craft · mentor texts · reading-writing connections

Tap Into the Power of Whole-Class Text Studies

A couple of months ago, Melanie Meehan and I dropped a podcast episode entitled “Extending the Power of Mentor Text.” The episode was divided into two distinct parts. The first part felt like a “Mentor Texts 101” course, while the second provided more complex ways to use mentor texts (i.e., what else you can do with published picture books beyond teaching typical craft moves to students.) You can listen to that episode by clicking play on the podcast player below. 

Extending the Power of Mentor Texts: A Digging Deeper Dialogue Two Writing Teachers Podcast

Mentor texts are important co-teachers in the writing workshop! This episode provides an in-depth look at mentor texts and is ideal for anyone who wants to extend the power of mentor texts in their classroom. Picture Books We Mentioned in the PodcastA Person Can Be… by Kerri Kokias and Carey SookocheffBake, Make & Learn to Cook Vegetarian: Healthy and Green Recipes for Young Cooks by David Atherton and Alice BowsherCopycat: Nature-Inspired Design Around the World by Christy HaleCounting in Dog Years and Other Sassy Math Poems by Betsy Franco and Priscilla TeyHana’s Hundreds of Hijabs by Rezeena Omar Gutta and Manal MirzaKiyoshi’s Walk by Mark Karlins and Nicole WongLittle Guides to Great Lives: Frida Kahlo by Isabel Thomas and Marianna MadrizOnly the Best: The Exceptional Life and Fashion of Ann Lowe by Kate Messner, Margaret E. Powell, and Erin K. RobinsonPuffin by Martin Jenkins and Jenni DesmondWhat Are You? by Christian Trimmer and Mike CuratoWhat’s Your Name? By Bethanie Deeny MurguiaWindows by Julia Denos and E.B. GoodaleProfessional Books We Mentioned in the PodcastAbove and Beyond the Writing Workshop by Shelley HarwayneCraft Moves: Lesson Sets for Teaching Writing with Mentor Texts by Stacey ShubitzMentor Texts, Second Edition: Teaching Writing Through Children's Literature, K-6  by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose CappelliNonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing Through Children’s Literature, K-8 by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose CappelliPoetry Mentor Texts: Making Reading and Writing Connections, K-8 by Lynne R. Dorfman and Rose CappelliBook Censorship OrganizationsBanned & Challenged Books: (ALA)Florida Freedom to Read ProjectFreedom to Read FoundationMoms for Social Justice: PEN AmericaIndividuals you can follow on Twitter to better understand how and where they’re working to fight book banning:Jonathan Friedman – Director of Free Expression and Education Programs at PEN AmericaKelly Jensen – Book Riot editorTasslyn Magnusson – Writer and a partner of EveryLibraryOnline Spots to Find Mentor TextsPlease subscribe to our podcast and leave us ratings/reviews on your favorite listening platform.You may contact us directly if you're interested in having us consult with your school district. Melanie Meehan: meehanmelanie@gmail.com Stacey Shubitz: stacey@staceyshubitz.com Email us at contact@twowritingteachers.org for advertising inquiries or sponsorship opportunities.For more about teaching writing, head to the Two Writing Teachers blog.
Book Cover: A Techer's Guide to Mentor Texts Grades K-5
Leave a comment at the bottom of this post for a chance to win a copy of Carl Anderson’s new book!

Just as we talked about the fundamentals of mentor texts on the pod, Carl Anderson’s new book, A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts, Grades K-5, is the primer educators need if they’re new to working with mentor texts in writing workshop. Throughout the approximately 100-page book, Carl lays the foundation for this work by explaining what a mentor text is and what reading like a writer means. Once there’s a shared fundamental understanding of these terms, Carl showcases five steps to help teachers use mentor texts meaningfully with elementary students. Those steps are:

Step 1: Find Your Own Mentor Texts

Step 2: Get to Know Your Mentor Texts

Step 3: Immerse Students in Mentor Texts

Step 4: Lead Whole-Class Text Study

Step 5: Teach with Mentor Texts

After spending the past 15+ years of my life presenting and writing about mentor texts, I want to zoom in on the sixth chapter of Carl’s book, which focuses on something I would love to see more of when I consult in classrooms: whole-class text studies. In an already jam-packed curriculum, it’s the kind of thing that often gets scrapped. But it’s one of the most impactful ways to strengthen our reading-like-a-writer work with students. 

Some people might view leading whole-class text studies as akin to pumping the brakes in the middle of a unit. The timing Carl suggests might seem unexpected since it comes during the second week of a unit – after students have been immersed in the genre and a few process lessons have taught students how to choose topics and gather information. Scheduling a whole-class text study once these things have occurred makes a teacher and their students pause for a couple of days, before getting too deep into drafting and revising, to work on a deeper level with a mentor text. It’s WORTH pumping the brakes for this kind of work any time you want to do a more in-depth study of a writer’s craft so students can build a repertoire of craft techniques they can put into their writer’s toolbox.

You won’t teach a typical writing workshop format (i.e., minilesson, independent writing time with conferring and small group work, share/reflection) on the days you set aside for whole-class text study. Rather, you’ll set aside anywhere from 15 minutes to a whole class period to study a text deeply with your students. (There are two videos in chapter six, which feature Carl engaging both primary and upper-grade students in whole-class text studies.) Any time left over at the end provides students with time to write independently. 

There are many kinds of craft studies. Some examples are:

  • An author study allows students to study several pieces of writing from a single author.
  • A detail study focuses on the different kinds of details and how they’re written.
  • An illustration study gives primary grades students a chance to study the craft of making illustrations. 
  • A punctuation study helps students discover the interesting ways writers use punctuation.
  • A text features study provides upper grades students a chance to study how text features enhance texts.
  • A text structure study is an opportunity to examine how writers structure texts.
  • A voice study provides opportunities to examine the techniques writers use to give their writing voice.

(Anderson, 2022, pg. 86)

The steps for leading a whole-class text study can be seen on page 100 of Anderson’s book:

Step four, the discussion part of the study, is the most critical. It follows the structure anyone who read Wondrous Words by Katie Wood Ray will be familiar with. 

With several months of school left in front of us, I recommend leading at least one mid-unit whole-class text study. By reading through all of chapter six in Carl’s book, you’ll feel confident about how to pick the right mentor texts for this purpose, determine the best parts of texts to discuss, and will help you nudge your students’ noticings about craft to higher levels, which will allow them to deepen their ability to read like writers. 


In A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts, Grades K-5, Carl Anderson shows that no matter where you are as a teacher on this mentor text journey, you can transform your writing workshop into a place where children learn to read like writers with you, thereby allowing them to become their writing teacher for life.

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts, Grades K-5 by Carl Anderson. Many thanks to Heinemann for donating a copy of the book to one of our commenters.
  • For a chance to win this copy of A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts, Grades K-5, please leave a comment about this post by Monday, January 16 at 6:00 p.m. EDT. I will use a random number generator to pick the winner, whose name she will announce at the bottom of this post, by Thursday, January 19. You must have a U.S. mailing address to enter the giveaway.
    • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.
  • If you are the winner of the book, I will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – ANDERSON. Please respond to Stacey’s e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

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Thanks to everyone who left a comment on this post. Karen Orr’s commenter number was selected so she’ll win a copy of A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts.

28 thoughts on “Tap Into the Power of Whole-Class Text Studies

  1. On TC Saturday Reunions, I always make sure to find Carl Anderson’s talks. Even in 15 minutes, he delivers a wealth of information, resources, and inspiration! Looking forward to this book and sharing it with my colleagues.

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  2. Carl Anderson is one of my absolute favorites! Even at the TC Saturday reunions I still take away so much from hearing him speak. Mentor texts hold such a valuable space in my classroom. I would love to read and share this book with my colleagues.

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    1. I purchased this book and it is wonderful! I’m sharing with college students in a writing methods class. Thanks for the article!

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  3. I’ve seen the power of using mentor texts with my own students in the resource room a decade ago; I’m excited to learn even more about incorporating it into lesson planning!

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  4. I love using mentor texts to teach writing. It strengthens the reading – writing connection for students and empowers them to try new strategies.

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  5. Thanks for these helpful reminders about the power of whole class text study after some initial process lessons. Timing is everything!

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  6. This seems like an amazing resource! I feel like I’m fighting to save “Writing Workshop” and this book would be great! It’s on my wish list! 🙂

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  7. Thanks for this post. This was a good reminder on how to use a mentor text most effectively. I teach 5th grade and regularly use whole class mentor texts.

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  8. As our staff heads into a professional learning day next week, this was a great time for me to have a refresher on mentor texts. Thanks for putting this post out here! C. Anderson has a knack of simplifying the work of teaching through text, video, charts, and resources. Would love a copy of this book for our learning library!

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