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Writing Wednesday: Using Mentor Texts

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Sharing ideas for writing using elementary mentor texts!
This week I am joining Writing Wednesday link up with Lit with Lyns. This month I am discussing a few of the  mentor texts I used in a summer curriculum I recently developed.

For this curriculum, I had to develop a 5 week curriculum to support student teachers working in a summer school. Writing a curriculum is very different than simply writing lesson plans for my classroom. You have to think through all of the potential challenges and scenarios of the classroom, clarity of instructions, and student interest. In an effort to not create another boring lesson plan, I incorporated the use of mentor texts to help increase student engagement and provide models for the students to truly engage in great writing.

For this unit, I included a number of mentor texts to support these new teachers and provide the students with models on each particular skill. We focused on six-traits writing and selected 4 to focus on for the summer. The particular topics were selected because of the impact that teaching ideas would have in four weeks versus teaching sentence fluency. Below are some of the ideas and texts I included in the unit.

Week 1: 

To begin the week, students took a diagnostic writing sample on the first day as well as writing attitudes survey. This was done to assess the current level of student writing and to create a benchmark for student performance. This sample writing was then graded using the 6-trait writing rubric. These scores were then shared with students. The rest of the week, students learned about the importance of rubrics and the definition of each trait. There were no mentor texts this week, just sample passages from other students to practice grading on a rubric. 

Week 2:

Week 2 focused on ideas because this was a concept that most students were familiar with already. A lot of time was spent in brainstorming and discussing where author's ideas come from. With The Hickory Chair, students made connections to their own families and the stories they could tell. A major focus of this curriculum plan was to have students engage with writing in a personal way and that they would come to see writing as a form of self-expression and telling their stories.

 Week 3: 

First off, the students loved this book! Anything with pirates is a lock lol. Students created similar stories about how they became different things. Stories ranged from how they became a student, to astronaut, to race car driver. It was a nice connection between the text and organizing for the benefit of the reader.

Week 4: 

Voice can be a little hard to teach to students. This week of lesson focused primarily on the narrator of the story and if we could get details about them based on the information provided in the text. I chose a familiar text to best demonstrate voice for the students. We then compared the wolf's voice to that of the pigs in the original text.

Week 5

This week we took simple sentences and practiced expanding them using more colorful vocabulary. Students were also tasked with ranking a sentence from boring to extraordinary. The main criteria was did the sentence give you a clear picture of the action that was occurring. 

Additional Resources

In addition to these particular texts, I also used Gail E. Tompkins Teaching Writing to further my own professional development.
This book contained a number of different lists of mentor texts across many grade levels to help focus on specific mini-lessons and topics. If you are just beginning your journey in teaching writing, or just need some more professional development, then this is the text for you!

Even though these books weren't the main focus of the lesson, I included Dear Mrs. LaRue and The Day the Crayons Quit as examples of Voice. #talkinganimals vs. #inanimateobjects for the win.

I really enjoyed writing the curriculum and hope to be sharing more ideas from it soon!


  1. What a great idea! Using mentor texts to help expand sentences and develop better writing skills is such an engaging tool for students. Thanks so much for linking up w/ us. I will definitely be using this w/ my students, as well!
    Lit with Lyns

  2. Thank you for sharing how you use mentor texts with your writing. I really appreciate how you break down the skills for each text. (and I already have most of the books that you use!) This will help me teach writing.


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