Why Mentor Texts?

There are a billion resources out there that are stressing the importance of using "mentor texts" to help students develop as readers and writers.  I couldn't agree more!  Studying what other writers do can not only help our students become better writers--but better readers as well!  In fact, I think it's so important to dig into these texts that we keep an ongoing list in my class of what we have read so we can refer back to them.  Here is our chart from midway through our school year . . .

It's funny how some people have misconceptions about the use of picture books in the classroom . . . how we must be pushing our students into more rigorous literature . . . how we don't have time for those picture book "shared reading" experiences.  Really?  Have you READ some of the wonderful picture books out there?  These are NOT your toddler "going to bed" books!  These are texts rich with language, filled with inferential thinking, and--if presented well--examples of what excellent writing can be!  They have interesting beginnings and endings . . . they are alive with descriptive and figurative language . . . they provide us with the opportunities to get a glimpse into 
. . . a character's life 
. . . or a time in history
. . . or a special place
They are concise with their words--using just enough to tell the story and help us "see" in our minds what really matters.  They make us think.

Wait a minute--isn't that what we want our students doing in their own writing?  Their independent reading?  YES!

So--I am on a quest to find the BEST mentor texts out there!  I want to get these rich texts in the eyes, ears, and hearts of students everywhere!  I have started by digging into one of my favorite authors--Eve Bunting--who has written countless picture AND chapter books that accomplish all that I have described above.  

If you haven't read her books--I beg you to do so and to share them with your students.  The CCSS is asking us to provide our students with rich opportunities to study literature, and Bunting's books are a perfect vehicle for that.  If you haven't used picture books in your classroom often, I have created a series of resources that might help you out . . . with more to come if it seems like people like them.  I've called my new series "Mentor Text Moments"--because I want you to share these texts with your students and have some of those deep discussions and "moments" with them!  

The resources have some discussion questions that might help you as well as a list of tricky words and phrases that might trip up your English Language Learners and other students with less rich vocabulary.  I have provided the discussion prompts in multiple formats so you can use them in readers notebooks . . . on printable sheets to use to assess students' thinking . . . or just to use to enrich discussions.  I have also included 2 graphic organizers with each to extend the story and your students' thinking--as well as a rubric to help you begin to assess the level of thinking against the Common Core.  Interested?  I have put resources for 6 different Eve Bunting texts in my store as well as a bundled set of all 6 if you are interested in that.  I'll include the link to the bundle below.

What I REALLY want, though, is for you to share out YOUR favorite picture books that you use in your classroom!  Maybe we can all add some new titles to our collection!  Let's see if we can get a good list going below . . . I'll start!

"Saturdays and Teacakes" by Lester Laminack is a touching story about a tradition with a young boy and his grandmother.  If you study "memoirs", this is a must have text! It is filled with descriptive language and drops hints as to what life was like a generation ago!  

OK--your turn!  Let's hear your best ones!

(and don't forget about my July special...buy ANY bundle and get an item of $5 or less for free!)


  1. I love using picture books with my fourth graders. One of my favorites is The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg. I use it to teach questioning and synthesizing during Reading Workshop. My students love the book and often ask to borrow it to read it on their own.

    1. I love Chris Van Allburg! I forgot about The Sweetest Fig until I just read your comment! My fourth graders loved it! Great choice! :)

      First Grade with Ms. Dawley

    2. Me too! I love to read the French parts with my lame accent! :)

  2. A favorite at the beginning of the year is Mark Teaque's Dear Mrs. LaRue, Letters from Obedience School. Great for understanding the power of good word choice. After examining the text, students write a letter back to Ike the dog. Some students want to believe Ike's exaggerated tales of torture at the obedience school, and others want to scold him. Students relate so well to the exaggerated whining of Ike, that I like to start persuasive writing with this text.

    1. That IS an awesome one! Great idea to use it with persuasive writing!

    2. I love the idea of tying this to persuasive writing!!! I will have to remember that!

  3. I love books! I am a reading specialist turned classroom teacher this year- with a book collection that rivals the library!

    I love reading anything by Patricia Polacco- especially Thank You, Mr. Falker- to kick off the year.

    I also love chapter books by Creech and DiCamillo- especially The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane!

    I also find the Skippy Jon Jones series to be great to teach character traits and show how imagination ties things into your life!

    I could just talk books for hours! Thanks for this idea!!!

    1. Thanks, Rachel! You have some good ones listed there! I, too, am a bit addicted to books...but fortunately our school librarian has built such a nice collection that I don't have to buy EVERY book!

  4. I think one of my VERY favorite mentor texts is "Owl Moon" by Jane Yolen. We use it for teaching descriptive writing - "show, don't tell" - and writing about a small moment for your personal narrative. I love how absolutely quiet the kids get when I am reading it out loud.

    I love your anchor chart to keep track of what you've read together...I'm going to have to borrow that idea! :-)

    Craft of Teaching

    1. Owl Moon is a really good one...DEFINITELY perfect for show not tell! :)

  5. One of the books I love to share and discuss with my 4th grade students is the chapter book Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea. If you haven't read it I highly suggest it especially if you teach intermediate grades. This book will bring out amazing discussions with your students. Some of the ideas Buyea touches on are bullying, guilt, trauma, and exclusion. After reading the book my students were more willing to write about their feelings. I was so pleased.