Create Your Own Text: Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts

Mentor Texts Series FINALThe world of mentor texts seems endless.  There is a picture book, article, or digital text for almost every unit of study you can imagine.  A quick scan of your bookshelf or a Google search will likely provide you with a writing mentor in a matter of minutes.  Why, then, would you take the time to write your own mentor text?

First of all, teacher written mentor texts provide an experience for the teacher which will lead to insights about the genre and the writing process.  The act of creating a mentor text puts the teacher in a position of an insider in a way that reading a mentor text simply cannot do.  Let me show you an example.

I was teaching a unit of study on short stories in 5th grade.  We were just getting started and one of the opening minilessons was “Where do Writers Get Story Ideas?”.  We came up with this list and set out to brainstorm possible ideas:

Where Writers Get Ideas

From my writer’s notebook – click to enlarge

I thought and thought – about books I’ve read, about things I love, about my fears – but I couldn’t think of a good story idea.  At home later that night I was thumbing through a parenting magazine when I came across this chart about soothing anxious kids:

Short Story Idea

Another page from my notebook, clipped from Parenting Magazine

“That’s it!” I thought.  My story idea had found me.

I returned to school the next day with some insider knowledge: sometimes story ideas find us when we are away from our writing desks.  This meant I had to give the students time to find story ideas – or for story ideas to find them.

A second reason to generate teacher-written mentor texts is student engagement. Something about a teacher sharing a piece of his or her own writing causes students to sit up a little straighter, to lean in a little more attentively.  Kids love to see what their teacher has written.  The fifth graders were on pins and needles when I read them my opening scene to my short story.

Short Story Opener

From my writer’s notebook – click to enlarge

Finally, teacher-written mentor texts can become a solid anchor for your minilessons, small group work, and conferences.  You wrote the text so you know it inside and out.  You can use your mentor text to demonstrate all the subtleties of writing.  You can discuss the nuances of word choice and punctuation and revision because you made all the choices.

Some things to remember as you work to create your own mentor texts:

  • Teacher-written mentor texts are not the same as demonstration writing.  You do not need to create the text in front of the students.
  • Be authentic in your writing process.  Write in a way that feels comfortable to you.  If you are a brainstorming kind of writer, then brainstorm.  If you are a jump-right-in-and-give-it-a-go kind of writer, then jump right in.  Be true to your writer self.
  • Share the experience with the students, not just the finished product.  Talk about how it felt to go through the writing process.  Discuss the hard parts.
  • Save your teacher-written mentor texts.  You can use the same text year after year.

Good luck on your writing journey!

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for the new book coming out titled Craft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts, written by our very own Stacey Shubitz. See below for details!


  • 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 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 email 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 email 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.