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Using Mentor Texts and Sentences To Help Students Improve Their Writing

Use mentor texts and sentences to help your students improve their work. Great ideas shared by real teachers for teachers from 2 Peas and a Dog. #mentorsentences #mentortexts #writing #grammar #middleschool

Using Mentor Texts and Sentences in the ELA classroom is a great way to help students’ enhance their work. Teachers in our weekly #2ndaryELA chat shared their best ideas for finding resources and using this strategy effectively in their classrooms. Read the curated Twitter chat below to gain more info and insight into this important topic.

Q1: Do you use mentor texts as models for writing in your classroom? For what purposes?

  • I do use mentor texts! I want students to see sentence structure. I also want to model transitions 
  • Use mentor texts so that students can identify good writing techniques and then use them in their own writing. A lesson using poems as mentor texts: and narratives:
  • Do mentor texts have to be for grammar? I often use texts for writing style and inspiration
  • I use mentor texts to help students with writing structure and format
  • Use mentors regularly in writing – various examples of approaches for each writing mode. IB sometimes for adv commentary ideas
  • I’ve just started experimenting with mentor texts this year… having mixed feelings/results
  • I used a mentor text for the first time this year and it was great, but I would like to build my strategy toolbox more 
  • I think it’s also helpful to use different genres with variations of syntax and diction to help students with complex texts
  • I like to use mentor texts for structural moves. Students can’t always identify generative grammar, they can emulate it 
  • I think using mentor texts are great models to show students different lexiles for both reading and writing. 

Q2: Where/how do you find mentor texts that will engage and inspire your students?

  • Most mentor texts are things I’ve read. Linda Christensen has great recommendations in Teaching for Joy and Justice 
  • I find them everywhere – the web/modern texts. I also use older texts. Anna Quindelin is a favorite of mine to use
  • Writing with Mentors book 
  • My colleagues are #1. Read, read, read #2. Notice unique places – IBs will use Amazon Editorial reviews Friday.   Students often find own with help. Often they know how they want to write and can articulate what before seeing example first. 
  • My state BOE provides mentor texts that I use for test prep, I like to use student AND literary examples 
  • Of course I provide, but I like letting students find their own. List of approved websites or anthologies in the classroom 
  • In daily life and when lesson planning – I collect anything and everything that could be used as a mentor text
  • I just use texts I love that are good examples of writing techniques i.e. Dialogue poems
  • I just purchased Everyday Editing by Jeff Anderson to learn more about mentor texts and using them in grammar instruction 

Q3: Do you use mentor sentences as models for writing in your classroom? For what purposes?

  • I read somewhere this year about the benefits of mentor sentences vs. correcting errors and it was LIFE CHANGING! – my mind was blown. I couldn’t believe I’d been having my kids look at incorrect examples for so long
  • I’m using mentor sentences for grammar with Mechanically Inclined 
  • I use mentor texts for writing examples such as figurative language, imagery, character traits, setting, mood
  • I used mentor sentences today to teach about writing a proper thesis statement
  • I start them with  and  (run by Smithsonian) 
  • Mentor sentences yes – most often on-the-spot when conferring with writers and needing examples of how to improve syntax 
  • Love Newsela – never occurred to me to use it for this purpose! I’ve also been using ReadWorks, for those looking 
  • Mentor sentences help students when they need help in a certain area. Often, natural transitions or flow

Q4: Where/how do you find mentor sentences that will engage and inspire your students?

  • Jeff Anderson’s book, Everyday Editing, outline 11 lessons plus has tons of example sentences
  • Their own writing for other parts. Nancy Dean’s *Voice Lessons* has awesome sentences listed by stylistic device 
  • After reading Mechanically Inclined, I made a summer project of finding mentor sent in every YA literature book I read that summer
  • As per usual – Teachers Pay Teachers! My go-to. Also, in my classroom library…the kids love making those connections 
  • I always pull student sentences. While reading 90 essays, I collect sentences, and then distribute 

Q5: How do you connect what students learn from working with mentor sentences with larger writing assignments?

  • Per Jeff Anderson’s lessons, practice first in a sentence, then write on a topic, then revise to include practiced concept 
  • Here is a website that I thought was good!  
  • Put it on the rubric. Studying verb phrases? Require one in each paragraph, etc.
  • Whatever specific piece we study, we identify that piece in student writing. It’s a collaboration of students sharing work. 
  • Students must include a sentence with that skill (comma, appositive, etc.) in an essay, highlighted. It’s part of the rubric
  • Students Respond to exit ticket with that skill-double grade! 
  • After noticing in reading students use technique in their own writing. Ask them to highlight their example
  • Throughout the process, talk to them like you imagine the editor coached the author. Vocalize what the author was thinking
  • It’s about building toward macro writing. When students create good sentences, they need to know how they connect to others 

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