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How to Choose & Mine Mentor Texts for Craft Moves: Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts

Mentor Texts Series FINAL

How do you decide which books you’ll choose as mentor texts to use with your students in writing workshop? I believe it’s important to spend time in the stacks of your local library looking for books you adore. Once you find books you love, you can plumb those books for craft moves. However, you might be unsure about what makes for a good mentor text. Allow me to share my process for finding and mining mentor texts for things you can teach students.

  • Six Steps to help you mine mentor texts for craft moves to teach your students. #TWTBlogRead a book for pleasure first. Although I’m subconsciously paying attention to the writing, I’m actually focusing on the characters and plot, if it’s fiction, or on the new information I’m learning, if it is nonfiction, upon the first read of a book. I’m concentrating on the quality of the illustrations, making sure the pictures are enhancing the story or the information being presented. If I fall in love with a text and think it will be a good match to teach students something about writing, I give the book a second read.
  • Read like a writer. When I read through a text a second time, I’m looking for the way the author plays with language. I’m noticing the structure of the text. I’m listening for a distinct voice. However, I don’t note any of my observations yet.
  • Look for craft moves. By the third read of a book, I have sticky notes and a pen in hand so I can record the craft moves I notice, page by page. At this point, I paginate a book if it doesn’t already have page numbers. I go online to find out how many pages the publisher says are in the book. Sometimes the publisher lists thirty-two pages, but I see only twenty-two pages of text. (That usually means the publisher is counting the front cover as page one, the front end papers as pages two and so on, and the back cover as page thirty-two.)
  • Read the book again. I don’t go through a book just once looking for craft moves. I read through it several times to make sure I have caught all the features I can teach a young writer. I’ve noticed I often find more things I can teach writers with each reading of a book.
  • Sort through notes. Next, I sort through the sticky notes I’ve stuck around the book to find craft moves that appear in at least two places in a text because it helps kids to see multiple examples if they’re going to try something new in their writing. You might wish to sort through your sticky notes by craft move. If I find only one sticky note for a particular craft move, I toss it.
  • Plan your teaching. I create a Word document and include any craft move that appears two or more times in a book. From there, I explain why writers use a particular craft move and flesh out the points I want to teach in a lesson. I develop explanations and examples, as well as lines of inquiry, to use in small-group lessons. I always record the page numbers where I found the craft moves for easy reference. Sometimes I make notations about things I’d teach to sophisticated writers, such as a sentence-terminating period prior to ellipses. Also, I note places for additional supports I might give to inexperienced writers, such as retelling a story across their fingers before writing it down on paper. Making notes about differentiation can also help because often my small-group strategy lessons morph into one-to-one mentor text conferences.

It helps to do this work with colleagues. It is often easier (and more fun!) to mine picture books for craft moves when you’re working alongside colleagues. It helps to have someone else sitting next to you with whom you can share ideas. And later, you can draft small-group craft lessons with them using the books you found together.

(The information in this post was adapted from chapter 1 of my forthcoming book, Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts. Several process photos are included in chapter 1, which shows how I mined Melissa Stewart, Allen Young, and Nicole Wong’s No Monkeys, No Chocolate for craft moves to teach young writers.)

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • Craft MovesThis giveaway is for five copies of Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts by Stacey Shubitz. Many thanks to Stenhouse Publishers (https://www.stenhouse.com) for donating a copy for five different lucky readers.
  • For a chance to win one copy of Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts, please leave a comment about this post on any post in the blog series, including this one, by Sunday, May 8th at 11:59 p.m. EDT. Beth Moore will use a random number generator to pick the winners, whose names she will announce in our blog series’ IN CASE YOU MISSED IT POST on Monday, May 9th.
  • You may leave one comment on every post in our Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts blog series, which runs May 3rd – May 8th.   
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so Beth can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, our contact at Stenhouse Publishers will ship your book out to you.  (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the e-mail field only.)
    • Stenhouse will ship a print or ebook to winners in the United States and Canada. If you live outside of the U.S. or Canada and you win a copy of Craft Moves, then you’ll receive an ebook.
  • If you are the winner of the book, Beth will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – CRAFT MOVES. Please respond to her e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

97 thoughts on “How to Choose & Mine Mentor Texts for Craft Moves: Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts Leave a comment

  1. I am looking forward to reading your book. I hope it is what I have been looking for. can you give me an example of what craft lessons you have for opinion writing? thanks

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  2. You created this reference sheet of craft moves for Those Shoes which I purchased somewhere…then I tried it with another text using yours as a model. So glad to see you’ve got a whole book like that now!

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  3. This is exactly what I am trying to do And, I would benefit from the experiences of others. It is so difficult to find time to read a text four times (with different intentions) when working with at least four different books at a time, AND have to teach other subjects, too! At least, sharing classic stories and reliably high quality writers makes it easier!

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    • Hi Beth,
      My forthcoming book will do this work for you so that you don’t have to go through this process with every book. This is how I’ve mined all 20 of the books for which I wrote lesson sets.
      Lmk if you have any questions.
      My best,
      Stacey

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  4. Great post, Stacey- looking forward to reading your new book. This post is so timely as my Literacy Coach and I are talking & thinking about how to teach teachers to find their own mentor texts. I know it’s easier to let someone else tell you which books make for good mentor texts, and less time-consuming. I know time is always an issue for us. But I think our teaching, and use of mentor texts, is richer when we’ve taken some time to dig deeply into a mentor text.

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    • This is a do-it-yourself process. My book basically hands over the lesson sets I created after going through this process myself (with the 20 books for which I wrote lessons.)
      So honored you’ll be reading it, Allison.

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  5. What a helpful post. It makes me want to run out to the library right now and try out your process. Looking forward to your new book. It will be a must read!

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  6. With all the “stuff” being pushed down on teachers, thank you for a resource that has everything in one place. As a literacy coach, this will be a wonderful resource to use with teachers to help them delve into writing and mentor texts!

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  7. Great article and tips, Stacy! I am a firm believer in using picture books as mentor texts–in fact, I can’t even imagine a world without picture books to use as teaching tools! Can’t wait for your book to come out!

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  8. I love using mentor texts to teach not only writing, but many subjects, to my 2nd graders! Your book would help me to choose the best, most effective, mentor texts to use!

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  9. I am a huge fan of using mentor texts in writing, and would love to see your list of favorites and the craft moves you have identified within them. I often remind teachers that the most powerful mentor texts we can use are books we love. 🙂

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  10. Thank you for sharing your steps for choosing a mentor text. I like the idea of doing this work with colleagues. It gives teachers practice talking about texts, something we want our students to do.

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  11. I can’t wait to get my hands on this book!! There is nothing I love more than a great children’s book and the thought of learning about writing mini-lessons with an interesting mentor text always excites me. Thank you for sharing another wonderful resource with us!

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  12. Great, easy, practical steps to follow for using mentor texts. It’s a lot like the steps in close reading. It would be a great way to model for students so they can see how to do this on their own:)

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  13. I look forward to reading this book about using mentor texts when teaching writing. Read aloud is probably my favorite part of teaching but I am not confident in using picture books for mentor texts. Hopefully, after reading your book, it will become easier.

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      • I’m a lit coach returning to the classroom to teach second grade next year. I’m in an interesting position–I want to still be a positive influence on the teachers in my building who are used to me as a coach and I also want to mentor the new coach who was just hired–so I’m looking for books just like this that will help me in my classroom but also give me some “nudges” for the new coach.

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    • I think you can do the same work with secondary students. If you want a mentor text book that specifically has secondary strategies, then I’d suggest Moving Writers by O’Dell and Marchetti. (My book is targeted for K-5, though it can be applied to middle school work as well.)

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  14. Oh, MY!!!! I love the idea of mining for craft moves together! I will try this for grade level meetings next year!Thank you!! I can’t wait to read this book!

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  15. Stacey, great ideas and I definitely need to be more organized about recording in a doc the books and craft moves. I see a big summer project on the horizon 🙂 Love the idea mentioned in a comment about color-coding the sticky notes too. I think that would help with organization.

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  16. We’ve been using picture books as mentor texts for reading and have just started toying with using them as mentor pieces for writing. This helps tie together the pieces!

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  17. I love the idea of creating lines of inquiry during the teaching process so that students have opportunities to think and wonder as they read through the text, constructing knowledge in the process.

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  18. What a great resource your book would be, Stacey. I love reading your contributions and know I’ll buy the book–thanks for providing a powerful teaching tool.

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  19. Looking forward to this series on mentor texts. Any tips for organizing books for specific strategies, especially if they can be used in multiple ways? I used to organaize texts into reading, writing, or character books, but now they are all jumbled and cross over. Suggestions?

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    • At the start of chapters five and six of my book you’ll find a matrix to help you organize the 20 books for which I wrote lessons by craft move. You can certainly do something similar with your existing texts. Does that help?

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  20. The steps and process you provided will be a great support for me as I find the mentor texts that I want to use in my teaching. Instead of just using other educators thoughts, I need to practice what I preach!

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  21. I am more comfortable picking out mentor texts but I feel like I pair them with really obvious writing ideas/moves/standards. I’m really excited to see some of the ways you organize your teaching and what you teach students and the mentor texts you pick. So exciting!

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    • Some of them are the basics (like show, don’t tell and slowing down stories bit-by-bit) while others deal with things we don’t always think of teaching to elementary writes (e.g., compound adjectives, partial quotations). Can’t wait to hear what you think once the book comes out, Michele.

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  22. I love the clarity of your thinking through the steps- now I just have to act on them! I have a colleague who will do this work with me in the coming year, so you are right, that will make it better and more fun! I can’t wait to read your book!

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  23. Great post, Stacey. I have to tell you that I color code my post its so they are easier to sort. (color code by structure, elaboration, and language and conventions) Love your 6 steps!

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  24. Hi! I simply loved your post and I am fascinated about using mentor texts to teach youn writers!!! I would love to win the book, or if not, buy one anyways!!!! Congrats!!!!

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  25. I’ve been enjoying this series. Trying to build teaching toolkits for conferring in each unit of study. Annotated mentor texts is my biggest missing ingredient! Thanks for the tips!

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  26. You’ve enlightened me! Mining for mentor texts is the most challenging part of my writing workshop. I need this book and would love to share it with my colleagues. I’m setting a goal right now: Begin mining for mentor texts with everything I’m reading. Today. 😋
    Thank you!
    Rhoni McClennahan rmcclennahan@eanesisd.net

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  27. I can’t wait for this book. I totally agree about working with a colleague to find craft moves. It’s so fun to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Thank you for a great post.

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  28. Lots of critical thinking goes in to choosing mentor texts. I’d like to spend some time over the summer working on this. I find it difficult to set aside time to do this detailed work during the school year. Thanks for the structure of how to go about this process.

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  29. This book is right up my alley! Using mentor texts to teach writing is the most powerful tool…and its fun for both teacher and student. Thank you so much for this giveaway.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Great tips, Stacey. The pleasure I get from reading books to, with, and for students never ends. Truly the most satisfying part of my job! I can’t wait to get your new book! CONGRATULATIONS!

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