high-quality text allows you to save a ton of time. A high-quality mentor text allows you to make connections to multiple subject areas: reading, writing, social studies, science, and math.
An awesome mentor text is one that you can read once for fun but then come back to to look at during a specific unit and then brought back later in the year for other units to make connections.
That’s the real beauty of a mentor text. It allows your mini-lessons to actually be MINI. You don’t need to reread the text all the way through each time. Read only the parts that you need to for subsequent mini-lessons.
Using a mentor text during a whole group read aloud allows you to model any number of reading strategies with a gradual release of responsibility (I Do – We Do – You Do). Students have guided practice with a common context. This can then be translated to their own independent work with their own reading.
This is why I am constantly creating lesson plans for great mentor texts that I find.
Why make up your own sentences to study grammar points? They’re already written in your mentor text. Studying personal narratives? Choose a personal narrative mentor text.
If you’re in bilingual education like a dual language class, I make all of my dictados based on mentor texts.
The possibilities for this are endless and they all lead back to time and efficiency. Studying civil rights? Check out any number of biographies of civil rights leaders like: Lillian’s Right to Vote, Martin’s Big Words, So Tall Within or Through My Eyes.
Studying explorers? Check out Encounter. Citizenship? Check out City Green. I could go on and on. Why read a different book for reading and then need to create a common context later for social studies? Find a quality mentor text for social studies and connect it to your reading and writing.
I’ll admit, sometimes I struggle with this one, though, I’m getting better. Looking at the seasons? Take a look at The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg. Learning about energy and renewable vs. nonrenewable energy? Grab Energy Island or The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.
Of course you can also use fantasy texts to discuss how the phenomena in the text do not follow the scientific principles you are studying.
This is one that I really want to focus on next school year. When creating word problems, mentor texts can also be used as a context! This is especially beneficial for language learners! Often, comprehension of the context is a major difficulty for language learners, so using the framework of your mentor text can lower the comprehension barrier.
Want to make your read alouds better? I know I still do! But I’m getting better every day, and I’ve learned quite a bit already. Sign up below for my guide of 5 Steps to a Better Read Aloud. You’ll get my guide sent immediately to your email.