What is a Mentor Text?
A good mentor text is familiar and is an enjoyable piece of text rich in content to support strategy and skill instruction. The text provides many opportunities for readers to revisit the text for multiple minilesson possibilities for reading strategy and skill work.
So just what makes a good mentor text?
Short texts such as a picture book, short story, article or short chapter or chunk of text from a novel will work well.
You must enjoy the text or children will not engage in the text with you because they will sense your dislike. When you like a text, students generally have the same feeling towards a text based on your enthusiasm.
It's important for your readers to enjoy the text because you could possibly revisit it many times during the school year for different intentional reading purposes.
So…read aloud the book to your students. If they don’t like it or are not interested in the text, don’t use it as a mentor text. If your readers like the text, add it to your collection of mentor text possibilities.
When choosing short texts to read aloud, be intentional. Students don’t need to know what your instructional intentions are with the text, but you will have an instructional purpose for sharing that particular text with your students.
How do I find good mentor texts?
Browse familiar and enjoyed texts for strategy and skill teaching opportunities.
Read and reread the text with strategies and skills in mind.
Label the text with the strategy and skill teaching opportunities. This will create an index for you to quickly reference and choose from when planning minilessons, small group instruction or meeting with individual students during conferences.
Create an index of your favorite mentor texts that show possibility for different strategy and skill minilessons. As you find texts that can be used as mentor texts, label the different parts that present a good teaching opportunity for different reading strategy and skill lessons.
What do I need readers to gain?
Know your readers!
Know what your students need and want as readers. This will help you focus as you read and reread texts looking for teaching opportunities that will support your readers' needs.
When you know exactly what your readers need and want, you will be well on your way to planning with intention to craft minilessons that will have a strategic purpose for your students.
Where do I start?
Sift through reading standards to make a list of what readers at your grade level are expected to know by the end of the school year.
Sift through readers’ notebooks or folders of work to see what skills they may be lacking and what pieces of the reading process your readers are missing.
Does the text support what my readers need?
After sifting through student work and the required learning standards for your grade level, decide what your students need the most to move their development of reading forward.
Look through the mentor texts you have to find the best pieces to model, demonstrate and work through the strategy and skill you want to teach.
Ask yourself, "Will this be the best text to support my readers with the strategy or skill?"
You may find several different teaching opportunities for a strategy or skill within one text that will support your readers.
Just what do I look for in a mentor text?
Rich content that clearly models and illustrates strategies and skills appropriate for your students’ age and grade level.
You will be able to find many skills and opportunities to engage in strategy and skill use within any text. However, when you are looking through possible mentor texts, scour for the places in the text that will be the BEST place to demonstrate or showcase the reading work you want your readers to engage in.
When you are building a collection of mentor texts that will support your reading strategy and skill instruction, creating an index will be helpful. When you find a book that you are interested in using as a reading mentor text, scour the text for all teaching possibilities and label it to index the instructional opportunities.
You will want to look for different specific places in which you can teach one little part of the reading process or one little reading skill. You may notice rich vocabulary that can be used to help students figure out meaning using the context clues available. Then, when you plan lessons based on your readers' needs, you will already have a bank of mentor texts from which to choose.
You may be interested in using these little cheat sheets to get your lesson planning juices flowing. It's a good starting point for intentionally scouring a text for teaching possibilities.
Grab these little tools to start indexing mentor texts for reading.
Until next time...