mentor texts

Resources Teachers Can Share With Families: How To Use A Mentor Text At Home

If you are teaching virtually, or are teaching a hybrid model, or even if you are in-person five days a week — collaborating with the families of your students is essential. The more the adults in a child’s life are on the same page, the more supportive the adults can be.

In the midst of pandemic-teaching, I know it can be hard to find the time to create resources, not only for your students, but for the adults in their lives as well. My hope is that this post and others can help you with that.

Mentor texts are one of the most basic tools we can turn to for teaching writing. Sometimes, the right mentor text is all it takes to unlock a student’s understanding of a skill or strategy, to inspire them to try something new, or to continue working on a story. The right mentor text can clear up confusions and provide clarity when a child is confused.

Mentor Text: A familiar picture book or trade book teachers refer to in order to show students examples or strategies they can use in their own writing. Mentor texts can also be articles, essays, letters, or short stories. In addition, not all mentor texts are published. Other examples of mentor texts that can be used to lift the level of students’ writing are written by other students or by the teacher themselves.

(from the Two Writing Teachers “Vocabulary” page)

If you are able to provide your students with copies of the mentor texts you’ve used in class (online or in-person), this will help them to continue using the strategies you’ve taught. But sometimes it can be a challenge for the adults at home to understand the do’s and don’ts of writing workshop. Particularly when it comes to mentor texts.

A few common misconceptions among children and adults alike regarding mentor texts:

“Are we supposed to write about the same topic as the mentor text?”

“Are we supposed to write a response or book report related to this mentor text?

“Are we supposed to rewrite (or retell) the mentor text?

The answer in all these cases is no. A mentor text for writing workshop is meant to provide a concrete example of the type of writing a child can do. It’s meant to show what a strategy looks like, on the page, when a writer applies it.

For instance…

Teaching a child how to use dialogue in their own story? Show the child an example of dialogue in a mentor text.

Teaching a child how to use vivid imagery in their own story? Show an example, in a mentor text.

If you plan to send mentor texts home with students for reference, you might share this handout as well, to support the adults at home and avoid confusion. When you provide for support for the adults, you might just increase the chances of the child using the materials at home as well!

(If you want to create your own version, here’s how I made these: I used Google Slides to make these handouts by changing the size of the slides to 8.5X11 using the page setup option, and Walter Turncoat font. I made the images myself using the app Procreate on my iPad.)

This post is the fourth in a series of posts where I provide resources you can share with families. Here are the other three posts:

At-Home Learning Resources Teachers Can Share With Families: Choices for Writing

Resources Teachers Can Share With Families: Increase Writing Volume and Stamina at Home

Resources Teachers Can Share With Families: Spelling and Handwriting