What Are Mentor Texts?

Sep 15, 2009 by

  • A mentor text is any piece of writing that can be used to teach a writer about  some aspect of writer’s craft.
  • Mentor texts can take the form of any genre:  picture book, excerpt from a chapter book, a magazine or newspaper article, an editorial, a cookbook, etc.  Relatively short pieces of text work best.
  • Some professional literature distinguishes between “touchstone texts” and “mentor texts”, defining  touchstone texts as those used by a teacher to model a particular craft for a community of learners and mentor texts as those used by individual writers who are apprenticing themselves to an author’s work or body of work.  For the sake of simplicity and clarity,  I will use the term “mentor text” to refer to any piece of writing (published or written by a teacher or student) that is used to demonstrate writer’s craft to groups of students during mini-lessons or to individual students during writing conferences.
  • The best mentor texts are those that can be used numerous times throughout the school year to demonstrate many different craft moves.
  • Most mentor text mini-lessons fall into one of three categories:
    Idea: the text inspires the writer to create an original idea based on one from the text.
    Structure: the text presents on organizational structure that the writer tries to emulate using original ideas.
    Written Craft: the author’s writing style, ways with words, or sentence structure inspires the writer to try out these techniques.
  • As we build our mentor text lists and libraries, we should consciously look for texts from all three categories.
  • When using mentor texts, it is important to remember that we are teaching a particular strategy or craft move—we are not teaching the book.

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