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Mentor Texts: Everything You Need to Know

Mentor Texts: Everything You Need to Know

When I first started teaching, mentor texts were something I might see mentioned in a textbook that I was never going to actually read. Now, when I attend conferences and professional development, using mentor texts and sentences seems like a prerequisite for every quality unit. In this post, I hope to answer any and all questions you might have about mentor texts. I’ll try to include plenty of examples, links, helpful resources, activities, and lesson ideas. 

This mentor text post covers:

What is a Mentor Text?

Why use mentor texts, types of mentor texts and how to use them.

  • Lesson Ideas for Mentor Texts

Where to Find Mentor Texts

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links that earn me a small commission, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products that I personally use and love, or think my readers will find useful.

Mentor Texts: Everything You Need to Know Pinterest Pin

A mentor text, sometimes referred to as an anchor text, is an exemplary piece of writing that students can study and then imitate in order to improve their own writing. 

I think conversations about mentor texts can easily become overly complicated. I know I have felt overwhelmed at every Penny Kittle training I’ve been to. 

But think of a mentor text as just a really good example. If you want your students to write using semicolons correctly, you might point out a semicolon in the class book you’re reading. That’s a mentor text. 

If you want your creative writing students to really think and construct engaging opening lines for their short stories, you might show them some famous opening lines. That’s using mentor texts. 

Mentor texts are just great examples of the writing craft. 

Writing to Study and Imitate

The trick with mentor texts is to keep them short. These should be pieces of writing that students can study and imitate. They should be digestible. 

For example, it’s a lot easier for students to play with text structure if they’re examining a poem or a short story. Expecting them to study the structure of a whole novel and then go and pay attention to their own story structure is too much for young writers too fast.

Mentor texts should be used for a very specific purpose. If you want students to study a few sentences and attempt the same writing move, those sentences better illustrate one specific technique. Throwing a bunch of great writing at students all at once isn’t going to inspire them–it’s going to overwhelm them.  

Professional Writing as Mentor Texts

Obviously, published writing is going to probably serve well as a mentor text. Using snippets of professional writing is a great way to get started with mentor texts. Published writing has already been through an editor. If it’s made its way into your classroom, it’s probably pretty solid writing. 

Don’t make it complicated. If you want your students to study how to punctuate dialogue, picking up a book from your classroom library and showing them a back-and-forth conversation is a great place to start. 

Student Writing as Mentor Texts

Another great type of mentor text, however, is student-generated. If you show students an excellent introductory essay from a previous class as inspiration, you’re using a student-created mentor text. 

Pulling student examples and showcasing them for students to study and imitate is powerful. Not only is it a great example, but it empowers students. It shows them that they don’t have to be a published author to create exemplary writing. If their peers can do it, so can they.

Alternatively, you can have students find and share mentor texts from professional writing. This is a great blend of both. Students get to study how professional writers shape their work, while also practicing reading as writers studying the craft. 

Mentor Texts: Everything You Need to Know Pinterest Pin

Alright, so you know what mentor texts are, but why use them? Why not just stick with a tried and true worksheet or presentation?

You can use mentor texts to strengthen the purpose behind almost every lesson. Students will always need good examples. Here are a few more specific ways that mentor texts can be used to strengthen your writing program. 

Show Students Exemplary Writing

I’ve already touched on this, but a primary reason to use mentor texts is just to show students exemplary examples of the writing craft. 

In teaching, examples are necessary. You can study every comma rule under the sun, but until you see commas being used in great writing, it’s not going to stick. A teacher can repeat show, don’t tell until they’re out of breath, but it won’t make any sense unless you see an example.

Mentor texts illustrate the lesson, idea, or technique that you want your students to understand. 

Encourage Students to Take Risks in Writing

Another reason to use mentor texts is that they act as writing scaffolding for young authors. 

Trying new things in writing can be scary, especially for students who don’t identify as writers, are not native English writers, or just generally struggle. They want to write “right.” They’re not necessarily looking to write artfully, creatively, or bravely. They certainly don’t want to fail in their writing ventures.

But we English teachers know the power of trying new writing techniques and being flexible in the way we put words on paper. We need to instill the delight of trying new writing into our students. 

If, for example, we want students to try using parallel structure, we can cover the term. We can explain its rhetorical power. But students will probably not feel comfortable attempting it, nor will they fully appreciate its persuasive power.  

If, however, we show them examples from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech”, and students can see the power of parallel structure for themselves, they’ll be encouraged to try it in their next piece of persuasive writing. 

You could even scaffold this further. To continue with the above example, you could then have students write their own “I Have a Dream” speech. How would they use the structure “I have a dream….” to convey their own vision of the future?

As you can see, a simple mentor text can evolve from beyond a simple example into its own assignment. A quality mentor text can be studied and revisited over and over again. 

Show Students Why We Might Choose Certain Techniques

Perhaps the most powerful reason to use mentor texts is that they allow us to show students why we might do something in writing. 

We can tell students over and over to use sentence variety. We can diagram a hundred sentences to analyze various sentence structures. Students can complete hundreds of worksheets, task cards, and quizzes. 

You could have students highlight their own writing for sentence variety. Our students can even learn to use sentence variety regularly. 

But if they don’t understand why or how sentence variety strengthens writing, then we’ve failed them. 

When we show a mentor text that uses short, punchy sentences to convey the speed of an action scene, however, they get it . If they see long, romantic sentences meant to slow down the moment when two soul mates meet, they get it .

Mentor texts let us show not only the “how-to” of a writing technique but also the why–the effect it has on the reader. 

Have Students Determine Their Own Rules of Writing

Another way to encourage bravery and critical thinking using mentor texts is to give them to students and have the students themselves determine the quality, technique, or writing move that is exemplary. 

This is a common way to teach grammar. It’s actually the basis for the lessons in the classic Mechanically Inclined .

Check it out if you want some grab-and-go mentor texts and lessons, although I think they are aimed more at late elementary and middle than high school.

For example, if you want students to learn to use a comma after introductory elements in a sentence, you could group students and give them mentor texts that illustrate this grammatical move.

Then, ask the groups to create comma rules based on the mentor sentences.

Students will have to see the commonalities in each mentor example first, but then they’ll also have to describe it and put it into words. 

You could go on to create an anchor chart for the class based on what the students notice, or have each group create one and share out. 

You could do a similar lesson to examine non-grammatical aspects of writing. If, for example, you wanted students to study characterization, you could give them a few examples of great character-building passages. Then, students can study and define for themselves what they think is great about each example. 

Mentor Texts: Everything You Need to Know Pinterest Pin

You can teach or model pretty much any skill or technique using mentor texts. But some types of writing are better at illustrating certain lesson types than others. While this is far from a comprehensive list, hopefully, it will get you started and maybe inspire some new ideas.

Whole Poems

My first real foray into intentionally using mentor texts was with poetry. In my creative writing class, I did several lessons where we looked at a whole poem as a mentor text. 

This is great especially if you want students to study poetic structure because you have a start, middle, and end to examine. 

For example, in my Ode Writing Lesson , students read an ode first. Then, they annotate the techniques and tone used in the piece (perhaps even having a classroom discussion on the example). Only after analyzing this example poem do students begin to brainstorm for their own poem.

Creative Writing Ode Poem Writing Activity

Whole poems can also be a great way to examine figurative language techniques. If you’d like some ready-for-you lessons that use poetry as mentor texts, I have these lessons for you:

  • “Nicholas Was…” Writing Activity : Students read Neil Gaiman’s 100-word story before writing their own
  • Writing Haiku Poems for High School: Students analyze a mentor poem which consists of combining several haikus before attempting their own haikus.
  • Limerick Writing Lesson : Students read several example limericks before attempting to write their own.
  • Letter Writing & Envelope Addressing Lesson : Students examine examples of formal letters (and addressed envelopes) before writing their own appreciation letter

Mentor Sentences

Using mentor sentences is probably the easiest way to start incorporating mentor texts in your classroom. A sentence is short and digestible. If you’d like, you can use a few to illustrate the same technique for your students. 

Mentor sentences, as mentioned above, can be taken from professional or student writing. If you’re desperate for just the right example, you could write a mentor sentence or two yourself to show off a specific writing technique. 

Mentor sentences work especially well for lessons around grammatical rules, sentence structure, showing (not telling details and emotions), or crafting dialogue. 

Lesson Ideas for Incorporating Mentor Texts in Class

I’ll walk through some simple steps for using mentor texts in your class, but if you want to deep dive into the “how”, I highly recommend Amanda Write Now .

Amanda Werner is the queen of workshop-style teaching, and she regularly incorporates mentor texts into her minilessons. She has a great breakdown of how to use mentor texts in this article but has other helpful blog posts AND podcast episodes. 

Workshop Model

The workshop model of teaching meshes with mentor texts very effectively. 

In a workshop model, the teacher begins class with a quick mini-lesson. This is where the mentor text would be introduced. 

For example, if you want students to introduce dialogue into the stories their working on, you would explain dialogue quickly, then show and discuss some mentor text examples. 

After the mini-lesson, students are given the majority of the class time to attempt to emulate the mentor texts in their own writing. 

For the above example, this would be when students then work on their own stories, adding, tweaking, and attempting dialogue as they write their scenes. 


The mini-lesson concept is not limited to the workshop model, however. Mini-lessons can be effective and useful regardless of how you run your classroom.

A mini-lesson can be anywhere from ten to twenty minutes, although I think shorter is typically better. Any longer and you risk inundating students with too much information or losing their attention. 

You can incorporate mentor texts in pretty much any mini-lesson you might want to teach. 

For example, I try to do grammar lessons in small chunks. I could show students a few slides in a slideshow about colon uses, followed by examining some mentor texts that use colons effectively. 

Until they actually see those colons in action, it’s going to be hard to understand how to use them. 

Author Studies

A final way to use mentor texts is through an author study.

An author study is exactly what it sounds like–students are given or choose an author, and then they study that writer’s craft. 

Cover for Teachers Pay Teachers product: Creative Writing Author Study Project

In my Author Study Project , students choose a short story writer or poet. They do a little bit of background information on the person, but then they get to work reading. 

As they read, they watch for patterns in tone, imagery, and writing style. (I provide a graphic organizer worksheet for students to use as they make a note of these author moves.)

Then, they create their own original writing while imitating the moves that their studied author might make. 

It’s a much deeper examination of a writer’s style than typically occurs in class, but it’s the perfect project for a creative writing course. 

It requires much more independence and critical thinking on the student’s part, too. She’ll have to make a lot of choices and draw a lot of conclusions on her own, and that’s before she even begins her own writing. 

You can use this activity in your class , or create your own variation of an author study. 

Alright, so you’re ready to incorporate mentor texts into your classroom, but now comes probably the biggest hurdle: where do you find them? 

Every time I enter into a conversation about mentor texts or the workshop question with my colleagues, this is the question that comes up.

Where do you get mentor texts for the specific lesson or technique you need? I wish I could point you to some ultimate compendium of mentor texts for every possible purpose, but to my knowledge, there is no such thing. I can give you some tips though.

Know What You Need

Before you go throwing mentor texts up on your board, you need to know what you need.

What do you want to teach your students? What concepts or skills are they struggling with? Are there common errors in student writing that you’re seeing over and over again? Is there a technique you’d like to see your students grapple and play with?

By answering these questions, you’ll be better prepared to find and implement mentor texts. 

Don’t go hunting for mentor examples blindly. Have a list of skills, techniques, or structures you want to teach. Then, make a list or a spreadsheet to keep track of where your mentor texts come from.

DO NOT just type “mentor texts” into Google. This is a great way to lose focus and waste time.

Keep Track of Mentor Texts As You Read

As a writer and teacher yourself, no doubt you’re doing some reading of your own. I hope you’re at least reading with your students during independent reading . 

As you read, keep track of any beautiful writing you encounter. 

If you know what kind of lessons or techniques you want to showcase, you can pay special attention to these as you go. If you don’t, however, just keep track of beautiful writing–a need for those examples will appear. 

I tried keeping a detailed document of mentor texts and their possible uses, but I just couldn’t keep track of it. Now, I just put a sticky note or tab next to it. At least I have a hope of finding it if I can remember. 

For student examples, you can make copies of assignments and keep a folder from which you can pull. 

writing with mentor texts

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Lists of Mentor Texts Online

There is no mega-compendium of mentor texts categorized by skill that I can find. But there are some helpful blog posts and lists out there on the interwebs. 

If you hit Google to find some mentor texts, be specific in your search. Use your grade level and the skill you want to highlight to narrow down your search.

You’ll still probably have to piecemeal blogs together, but specificity will certainly help with your hunt.

Ask Students for Examples

You could also make students do the work for you. If, for example, you’re covering semicolons in class, have the students seek out examples in their own reading. 

You could also have them keep track in writer’s notebooks of beautiful language they encounter during their independent reading. This would be great to discuss during reading conferences or as proof of their reading outside of class.

Students are resources themselves. Don’t forget to put them to work.

The New York Times Collection

The New York Times also has some mentor text resources for you. The NYT knows the power of mentor texts and has begun compiling them for educators’ use. 

You can read more about mentor texts and the paper’s collection here . 

You can also navigate to their mentor text hub , but there’s a lot there. Again, knowing what you need and being specific is going to be best for finding what you need. 

In conclusion, mentor texts are a great way to strengthen your writing instruction. At their core, mentor texts are just really great examples of writing. Our students can never get enough of these.

Seeing great examples of writing can guide our young writers. It provides scaffolding in writing that encourages riskier, braver writing. Being able to see greatness can allow us to aspire to it. 

You can use examples from professional writing or from the students themselves. Depending on what you want your students to learn, you may opt to use mentor sentences, a poem, or a passage–but remember to keep your mentor texts and your mini-lessons short. 

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These examples should be studied before students are asked to imitate the techniques or structure used in the mentor writing. 

Mentor texts can be taken from everywhere–your own reading, online blogs, newspaper collections, or even gathered by students. 

If you’d like to take a tiny step into using a mentor text, but aren’t sure how to put a lesson together, I have a few in my Teachers Pay Teachers store . 

My free “I Am” Poem requires you to do some writing about yourself to use as a mentor text for your students. 

I also highly recommend my Author Study Project if you’re wanting students to study mentor texts deeply and over a longer period of time.

Home » Writing Strategies » How to Choose & Use Mentor Text to Enhance Student Writing Skills

writing with mentor texts

How to Choose & Use Mentor Text to Enhance Student Writing Skills

All English teachers encourage their students to read, anything really, but particularly well-written texts. This is where mentor texts come in.  In this post, we will unpack what a mentor text is and how to choose one for the classroom. You will also learn how to use them effectively for teaching.

Table of Contents

What is a mentor text, why use personal narrative mentor texts, benefits of using mentor texts, qualities of a good mentor text, how do i choose a mentor text, steps to implementing mentor text teachings, using mentor texts in all subjects:, 9 tips for more effective teaching with mentor text.

  • Mentor Text FAQs

Final thoughts about mentor texts

A mentor text is a well-written piece of writing from which students can learn to improve their writing.

Mentor texts can be of any length, genre, style or format, and can have been written for any audience and for any purpose. They must be age or grade-appropriate, as well as examples of the specific type of writing that is being taught.

writing with mentor texts

There is no point in using a classic poem as a mentor text if your students are learning to write a newspaper article. Similarly, if the subject of the class is narrative writing , then don’t select an opinion piece. You should also not choose a 3rd-grade picture book about dinosaurs as a mentor text for your 6 th graders who are writing factually about pollution.

Most writing that students do at school is personal because they find it easier to write from their own experiences. They should be taught to develop their writing from a personal perspective.

This is where personal narrative mentor texts come in. By choosing to expose your students to examples of good writing of this nature, you will be able to help them identify the features of these texts they can apply to their own writing

Using mentor texts has benefits other than teaching aspects of writing.

Book-Based Skill

Identifying good writing helps students choose books and writing styles from which they will learn. They will also gather important skills for structuring stories, building plots and characters , and writing engaging dialogue.

Thinking Out Loud

So much of what we put on paper begins in our heads. It is often easier to make sense of ideas if we listen to ourselves working things out. By speaking about a text, the students are learning to do this, which they can link to their own ideas and writing.

Listening Skill

If you read a text aloud and let individual students voice their ideas and lead discussions, you will encourage them to hone their listening skills. We can teach our students to read like writers ( Marchetti, A. & O’Dell, R ., ), by teaching them to listen effectively when they read their own work.

Target Skills

Using a mentor text to help students learn about writing is also an opportunity to teach them about more specific elements of language, like Parts of Speech and grammar. You can target the skills of writing, as well as language studies in general.

How can you learn without becoming involved? With mentor texts, students must focus on aspects of the writing, so they can analyse them and talk knowledgeably about them. They then need to engage with these points and apply them to their own writing.

writing with mentor texts

A good mentor text should have some specific qualities:

The overarching topic must be clearly presented .

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the guiding idea will be stated at the beginning of the text, as may be appropriate in an opinion piece, or even a description. In a narrative piece, the idea will emerge, rather than be stated. While reading the text, it must become clear.

The text must be logically and efficiently organized

This relates to the structure of the piece and the development of ideas. In terms of formatting, for example, newspaper articles should follow the inverted triangle structure, with the meat of the piece being in the introduction and first few paragraphs. A persuasive piece, on the other hand, must begin by stating the writer’s point of argument clearly in the beginning and should then present points of argument that are expanded upon.

The voice of the author must come through clearly

Avoid choosing a text that is rather ‘wishy-washy’, with different positions and styles being used almost ad hoc. Any good piece of writing will have a strong and specific style, which includes the tone, choice of vocab and syntax.

The grammar must be correct

Don’t select a piece of writing that has multiple grammatical errors. The mark of a well-written piece is that it is efficiently proofread and error-free. Of course, there are always exceptions where the author has specifically used, for example, incomplete sentences. I suggest avoiding using this type of piece as a mentor text, especially in the lower grades.

suit the topic, level and type of writing .

A good mentor text doesn’t have to make use of ‘fancy’ words. The register and vocabulary must be appropriate for the type of writing and the audience. A text that is aimed at sophisticated readers cannot use colloquial, low register vocabulary and be an effective text.

The text must use the conventions of the genre effectively.

Every text has characteristics of content, formatting, readability and shape, which are specific to the genre, or type of writing. A good mentor text must demonstrate the appropriate elements of the particular genre being written.

writing with mentor texts

Choosing a mentor text is not simply going to your stock of newspapers, magazines or books and pulling out a piece of writing. I mean, if it’s been published, it must be good, right? Unfortunately, if a piece of writing has been published, it means it has a readership. It does not necessarily mean it is well written.

To choose a mentor text, you must begin with the age of your students. You won’t even look at an editorial from Time magazine for 5 th graders, just as you won’t go for a ‘learn to read’ book for 12 th graders.

The next step is to consider the genre or type of text you are looking for. This links directly to the type of writing you are teaching your students. If you are teaching narrative writing, look at novels, stories or personal narratives , such as travel pieces that tell a story.

Finally, apply your own experience and the criteria above to ascertain if the text you are looking at will really be an example of good writing. If so, you have found your mentor text!

There are various resources that will supply mentor texts for teaching narrative writing or opinion or persuasive writing . Our Fictional Narrative Writing Unit will give you mentor texts to work with, as well as other useful resources.

writing with mentor texts

For Grades 4 – 6, our unit, Plan and Write Lots of Stories , includes texts and programs of writing specific types of stories.

writing with mentor texts

When you use a mentor text in the classroom, you should approach it step-by-step.

1. Recognize Mentor Text

It is worth re-stating that the first thing you need to do is to make sure you choose an appropriate text.

Read the entire text to the class. This may be a relatively short piece, or it may be an extract from a longer text, such as a novel. Don’t stop in your reading for any discussion or explanation.

3. Ask Questions

Ask the students pointed questions about the text. This should not be based on their understanding but on their opinion of the writing . For example:

  • Did you understand the main point of the piece? Why or why not?
  • Can you describe the style of the writing?
  • Why did the writer use the particular diction?
  • What made this piece interesting, or boring, perhaps?

4. Read Again

Now, read the piece again and ask the students to write down anything they find good or bad about the writing.

Discuss these ideas with the class, allowing individual students to identify particular features and to explain their choice/s.

6. Analyse The Text

A mentor text doesn’t need to be picked apart in every aspect. Rather, choose an element of writing, such as grammar, and work on that. Ask the students to answer questions such as: Are there any errors? Are they deliberate? What is the effect?

You can do this with different elements of the writing.

Allow the students to work on their piece of writing, concentrating on each of the elements they have discussed in the mentor text. Don’t expect them to do this all at once. If, for example, they are working on building characters in a story, then don’t look for perfect grammar

8. Feedback

Read the students’ writing and give them feedback, focusing on the specific elements they have worked on. Make sure your overall tone is positive and make clear connections to the mentor text. If you think a student can improve on an aspect of the writing, then direct them back to the mentor text as an example.

writing with mentor texts

Mentor texts can be used in different subjects.

Most obviously, mentor texts are a great resource to help students to learn about writing and to hone their own skills.

Not only do mentor texts present examples of good use of English, they also teach students to listen as writers. This is about listening to the content and to the way the text is written.

Looking for a mentor text to teach math may seem a bit out of left field. Why not, though? Story sums are just that, aren’t they? Stories. Use simple narrative texts to help your students understand the logic of a storyline.

Social Studies

Using mentor texts to teach the social sciences must be the best way of exposing students to different histories, cultures and peoples. How would we know about the Civil War, for example, without letters, reports and stories? These are examples of mentor texts.

Studying the sciences is not only about experiments, the periodic table and gases. It’s also about understanding concepts and exploring the background to discoveries and elements. Why not, then, use a report about Marie Curie to teach your students about radioactivity? We all, surely, remember the story about Newton sitting under the apple tree when he identified gravity, don’t we?

writing with mentor texts

Tip 1: Focus

When you analyse a mentor text with the class, make sure you focus on only one aspect of the writing at a time.

Tip 2: Variety

Choose a variety of mentor texts for the classroom, especially for narrative writing. Individual students write differently from each other. Where a few may learn a lot from one mentor text, you may find that others may respond better to an alternative style or voice.

Tip 3: Context

Begin by introducing the students to the text. Explain the context and even the basic storyline, or argument. This will help them to listen beyond the ‘plot’ and focus on the writing.

Tip 4: Read Aloud

Encourage the students to read their own work aloud often. This helps them to listen to what they have written as readers, not as writers.

Tip 5: Enjoyment

Choose texts that you enjoy reading. You won’t be able to communicate their value to students if you don’t truly believe in them.

Tip 6: Overlap Learning

Use a mentor text, such as a well-written travel blog, in the geography classroom to introduce the class to a particular area.

Tip 7: Focus on Writing

Don’t keep the focus only on the mentor text. Make sure you keep working on the students’ writing and encouraging them to share.

Tip 8: Peer Feedback

Set up opportunities for peer feedback. The students should share their writing with their partner, who will comment on the way they have adopted a feature of the mentor texts.

Tip 8: Age & Grade Appropriate

Always make sure that the mentor texts you use are appropriate for the grade and age of your students.

Mentor Text FAQ s

The best source of mentor texts is most likely to be your teaching resource library. You can also visit the library, buy newspapers and magazines, or use online blogs. There are also various sites on the internet that offer samples of mentor texts.

A lesson plan is literally an outline of every step of a lesson. It also needs to include any resources to be used in giving the lesson. This means that, if you are using a mentor text in your lesson, it must be included in the plan.

A huge part of teaching from a mentor text is for students to listen to the way the text is written. They also need to discuss what they observe, which means listening to each other. Ultimately, students will read their own work aloud and must learn to listen as a reader, not a writer.

A mentor text is an invaluable teaching tool, particularly when it comes to helping a student learn about writing and improving their own work. It doesn’t stop there, though. Mentor texts can be used in a variety of ways and in a range of subjects. You just need to be a little creative in your thinking.

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Jane B has been in education for 37 years, teaching at all levels of school and at university, with extensive experience in developing educational resources.

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Teacher using a mentor text to help teach her students in a classroom

Using Mentor Texts to Learn From the Best and Improve Students’ Writing

Truth be told, there are very few phrases my [ speaking as  post co-author  Sean ] high school teachers used during instruction that I remember to this day. Ironically, if taken at face value, the phrase I do still remember promotes outright thievery.

My high school journalism teacher Jack Kennedy told us:  “If you are going to steal, steal from the best.”  Of course, he was not advocating larceny. In the context of teaching us how to write, he also was not teaching us to plagiarize. He was emphasizing that learning techniques and approaches from other writers’ work, and using what you learn in your own writing, is a good thing. He taught us to read the best writers for this purpose, and we devoured articles from  Sports Illustrated ,  Time , and  Rolling Stone  and talked about them in class.

Most teachers are not going to be able to bring in the most accomplished writers, such as journalist  Malcom Gladwell  or novelist  Courtney Summers , for mentoring sessions with their students. However, teachers can do the next best thing by using mentor texts as part of their writing instruction. These texts also can be used to help children and teens become better writers at home.

What Are Mentor Texts?

Those articles we read and discussed in Kennedy’s class were  mentor texts . Mentor texts are written pieces that serve as an example of good writing for student writers. The texts are read for the purpose of studying the  author’s craft , or the way the author uses words and structures the writing. The goal is to provide students a model they could emulate in crafting their own piece. Essays, passages, articles, chapters, or full books could all serve as mentor texts. So too could a letter, email, film script, or comic strip, depending on the context under which the mentor text is being used.

What Constitutes a Good Mentor Text?

A good mentor text will be something student writers can read (individually or as a group), identify techniques and approaches used by the writer, discuss and understand why those approaches were effective, and integrate what they learned from this process into their own writing. A mentor text will  show , not just tell, students how to write well, and allow them to envision the kind of writer they can be as they develop their skills (Dorfman & Cappelli, 2017).

Three Qualities of a Good Mentor Text

  • You (the educator) think it is good.  If you will be reading the mentor text aloud with students or assigning them to read it, choose something  you  consider to exemplify good writing. Do not pick a piece or a writer just because his or her work has a reputation for being good. If you are indifferent about the piece, it will be difficult to authentically teach students to emulate the writing.
  • It is understandable for your students.  Although it is an added bonus if a mentor text is about a topic that is of interest to students, fundamentally, students must be able to comprehend the piece. This does not mean to avoid all challenging texts. You can go over difficult vocabulary with students prior to having them read the mentor text independently or in a group. That way, they will not get frustrated when they reach those challenging words (Gil, 2017).
  • It is relevant to what you are teaching.  If you are teaching a unit on writing persuasive essays, do not choose a hilarious parody article. If you are teaching students how to write a lead or introductory paragraph, make sure you include the beginning of the piece, not a beautifully composed conclusion from a long research paper. If you want students to identify and implement several writing techniques into their own writing, choose a text where the writer did multiple things well.

In addition to textbook passages and texts that are part of your specific literacy curriculum, mentor texts can be found from a variety of other sources.

Potential Sources of Mentor Texts

  • “In the wild”:  You may encounter or already know of excellent mentor texts without even trying. Perhaps you subscribe to a literary magazine that had an article last month with incredible use of metaphors and similes. Or, maybe you frequently think back to reading the journalistic profile of an actor that had great use of direct quotes. When you encounter good examples of authors’ craft, print them out, email them to yourself, or bookmark them on your computer. You can never have too many mentor texts in your toolbox for a future writing lesson.
  • Students’ peers:  Student writers may be more likely to connect to a mentor text written by someone close to them in age or writing experience. They also may have greater confidence in their abilities to implement in their own writing the techniques that a peer used, as opposed to emulating a more experienced professional writer. For example, if you have a unit on narrative poetry coming up, you might recall reading a narrative poem in the magazine just published by your high school’s poetry club that contained captivating character development. You may know that the local university’s arts and culture magazine always has strong student-written reviews that would work great for your lesson on how to write a movie review. Go to student publications and see what you can find.
  • Go straight for the best:  Teach using mentor texts that won prestigious prizes like the  Pulitzer Prize  for journalism or fiction, or  The Masters Review  short story award. This can also be a way to find outstanding mentor texts by students’ peers, such as winners from the  Paul Engle High School Essay Contest.  As mentioned previously, make sure to select something  you  actually think is well written, not just because it won a prize.

Teaching With Mentor Texts

Once you have identified mentor texts that you want to use, your students can gain the most from them with some instruction. Research findings indicate that using mentor texts as part of comprehensive writing instruction can result in students improving as writers. A large-scale statistical review (meta-analysis) resulting in the recommendation of 11 key elements of effective adolescent writing instruction included teaching students to analyze and emulate mentor texts (referred to in the report as  models ; Graham & Perin, 2007).

An action research project suggested that picture books might be useful as mentor texts for struggling writers (Premont, Young, Wilcox, Dean, & Morrison, 2017). The teacher read the mentor texts aloud, followed by a class discussion. Students then considered the writing traits explored in the picture books when writing their own personal narrative. The student writers’ improved their sentence fluency, word choice, and writing conventions such as punctuation. Picture books may not be the best choice for every class or specific lesson, but they may work well as a change-of-pace alternative, as long as they have sufficient text to work with.

The authors of a descriptive study wrote that mentor texts also might have application for teaching overall structure and necessary contents for subject-specific writing (Pytash, Edmondson, & Tait, 2014). A teacher would read aloud a white paper in a high school economics class and highlight the techniques and vocabulary used by the author. Students then worked in groups to analyze the text further before writing their own economics papers. An analysis of their writing and comments made in interviews seemed to suggest that reading the mentor text provided students’ knowledge of how to structure their own papers, how to effectively use transitional words, the need to include evidence for their claims, and the need to recognize bias in their own writing and the writing of others.

A study with younger students ages 7-11 found that their quality of writing improved from pretest to posttest when teachers taught with mentor texts (Corden, 2007). Over the course of a school year, teachers used mentor texts as models of particular narrative forms and writing styles during daily instruction. They read aloud the texts to the class, focusing on structural or stylistic features. This was followed by a shared writing of sentences or paragraphs using techniques identified in the mentor texts. Then, students further investigated the mentor texts in small groups. Students followed all this by transferring ideas and devices learned into their author notebooks during weekly independent work. The resulting students’ writing showed significant progress in structure and style. Although students were not compared to a group of peers who were not receiving the mentor text instruction, the authors noted that the average improvement of students in the project exceeded the expected rate of normal writing progress over the course of a school year. The techniques discussed in the mentor texts were evident in the students’ writing.

Overview of Steps for Teaching Writing Using Mentor Texts

  • Directly teach students what they should recognize in a piece of mentor text.  For example, if students are unfamiliar with figurative language, it will be difficult for them to recognize it or label its properties in a text. No matter how good the piece of writing might be, knowing what makes it so compelling is not necessarily intuitive for student writers. Authentic writing used as mentor text likely does not come with a set of directions pointing out what the author has done or what the particular technique is called. You will need to introduce that element of author’s craft first by defining it and giving easily understood or simple examples before asking students to apply that knowledge in studying a mentor text.
  • Have students read the mentor text.  Depending on the age of the students and their familiarity with reading to identify a particular type of author’s craft, you may want to read the mentor text aloud to them. Reading in small groups or reading individually are also options. As students become familiar with recognizing one or more elements of writing, you can transition from reading aloud to having students read the mentor text individually.
  • Engage in a discussion about the text by asking questions.  Though opinions on the mentor text’s topic should not be the focus of the discussion, it is important to establish that students understand what the text is about (Gil, 2017). Next, move to the crux of the discussion by asking students about the technique or approach used by the writer. Initially, you will need to model for students how you identify in the text the element of language or structure that you are teaching them. Think aloud to describe for students what makes the author’s craft stand out to you. As students become familiar with analyzing a mentor text, ask them to identify where and how the technique(s) they are learning were used in the text and why the writer was effective at using the technique. The discussion is a time to slow down and focus on individual words, sentences, and paragraphs and how these convey meaning to the reader (Dorfman & Cappelli, 2017). Talk about writing decisions that the writer made, section-by-section, and why certain words and phrases were used to make points (Pytash & Morgan, 2014).
  • Time for students to write using what they learned from the mentor text.  If possible, have students begin writing existing or new pieces right away, with a focus on emulating the techniques and approaches of the mentor text writer. This too will need to be modeled for students first. Think aloud as you demonstrate for students how you adapt an example from the mentor text to incorporate that craft into your own writing. With guidance and practice, students should be able to take what they learned, using their own writer’s voice, and tell the story they want to tell. As they write, help students revisit and reflect on their conclusions about what the writer did well in the mentor text.
  • Assess the students’ writing and provide feedback.  What level of success did students have in using the writing techniques and approaches of the mentor text writer in their own writing? Provide specific praise and constructive feedback. Ask for revisions where opportunities for improved use of the techniques and approaches exist. Peers can also provide feedback in a writer’s workshop or small-group setting, depending on the students’ ability level and prior experience providing peer feedback.

Using the “Improve Your Writing Using Mentor Texts” organizer (see Supplemental Materials for Teachers and Families below), students can read and respond to a mentor text as a class, in small groups, or as individuals.

By finding and using excellent mentor texts as part of writing instruction in the classroom or at home, you can help students progress from “stealing” from the best to learning to “read as writers.” This involves reading with a sharp eye for writing techniques and approaches that they can use to become multi-skilled writers like those successful scribes they wish to emulate.

Supplemental Materials for Teachers and Families

Improve Your Writing Using Mentor Texts

This organizer can be used in a group or individual setting to guide thinking and discussion about a mentor text, and how students can identify techniques and approaches used by the writer to improve their own writing.

Corden, R. (2007). Developing reading-writing connections: The impact of explicit instruction of literary devices on the quality of children’s narrative writing.  Journal of Research in Childhood Education ,  21 , 269-289. doi:10.1080/02568540709594594

Dorfman, L. R., & Cappelli, R. (2017).  Mentor texts: Teaching writing through children’s literature, K-6  (2nd ed.). Stenhouse Publishers.

Gil, C. (2017, June 1). 8 Tips for Teaching With Mentor Texts.  Edutopia . Retrieved from

Graham, S., & Perin, D. (2007).  Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High Schools . Retrieved from Carnegie Corporation of New York website:

Premont, D. W., Young, T. A., Wilcox, B., Dean, D., & Morrison, T. G. (2017). Picture books as mentor texts for 10th grade struggling writers.  Literacy Research and Instruction ,  4 , 290-310. doi:10.1080/19388071.2017.1338803

Pytash, K. E., Edmondson, E., & Tait, A. (2014). Using mentor texts for writing instruction in high school economics class.  Social Studies Research and Practice ,  9 (1), 95-106. Retrieved from

Pytash, K. E., & Morgan, D. N. (2014). Using mentor texts to teach writing in science and social studies.  The Reading Teacher ,  68 , 93-102. doi:10.1002/trtr.1276


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Bell Ringers

Short story mentor texts to teach narrative writing elements.

Raise your hand if teaching narrative writing has you feeling stressed or overwhelmed. I’ve been there. Every writing unit seems to bring its own challenges and narrative writing has a few unique ones. Unlike other types of writing, narrative writing is more flexible and involves more creativity. But that doesn’t mean it’s without “rules”! Getting students to master the narrative writing elements is what will take their stories to the next level.

writing with mentor texts

Tips for Teaching Narrative Writing

I spoke about this on another blog about using mentor texts novels, but I am a big fan of using mentor texts to teach narrative writing. Mentor texts allow you to model the skills and narrative writing elements for students, so they aren’t trying to guess at exactly how their writing should look and sound.

Using mentor texts can be as simple as giving students a sentence or excerpt from a text and talking through how it’s a great example of a specific skill. A lot of times, I will pull these mentor texts from novels that the class is reading because students already understand the story.

However, I know there isn’t always time to squeeze in a novel. When you’re in a bind or short on time, using a narrative short story as a mentor text will accomplish the same task as the novel! I recommend reading this short story before or during your writing unit.

Teaching Narrative Writing Elements with Short Stories

Just like you ease students into a narrative writing unit, I don’t want to throw you into the deep end with mentor texts either. I want to walk you through what it looks like to use short stories to teach the narrative writing elements. I’ll give you a few mentor text examples below and show you how I’d use them in the classroom.

writing with mentor texts

Develop a Point of View

A lot of times, the conversation about point of view is simply, what is the point of view? First-person or third-person? But it goes deeper than that. Developing a point of view means giving the reader intimate knowledge of the character’s experience. It can allow the reader to experience the same sadness or anger that the character feels.

For this narrative writing element, dig deep into the short story you’ve chosen. Find an example from the text where the point of view allows the reader a peek into a character’s mind or feelings.

I like this example from “The Scholarship Jacket”: “I was almost back at my classroom door when I heard voices raised in anger as if in some sort of argument. I stopped. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I just hesitated, not knowing what to do. I needed those shorts and I was going to be late, but I didn’t want to interrupt an argument between my teachers.”

After looking at your mentor text example, dig into what the reader experiences here. Look at what knowledge the reader gains about the character. For example, this mentor text from “The Scholarship Jacket” is a feeling people can relate to. Overhearing an argument and wondering if you pretend you didn’t hear – or you acknowledge that you overhead.

Establish Context

Another narrative writing element is establishing context for the story. Context means putting the topic into perspective for someone who knows nothing about the story. It also means providing the background information that is needed to grasp the story.

When looking through your short story, identify an excerpt where the reader gains necessary information about a character, setting, or event. This is the kind of information that if removed the story could change how the reader understands it.

Here’s an example from “Masque of Red Death”: “But Prospero, the ruler of that land, was happy and strong and wise. When half the people of his land had died, he called to him a thousand healthy, happy friends, and with them went far away to live in one of his palaces. This was a large and beautiful stone building he had planned himself. A strong, high wall circled it.”

This narrative short story excerpt gives the reader key information. It lets us know who the character Prospero is and why he is bringing people to his palace. This sets the stage for later plot points. After reading your chosen excerpt with students, ask them: What key information did this text provide? How does it help you better understand the story?

writing with mentor texts

Develop Character Motives

Character motives can be really fun to uncover. With character motives, the reader understands the reason behind the character’s actions.

To find an excerpt for this narrative writing element, think about a pivotal moment in the story. Then, think about the actions and motivations that led to that moment. Try to locate a sentence or passage that showcases those motives.

This is a great example of character motives from “Story of an Hour”: “She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.”

In this short story, the character is expected to mourn for her dead husband. Instead, she finds joy in it (which is later shown through her whispering, “Free!”) This gives us a glimpse at her motives. When examining a text for character motives, ask students: What action does the character engage in later? What is their reason for that action?

If you want students to be stronger writers, they need to see examples of what good writing looks like. That’s the power of using mentor texts when teaching narrative writing. They’ll know what context looks like or motives sound like, and they can emulate it in their own writing!

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100+ Children’s Book Mentor Texts

What is a mentor text.

Mentor texts are books that model for students what good readers and writers do — the craft and skills involved in reading and writing.

Mentor texts give children authentic, real-world examples of different kinds of writing from which they can learn. Or they can provide examples of reading structures and skills.

Teachers focus on any specific craft moves in writing or any specific strategies and skills in reading.

Mentor texts can be almost any piece of writing  including picture books, chapter books, articles, nonfiction books, magazines, and poems.

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The experts at the National Writing Project say, “ Mentor texts are pieces of literature that you — both teacher and student — can return to and reread for many different purposes.  They are texts to be studied and imitated… Mentor texts help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats. They should be [texts] that students can relate to and can even read independently or with some support. “

Get more information on using mentor texts here.

When we ask children to read published books and articles, it gives them examples they can learn from. When we read critically / metacognitively, we can notice how other writers write and the specific craft techniques that writers use.

I’m continuing to make lists for teachers and homeschoolers to use for different topics.

How to Use Mentor Texts in the Classroom

writing with mentor texts

How To Use Mentor Texts in the Classroom

Read mentor texts to study things like genre or text structure such as problem and solution as well as practice reading strategies and skills such as inference.

Most authors will tell you that the NUMBER ONE thing you can do to become a better writer is  to be a READER. What’s even more powerful is LEARNING TO READ LIKE A WRITER. That’s where mentor texts benefit our students.

We can use picture books, chapter books, nonfiction, middle-grade books, and so forth to show growing writers examples of writing craft.

First, we find exceptionally written children’s books that are  mentor texts for a writing concept. You might want to teach thinking of interesting IDEAS, describing with VIVID VERBS, writing with SENSORY DETAILS, or concluding with SATISFYING endings. You’ll read the book, notice the craft strategy, and label where you see it. Explicitly.  (Where are the vivid verbs, for example?)

And finally, you will help kids apply the strategies from the mentor text to their own writing.

Mentor Text Book Lists for Elementary Classrooms

Each list focuses on one important text structure, craft move, literacy strategy, or reading skill.

Cause and Effect

character arc mentor texts

Character Arc

character traits mentor texts

Character Traits

compare and contrast mentor texts

Compare and Contrast

mentor text descriptive writing

Description (Sensory Details)

picture book mentor texts to teach inference

How-To / Procedural Writing

mentor text children's books to teach kids how to write a letter

Letter Writing

Picture Books that Teach Onomatopoeia 


picture books mentor texts teach perspective


Personal Narrative Mentor Texts for Teaching Writing

Personal Narrative

picture books to teach personification


children's book mentor texts to teach point of view

Point of View

problem solution mentor texts

Problem / Solution

positive character traits

Positive Character Traits

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Mentor Texts to Teach Sequencing & Beginning, Middle, and End

Sequencing (Beginning, Middle, End)

picture books mentor texts similes and metaphors

Similes & Metaphors (Figurative Language)

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Small Moments

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Vivid Verbs

word choice mentor texts

Word Choice

picture books that show the writing process

Writing a Story (Ideas, Plot, Setting, Characters, Drafting, etc.)

mentor text book lists for elementary classroom teachers and homeschoolers

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August 30, 2023 | Leave a Comment

Learn my favorite narrative writing mentor texts for teaching writing.

I love teaching narrative writing using mentor texts. Students are always engaged with the stories and remember them throughout our writing unit. Here are a list of my favorites.

Disclosure: I am an affiliate of and I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. is an online bookstore that helps local, independent bookstores.

What is a narrative writing mentor text?

Mentor texts are books that are chosen to be an example of what students are expected to learn. Having a mentor text can provide a great model for students to understand these expectations. 

Narrative writing mentor texts can help teach students about word choice, illustrations, and how to tell engaging stories rich with descriptions. The National Writing Project says, “Mentor texts help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats.”

Choosing A Narrative Writing Mentor Text

When choosing a mentor text the first step is to pick a book you will enjoy reading. Mentor texts are often read multiple times and I usually read excerpts repeatedly for students to hear the rich descriptions.

Next, you should look for texts that exemplify the type of writing elements you want to teach. For example, if you are doing lessons on adding details to pictures you should look for a book with lots of details in the pictures that help add to the story.

Grumpycorn by Sara McIntyre is a great book to launch writer’s workshop or a narrative writing unit. Grumpycorn struggles throughout the book with coming up with ideas for his story he wants to write. 

Narrative Writing Tip: Use this story to teach students about brainstorming. This story would also be great to teach the writing process.

Ralph Tells a Story

Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon is the perfect book to talk about personal narratives. Poor Ralph thinks he doesn’t have any stories to tell until his classmates start asking him questions about what happened with an inchworm he saw.

Narrative Writing Tip:  This book is perfect for showcasing that personal narratives are all about stories that happen to us (big or small).  Another great lesson would be about how to add details to your story through asking questions about what happened next.

Bigmama’s by Donald Crews is one of my favorite books to share during our narrative writing unit. This mentor text is a great book that is rich in storytelling about siblings visiting Bigmama for the summer.

Narrative Writing Tip: This narrative writing mentor text is a wonderful way to teach students how to make a text to self connection and write about a memory.

A Chair for My Mother

A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams tells the story about a girl and her mother who are saving up to purchase a chair for their house after a fire destroys everything they own.

Narrative Writing Tip: This book is a classic for showing students how to write colorful descriptions in their stories. It is often a great mentor text for teaching about small moments in storytelling. 


Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran is a wonderful book showcasing children using their imagination to play and create the town of Roxaboxen.

Narrative Writing Tip: Use this book to show how a story can focus on one idea. Then use this book again to discuss the illustrations and all the details in the story.

Roller Coaster

Roller Coaster by Marla Frazee is another superb book that zooms in on the small moment of a roller coaster and all the feelings that come with it.

Narrative Writing Tip: Use this book for a perfect introduction to teaching plot. Plot is often like a roller coaster to keep the events exciting for the reader. This book can also be used to teach small moments.

Shortcut by Donald Crews is another favorite narrative writing mentor text. Donald Crews is masterful in creating short, engaging stories that draw in my students. Shortcut keeps the suspense coming when a group of students decide to take the shortcut through the train tracks.

Narrative Writing Tip: Use this book to teach students about adding suspense in their stories.

The Relatives Came

The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant is a fantastic book about a family visiting their relatives in the summertime. This book is rich in details both in the illustrations and the words making it a great mentor text.

Narrative Writing Tip: Use this book to teach about adding details to a story through the illustrations. 

Which narrative writing mentor text will you choose?

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Shared Ideas

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Mentor Texts to Teach Writing Styles

Getting started, instructional materials about mentor texts.

Why use Mentor Texts for student learning?

  • The texts can show a particular style or skill
  • Discussing texts  encourages thinking and talking aloud about elements of writing
  • Models reading skills, like inferencing, cause, and effect character traits, etc. to incorporate in student writing
  • Incorporates the engagement of reading and writing.
  • Can be used for quality, demonstrating common misconceptions, and also exceptional examples

Instructional Mentor Text Resources

Use the following resources to learn how to teach using mentor texts.

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  • Edutopia: 7 Books About Black History to Use as Mentor Text A curated list of texts to guide students to explore Black history and practice a variety of writing moves at the same time.


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Databases for Articles about Mentor Texts

To find additional and specific topics regarding mentor texts, search the following databases.

  • Google Scholar This link opens in a new window Searches across many disciplines and sources: peer-reviewed papers, theses, books, abstracts and articles, from academic publishers, professional societies, preprint repositories, universities and other scholarly organizations. Google Scholar helps you identify the most relevant research across the world of scholarly research and provides links to resources at Boston College. To set up these links, go to Settings and enter Boston College in the Library Links area.
  • ERIC (Educational Resource Information Center) This link opens in a new window The ERIC (Educational Resources Information Center) database, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, provides extensive access to educational-related literature. It includes coverage of journal articles, conferences, meetings, government documents, theses, dissertations, reports, audiovisual media, bibliographies, directories, books and monographs. It has links to over three hundred thousand full-text documents going back to 1966. One may also search ERIC through the US Dept. of Education portal at
  • Education Source This link opens in a new window Education Source covers areas of curriculum instruction as well as administration, policy, funding, and related social issues. The database provides indexing and abstracts for a very large number of journals, as well as full text for over one thousand journals. Topics covered include all levels of education from early childhood to higher education, and all educational specialties, such as multilingual education, health education, and testing. This database also includes full text for hundreds of books and monographs, and full text for numerous education-related conference papers.
  • JSTOR This link opens in a new window JSTOR is a collection of scholarly ebooks and journals across disciplines. The journal archive includes back issues and some current issues.
  • ProQuest Education Journals This link opens in a new window ProQuest Education Journals provides access to a large number of educational publications, including more than 600 of the titles in full text. The resource covers not only the literature on primary, secondary, and higher education but also special education, home schooling, adult education, and hundreds of related topics.
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  • Last Updated: Dec 22, 2023 3:17 PM
  • Subjects: Education K-12 curriculum
  • Tags: children's literature , writing , young adult books
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8 Tips for Teaching With Mentor Texts

Using great writing as a model doesn’t come naturally to students—it’s a skill that needs to be taught.

A teacher reads aloud to students.

Students benefit from examples—that’s a pretty obvious fact of teaching. And in my experience, one of the most effective ways to teach writing is to use mentor texts. By looking at examples of good writing, especially when that writing is published work done by professional writers, students learn to aspire to create effective pieces of their own.

But for many students, the experience of reading to learn about writing is new and very different from what they have done in the past. This doesn't mean that they won’t benefit from mentor texts, but it does mean that you’ll have to show them what to do.

Taking it slow and building on what they know will help, especially the first few times. Scaffold as much as possible and try the tips below to make it a pleasant experience for everyone. Once your students are comfortable analyzing mentor texts, they’ll be ready for my 14 questions for any mentor text .

Teaching With Mentor Texts

1. Give any vocabulary and definitions up front. Students who are not accustomed to reading challenging work are often frustrated by difficult vocabulary, giving up as soon as they come across an unfamiliar word. So spend a few minutes going over any words that they might find discouraging.

2. Read the piece out loud or give students time to read on their own in class. I know not all teachers believe that students should be read to, but in my experience, reading out loud to my most struggling learners helps them stay on task, especially when the reading is challenging. If you’re not comfortable reading to them, give them time to read in class—assigning a challenging piece to be read alone at home will rarely result in a successful lesson.

3. Start off with questions that deal with the content. Students are usually accustomed to answering questions that deal with the main points of texts and how authors make those points with evidence or examples. Additionally, before students can examine how a writer has crafted a text, they’ll need to understand what the text is saying. So give them questions about what the author says and how they make that point before moving on to the more challenging questions.

4. When you come back to the text to look at techniques, be as specific as possible, naming sentences or words whenever possible. Rather than leaving them to learn from the text on their own, point to the sentences that you want them to notice. Questions such as “When the writer says _____ in the first sentence, how does she make you want to read more?” are much more helpful for reluctant or struggling learners than questions like “How does the author grab the reader?” If you can, number the lines or paragraphs, quote specific words or phrases, and show students exactly where you want them to look. It’s fine to task struggling learners with noticing sections of the text on their own, but give them at least a few questions that tell them exactly where to look.

5. Give multiple examples if you want students to try a technique. For example, if you want students to organize a personal essay by starting with an event and then going back in time to describe how they got there, give them an example of a big game and the season of practice, or a busted party and the series of bad decisions that led to it. If you want them to try adding figurative language to their descriptions, give them more than one example of how it might be worked into an essay. Just having a technique defined is not enough for many students.

6. Refer back to the mentor texts regularly, in teacher conferences or whole-class lessons or discussions. Don't assume that because students answered one set of questions on a technique they have internalized it and are ready to use it in their own writing. They might forget, or they might not realize that what they were being taught was something they could try out themselves. On the other hand, they might not have been ready for the lesson when it was taught, and they might be more prepared to try imitating a technique from the mentor text once they have started working on their own piece.

7. Let students see you trying the strategies as well. Students are much less likely to be intimidated about trying new techniques if they see you trying them first. It’s even more important to show them that you might have to struggle to craft your writing. Letting them know that no one is just naturally good at writing goes a long way in encouraging them to take risks and stretch their writing muscles.

8. Keep in mind that this is likely a new experience for struggling learners. This kind of higher-level thinking doesn’t come easily to many, so be patient and keep trying. You will see the benefits, and the lesson is worth the effort.

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Home » BLOG » Writing Mentor Texts You Need for the Classroom

Writing Mentor Texts You Need for the Classroom

This post may contain affiliate links.  Please read our disclosure here .

Do you find it difficult to introduce the skill of writing to young learners? Have you noticed your writers aren’t making the progress you hoped? Writing is a difficult, but very important skill for little ones. The sooner we get our kids writing, the easier it will be for them as they mature. You’ll make a lot of teachers happy the sooner you start! Mentor texts are an easy and effective way to introduce writing skills to any level of writer. Below are several mentor texts you can use in your classroom to help introduce and improve narrative writing for kindergarten, first and even second grade learners.

Writing Mentor Texts for Kindergarten and First Grade

According to the kindergarten and first grade standards, students should use a combination of drawings and writings to narrate an event (CCSS K.W.3, CCSS 1.W.3, TEKS K14). Narrative writing includes many characteristics. We have to teacher those characteristics and conventions to create successful writers.

Mentor texts are a perfect way to model great writing. What’s better than using published writers as models? The following are writing mentor texts that can used during your whole group and small group instruction.

Introducing Narrative Writing

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Ralph Tells a Story

Perfect for those writers who have ‘nothing to write about’! Ralph learns that his stories don’t have be big! Even a small idea or event can be a great story!

Arthur Writes a Story

Because one book on writers who are stuck might not be enough! Arthur has a homework assignment to write a story and he’s stuck! Find out how he learns to write a story instead of staring at a blank page.

The Best Story

What’s considered the best story? Everyone has their OWN story to tell. With this great story, we learn that everyone has the best story to tell!

Max’s Words

Max teaches us that words are what make a story! You can collect many things, but collecting words can help you create a wonderful story.

Writing Mentor Texts for Adjectives

writing with mentor texts

Adjectives can take a boring story to a great story. Adjectives help us see a better picture in our mind when we write and read stories. Here are some great books to add to your whole group and small group lessons.

Pete The Cat: I Love My White Shoes

Pete has some pretty cool white shoes! But as he walks more in them, they change colors. This book does a great job in teaching our writers how to use color words in our writing.

The woods can be frightening! When a little boy loses his bunny in the woods, he heads of on an adventure to find it. Find out what he finds in the woods (and find some great adjectives to use in writing as well!)

Fun Dog, Sun Dog

Tinka is a great dog! He’s also a sun dog who loves the outdoors! Have fun reading all the great adjectives that are used to describe Tinka!

The Grouchy Ladybug

Don’t let the grouchy ladybug ruin your day! This ladybug quickly learns that being grouchy isn’t the best option. Find out how she changes her attitude and introduce your learners to some great describing words!

The Napping House

Oh, this is a fun book! Your class will be laughing with every page. The bed in the house in piled high with animals and a kid and his grandma. Will the bed break? Find out and enjoy some great adjectives while you read.

Mentor Texts on Verbs

writing with mentor texts

Every sentence has to have a verb! Do you want your learners to use the same verbs over and over? Don’t think so! These books are filled with creative words to use in place of those boring verbs we tend to over use.

Kites Sail High

Go on a journey as verbs are introduced and modeled in writing! This book includes many great verbs your learners can use!

Shake, Rattle and Roll

What happens when the illustrated animal comes in contact with its real life counterpart? Find out with this fun book that introduces young learners to action words!

Nothing to Do Puppy

You’ve heard it. “I have nothing to do” is a popular phrase for all little ones. When puppy tells his dad this, his dad gets creative! Find out what actions he suggests to Puppy.

One Mole Digging a Hole

All the animals are busy helping each other in the garden! Find out what each animal does to help! This is a great book on verbs, but it’s also a great book for counting!

Set Writing Goals

As you introduce these writing skills and conventions, meet with your writers in small groups. Find out what they struggle with. Teach them how to set and meet writing goals ! You can use this free writing goal packet as you work to introduce these conventions to your readers!

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Discover new mentor texts for your how-to writing unit.

Procedural writing or “How-to” is one of my favorite units to teach during Writers’ Workshop! There are so many fun ways to introduce the unit that will engage students. One of the best ways to help students during any writing unit, however, is the use of mentor texts. Mentor texts provide concrete examples of great writing and are motivating! Like I’ve said before, kids love to emulate authors they admire.

In this post, I’ll share some great picture books to use as mentor texts for how-to writing in your classroom, along with a few mini-lesson ideas.

This post includes affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage if you purchase through the links, at no cost to you. View my entire Amazon list of Mentor Texts for How-to Writing here.

Procedural writing or

How to be a Cat by nikki mcclure

When teaching procedural writing I love to use mentor texts with my kindergarten and first grade students.  Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts for procedural writing.

The book is quite simplistic, only featuring one word per page. The story is about a young kitten who is learning how to be a cat. This is a great mentor text for early kindergarten or students who are still writing just a word or two per idea.

Extension Idea :

Students can choose their favorite animal and write their own How To Be A _______ book!

Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert

When teaching procedural writing I love to use mentor texts with my kindergarten and first grade students.  Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts for procedural writing.

This is a great mentor text to use when you are introducing labeling to your students. You may recognize this author’s name from her two most popular books, Leaf Man or Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf .

Our unseen narrator walks the readers through the steps of making vegetable soup, beginning with growing the vegetables in their family garden. All the tools and plants are labeled.

EXTENSION: At the end of the text is a recipe for vegetable soup that you can also discuss with your students. You may not want to make soup, but we did make a recipe in our class during our how-to unit! Read about our how-to writing unit here.

How To Wash a Woolly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson

Your kindergarten and first grade students will enjoy listening to this mentor text for how-to writing in kindergarten and first grade. Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts for your how-to writing unit.

This is both a fun read and a fantastic mentor text for students. When you first open the book the dedication page is filled with funny pictures of bath products one may use on a Woolly Mammoth! A young girl attempts to give the reader a step-by-step guide on how to wash a muddy woolly mammoth but things don’t go according to plan and extra steps are added.

This is a great mentor text for how-to writing for a few reasons:

  • It has a great introduction, which isn’t always easy to find in how-to books (many times, they start with steps).
  • All the steps are labeled; Step One:, Step Two:, etc.
  • It also includes tips that can serve as a model for adding details!
  • There are captions for some of the steps.
  • It’s so cute and funny!

Your kindergarten and first grade students will enjoy listening to this mentor text and it will help strengthen their own procedural writing! Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts.

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend by Melanie Watt

Kindergarten and first grade students love Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend. Did you know that it makes a fantastic mentor text for procedural writing? Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts for procedural writing.

This might just be my FAVORITE mentor text for how-to writing!

You may already be familiar with the Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt. They are humorous stories that are popular among students.

Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend is a great addition to your bin of mentor texts for how-to writing because of the wonderful charts and diagrams!

In the story, Scaredy Squirrel creates a plan to meet the perfect friend. Once you’ve read the story aloud to your students, you can use individual pages as examples for mini-lessons.

Extension Ideas:

Scaredy Squirrel creates a chart with everything he needs to meet a friend. Display and discuss the items with your students, Then have them create a “supplies” page for their own how-to writing piece. 

On another page, Scaredy Squirrel lists everything he shouldn’t do if he meets someone who could bite him! Have students look back over their stories. Is there anything that one SHOULDN’T do? This is great for adding a WARNING page or caption.

Kindergarten and first grade students love Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend. Did you know that it makes a fantastic mentor text for procedural writing? Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts.

How to Give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps by Nicola Winstanley

This is a fantastic mentor text to help your kindergarten and first grade students revise their how-to writing. Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts for procedural writing.

Giving an animal a bath seems to be a common topic among picture books! I promise both have earned their spot on this list. This book would make a perfect mentor text when you are discussing editing or revising with your students. Through trial and error, the young girl has to revise her steps adding more details each time. 

For example, the first step begins as, “Fill the bathtub with warm water.” and ends up as, “Put a little warm water in the bath. The water should come up to your cat’s knees.”

If your students have ever tried to give their cat or dog a bath, they will surely relate to the hilarity of this book!

Extension Idea

If you do use the prior text along with this one you could have your students compare and contrast the two. They could discuss which text gave the best instructions for washing a pet.

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems selected by Paul B. Janeczko

This book of poetry makes a great procedural writing mentor text for kindergarten and first grade students.  Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts for procedural writing.

This text is different from most procedural writing texts as it’s a collection of poems. The poems have been selected by former educator and poet Paul B. Janeczko. Each poem is from a different poet, ranging from classic to contemporary.

Since the poems vary by length and complexity, they can be used for multiple grade levels. The shortest poem, How to Pay Attention , is just two lines long:

Close this book.

This book of poetry makes a great procedural writing mentor text for kindergarten and first grade students.  Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts.

To make your how-to writing extra fun, check out these differentiated Interactive How-to pages . Kids use the pieces to ACT OUT the steps before writing them! There’s nothing like hands-on learning; doing it first helps kids when it comes to writing the steps.

This is also available in my TpT store here.

writing with mentor texts

It also includes large color cards for you to model with on a pocket chart (or for students to use in groups).

writing with mentor texts

GRAB A FREE SET of HOW-TO Pages here.

Bonus book: how to by julie morstad.

This is a great mentor text to help your kindergarten and first grade students gather ideas for their own how-to books. Read this post for more of my favorite mentor texts.

I’m including this as a bonus as it’s a great book for exploring ideas for what students can choose to write about. One struggle that young students can have is that they don’t think they are good at anything or know how to do anything worth writing about. 

This book will also get your students engaged as the illustrations for each how-to are a bit unexpected! For example, how-to wash your face shows a young girl in a rainstorm.

I hope you have discovered a new mentor text to help strengthen your student’s writing! Comment below if you do plan to add one of these books to your classroom. I would also love to hear what your favorite how-to mentor text is!

Don’t forget your FREE How-to pack !

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Digital Learning

How to organize reading and writing mentor texts.

writing with mentor texts

Hey there, fellow teachers! Today, we’re diving into the wonderful world of organizing reading and writing mentor texts. We all know just how valuable these texts can be in shaping our students’ literacy skills. They serve as models and sources of inspiration. But here’s the thing: to truly harness the power of reading and writing mentor texts, we need to get organized! In this blog post, we’ll explore some tried-and-true strategies for effectively organizing mentor texts in our classrooms.

1. Gather a List of Book Titles

writing with mentor texts

The list shown above is actually a freebie you can download! Check out the Mentor Text Organization Pages freebie here!

When it comes to organizing mentor texts for each reading and writing standard, it’s all about having a stash of awesome book titles and ideas ready to go. So, where do you find them? There are many blog posts that highlight great mentor texts for each standard. Here are a few blog posts I’ve outlined for different reading standards!

  • Reading Informational (Nonfiction) Mentor Texts
  • Reading Literature (Fiction) Mentor Texts
  • Opinion Writing Mentor Texts
  • Narrative Writing Mentor Texts

Other options are suggestions from your state or district. Many school systems may provide you with a list of suggested mentor texts for reading and writing. You could also hop into a Facebook group (like The Nest for Elementary Teachers ) and ask your teaching peers what mentor text they use for a given standard or topic!

2. Choose Which Way You Want to Organize Your Reading and Writing Mentor Texts

Alright, let’s talk about storing those mentor texts! There are a couple of nifty ways you can keep your collection in order. One classic option is a good ol’ shelf. Arrange your mentor texts on the shelf, either alphabetically, by genre, or by writing traits. It’s like having a mini library right in your classroom! Another option to consider is using book buckets. Grab some colorful bins or buckets, and label them with different categories like “narrative,” “informational,” or “poetry.” Then, plop those mentor texts into the matching buckets. It’s a fun and accessible way for students to grab a book that aligns with their interests or the writing focus of the day. (We will talk about labeling them next!) Any links you see for book storage below may be affiliate links to Amazon.

Shelf Options:

writing with mentor texts

  • Shelf Separators
  • Shelf Label Option 1
  • Shelf Label Option 2

Separate Book Storage Options:

writing with mentor texts

  • Book Buckets
  • Wire Shelves
  • Display Shelves

3. Label Your Books For Easy Finding!

Alright, let’s chat about how to label those mentor texts and keep things super organized! One simple and handy trick is to use Post-it notes. Grab a stack of those colorful sticky squares and get ready to transform your mentor texts. Simply jot down the specific reading or writing standard that each book covers on a post-it note, and stick it right on the cover or spine of the book. Voila! Now, at a glance, you’ll know exactly which standard each book aligns with. Another option is removable book tape! This tape is safe for books. You can stick it right on the spine of the book and write with a Sharpie on the edge which standard it covers. The spine labels may only work for hardback books, though. So those paperbacks will have better labeling luck with Post-Its!

writing with mentor texts

  • Post-It Notes
  • Removable Tape

4. Track Your Books Throughout the Year

writing with mentor texts

Let’s talk about how to keep track of all those amazing mentor texts you’ve been using throughout the year. One handy trick is to create a good ol’ checklist. Whenever you use a mentor text in your lessons, simply check it off or mark the corresponding column. This way, you’ll have a clear visual of which mentor texts you’ve covered and which ones you haven’t. Plus, it’s super flexible, so you can customize your checklist based on your own preferences and teaching needs. If you want a free checklist, I have a free mentor text checklist just for you! One template is just to gather a list of titles for a given skill (writing, fiction text, and nonfiction text are provided). The other template helps you plan week by week what your standard focus is!

writing with mentor texts


When you sign up for my email list, this Mentor Text Organization freebie will be sent directly to your inbox. Check your email after this!

5. Bonus: Add Your Talking Points and Significant Details Prior

Now for the hardest part… Annotating and marking up the texts prior to your lessons. When diving into mentor texts, it’s essential to take notes and mark those crucial talking points. Grab a pen or use sticky tabs to annotate your mentor texts as you explore them. Jot down your thoughts, underline key passages, or circle important words or phrases. You can also use symbols or abbreviations to highlight specific elements like character development, vivid descriptions, or effective dialogue. These notes and marks will serve as valuable reminders for future discussions or lesson planning.

writing with mentor texts

  • Lined Notes- Post-It
  • Post-It Flags
  • Underline Tape

Thanks for reading this blog post all about organizing your mentor texts. I have two YouTube videos you may also like! One is a Facebook Live that I converted into a video and it’s all about how to use mentor texts. Then, I made another video all about organizing your mentor texts like we discussed here!

  • Read more about: Books , Classroom Organization , Common Core Aligned , Reading Blog Posts

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Our Favorite Mentor Texts for How-To or Procedural Writing

The right mentor texts can be gold.

Procedural Writing Mentor Texts

If you teach “how to” or procedural writing, whether as a standalone unit or as one aspect of a study of informational writing, great mentor texts are gold. The right models can help take your students’ writing from “blah” to “wow.” Good trade book examples of this type of writing can be hard to find, so we hunted down these top choices to make your life easier:

1. How to Be a Cat by Nikki McClure (Gr. K-1)

writing with mentor texts

This is a helpful option for classrooms in which some students might only write a word or two for each step in their How To books.

2. Printable Recipes from Teeny Tiny Foodie (Gr. K-2)

writing with mentor texts


This site includes over a dozen FREE printable, illustrated recipes—plus a “Let’s Wash Our Hands” title—that are the perfect simple how-to examples. Teachers of fluent writers could use these as working texts for mini lessons about clarifying or adding to directions.

3. How to Make Slime by Lori Shores (Gr. K-2)

writing with mentor texts

This one, like the other titles in the “Hands-On Science Fun” series, begins with a classic example of written project directions. The steps aren’t numbered, but they are sequential and clearly illustrated. The second half of the book includes extensions and snippets of additional information that are good examples of how to make a text more interesting.

4. How to Bake a Cake by Anastasia Suen (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

Part of the “Step By Step Project” series, this title has enough features to revisit again and again. It has a clear structure that includes an introduction, materials list, and step-by-step directions, and extras like reader tips and a photo glossary.

5. How to Read a Story by Kate Messner (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

The numbered steps and closely-matched illustrations make this a nice addition to your collection of how-to examples. Plus, the content reinforces all the great reading strategies you’re teaching.

6. If Your Monster Won’t Go To Bed by Denise Vega (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

After getting overwhelmed by all the “don’ts” for putting a monster to bed, a young girl writes a set of specific and helpful directions for what to do. This book is an excellent example of how a conversational tone and descriptive language can improve writing. Just ”Pour your monster a nice big glass of calming, crunchy, oozy bug juice slimed with ooey-gooey snail trails” and get to work.

7. How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

This text definitely isn’t an informational text, but it does clearly demonstrate writing in the second person. There are individual features worth highlighting, like the specific, bite-sized directions, energetic language and punctuation, and congratulatory statement at the end.

8. How to Find an Elephant by Kate Banks (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

Again, this is not an actual nonfiction text, but it does have good examples of how to give directions and tips in an engaging way. It could be rewritten in a more standard How To format as a shared writing exercise. Kids will enjoy the fun illustrations and the ending.

9. How to Babysit a Grandma by Jean Reagan (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

This is a sweet read aloud in its own right with lots of discussion possibilities. Sections like “What To Do at the Park” or “How to Play With a Grandma” can be used as shorter how-to examples, especially to demonstrate how to include tips and reminders for readers.

10. How To Make Friends With a Ghost by Rebecca Green (Gr. K-4)

writing with mentor texts

There are a lot of stylistic features in this imaginative text that make it worth sharing. Show students how the author divided the book into logical sections (“Ghost Basics,” “Ghost Care,” and “Growing Together”) and included helpful features like multiple labeled illustrations for each direction and a list of do’s and don’ts.

11. How to Wash a Wooly Mammoth by Michelle Robinson (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

Yes, the topic is obscure, but this title has all the elements you’d hope for in a procedural writing mentor text: a catchy introduction, numbered steps, and informative illustrations. “Fig. 4: Heavy-duty crane” is priceless.

12. Caring for Your Lion by Tammi Sauer (Gr. K-3)

writing with mentor texts

“We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those. Luckily a lion is practically the same thing!” Well, thank goodness for this comprehensive guide! The illustrated diagrams, with helpful details like sound effects, arrows and Xs over actions not to take, can help students make more use of the illustrations in their own procedural writing books.

13. How to Survive as a Shark by Kristen Foote (Gr. 2-5)

writing with mentor texts

Warning: this isn’t a kindergarten shark book. It opens with a description of how Great White sharks can eat each other! It is a great title, however, to show your students how to inject humor into informational text and write directions from a creative perspective.

14. Plant! Cook! Eat!: A Children’s Cookbook by Joe Archer and Caroline Craig (Gr. 2-5)

writing with mentor texts

Use this text to study how related procedural writing pieces can be combined into a collection. In addition to being a cookbook, this volume also includes directions for planting and harvesting vegetables.

15. How To Be a Scientist by Steve Mould (Gr 2-5)

writing with mentor texts

Study one set of project instructions to focus exclusively on writing directions, or look at the book as a whole as an example of how to weave procedural writing into an informational book. Support your science curriculum, too!

16. Mossby’s Magic Carpet Handbook: A Flyer’s Guide to Mossby’s Model D3 Extra-Small Magic Carpet (Especially for Young or Vertically Challenged People) by Ilona Bray (Gr. 3-5)

writing with mentor texts

Use this with older students ready to explore moves like varying the format of procedural writing, incorporating additional information, and speaking effectively to readers by using precise vocabulary. This title could inspire “handbooks” on a wide variety of topics.

What are your tried-and-true mentor texts for proceudral writing? Let us know in the comments!

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Writing Mentor Texts for Kindergarten, First, and Second Grade

  • February 24, 2016

Need some narrative, opinion/persuasive, and informational mentor texts for your Kindergarten, 1st grade, or 2nd grade students?

I’ve got LOTS of book recommendations for you – you can use these books to teach students about writing genres and specific writing skills!

In this post, I’m sharing 50 great mentor texts, as well as 5 important “how to” tips for using mentor texts in the primary grades!

This post has a HUGE list of mentor texts for narrative, opinion, and informational writing! You can use these books to teach personal narrative writing, story writing, opinion writing, persuasive writing, how-to writing, and nonfiction writing. There's also a list of 5 tips for using mentor texts!

Photo credit: Tiplyashina Evgeniya, Shutterstock

The books listed below are best for use with Kindergarten, first, or second grade. The ones that are most appropriate for Kindergarten are *starred* (not to say that any of the books would be inappropriate for Kindergarten, but having taught this grade, I know that some books are a little too long for the little ones!).

Within the lists, I’ve linked to these books on Amazon, so you can quickly and easily add them to your cart or wishlist!

Narrative or Personal Narrative Writing Mentor Texts:

Salt Hands (Picture Puffins)  (Jane Chelsea Aragon) – personal narrative

* Fireflies  (Julie Brinckloe) – personal narrative

* Bigmama’s  (Donald Crews) – personal narrative Shortcut  (Donald Crews) – personal narrative

Oliver Button Is a Sissy  (Tomie dePaola)

Roller Coaster  (Maria Frazee) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective

* Kitten’s First Full Moon  (Kevin Henkes) – fiction

* Amazing Grace  (Mary Hoffman) – narrative

* The Leaving Morning  (Angela Johnson) – personal narrative

* Peter’s Chair (Picture Puffins)  (Ezra Jack Keats) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective

The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective

* Whistle for Willie  (Ezra Jack Keats) – narrative

* Kitchen Dance  (Maurie J. Manning) – personal narrative

One Morning in Maine (Picture Puffins)  (Robert McCloskey) – narrative

Mirette on the High Wire  (Emily Arnold McCully) – narrative

My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother  (Patricia Polacco) – personal narrative

Thank You, Mr. Falker  (Patricia Polacco) – narrative / personal narrative

Thunder Cake  (Patricia Polacco) – personal narrative

The Relatives Came  (Cynthia Rylant) – personal narrative

When I Was Young in the Mountains (Cynthia Rylant) – personal narrative

Too Many Tamales  (Gary Soto) – narrative

* Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book)  (Mo Willems) – fiction

* Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale  (Mo Willems) – realistic fiction

* A Chair for My Mother  (Vera Williams) – personal narrative

* Owl Moon  (Jane Yolen) – personal narrative; great for teaching descriptive details

Opinion or Persuasive Writing Mentor Texts:

* One Word from Sophia (Jim Averbeck)

* Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type  (Doreen Cronin) – can also be used to teach letter writing

The Best Part of Me: Children Talk About their Bodies in Pictures and Words  (Wendy Ewald)

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School  (Mark Teague) – can also be used to teach letter writing

Hey, Little Ant  (Phillip Hoose)

Should We Have Pets?: A Persuasive Text  (Sylvia Lollis)

I Wanna Iguana  (Karen Kaufman Orloff) – can also be used to teach letter writing

I Wanna New Room  (Karen Kaufman Orloff) – can also be used to teach letter writing

The Perfect Pet (Margie Palatini)

Earrings (Judith Viorst)

* Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!  (Mo Willems)

* Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!  (Mo Willems)

Informational / How-To / Nonfiction / Expository Writing Mentor Texts:

* All About Sharks  (Jim Arnosky)

* Surprising Sharks (Nicola Davies)

Solids, Liquids, And Gases (Rookie Read-About Science)  (Ginger Garrett)

* How a House Is Built  (Gail Gibbons) – how-to book

The Bicycle Book   (Gail Gibbons)

* The Pumpkin Book  (Gail Gibbons) – one page has a how-to

* Make a Valentine (Book shop)  (Dale Gordon) – how-to book

All Kinds of Habitats (It’s Science!)  (Sally Hewitt)

Chameleons Are Cool (Martin Jenkins)

The Abcs of Habitats (Abcs of the Natural World)  (Bobbie Kalman)

Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs! (Kathleen Kudlinski)

* What Is Weather?  (Ellen Lawrence)

* How to Make Salsa  (Jamie Lucero) – how-to book

What Is the World Made Of? All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases   (Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld)

All of these texts can be used with my Kindergarten, first, or second grade writing units or writing bundles. These bundles have lesson plans that show you exactly how to use mentor texts to teach writing! (However, not all of the lessons use mentor texts – many do not. I think it’s important to have a balance of both.)

In addition to complete writing lesson plans, the bundles also include:

  • Writing rubrics / assessments
  • Printable posters
  • Kid-friendly writing checklists
  • Printable writing paper

Read more about the bundles here:


Five Tips for Using Mentor Texts

Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite mentor texts, let’s talk about how to use them effectively in the classroom! Here are five things that I do when working with writing mentor texts:

1.  Before utilizing a book as a mentor text, I read it aloud to students for purposes of enjoyment and comprehension. Students need an opportunity to understand, enjoy, and discuss a text before they are asked to think about it as writers. I always read aloud the mentor text a day or two before I use it in a writing lesson.

2.  I use modeling and clear, explicit language to teach students how to “read as writers.”  I explain that people read books for many purposes – for pleasure, to learn, and to grow as writers. I like to read a familiar book aloud to students and think aloud as I “read it as a writer.”  I comment on what I notice about character development, how the author introduces a problem, the author’s word choice, the author’s use of punctuation marks, how the illustrations complement the words, and so on.

3.  I use the same mentor text for multiple writing lessons.  While it’s helpful to expose students to many different mentor texts, you can also use a single text for multiple minilessons.  In my second grade writing workshop curriculum , for example, I use the book Amazing Grace  (Mary Hoffman) to teach students how to include a problem in a story, write a strong ending, and incorporate dialogue.  This saves us time, because students are already familiar with the text so we can dive right into the teaching point of the minilesson.

4.  I use mentor texts to guide my own planning. When I sit down to plan a writing unit, I sometimes struggle to determine what, exactly, I want my students to be able to do as writers of the genre we’re working on.  When this happens, I spend some time carefully examining mentor texts on my own.  For example, if I’m planning a nonfiction unit, I take out a couple of children’s nonfiction books and pay attention to how the authors convey information.  Are examples given?  Does the author provide definitions of important works?  Is the information organized into categories – and if so, how?  These are all strategies that I can teach students to use as they learn nonfiction writing.

5.  I teach students to learn about writing from the books they read independently.   I show students that, as they read, they can also grow as writers. You might have students keep a list of interesting words they find in books, and then encourage them to share these words with the class and try them out in their own writing.

Last but not least, if you’d like to grab some FREE writing printables  that include alphabet charts, kid-friendly checklists, and more, get my writing folder tools freebie here!

Do you have any favorite mentor texts or tips for using them? Please comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.

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Thank you so much for writing this detailed post! We’re looking to build our collection of mentor texts for each grade level. This will be a huge help!

You are so welcome, Chrissy! I’m glad it’s helpful!

Do you have one made for 3rd grade?

Just for K-2; sorry about that!

Thank you for sharing! Even as a third grade teacher, I found this post to be helpful!! I struggle as a new writing teacher so your advice is very practical.

So glad it’s helpful even though you teach 3rd! This post might be helpful too:

Thanks for reading and commenting!! 🙂

Thanks Alison for such a great list of mentor texts. I love the photograph images you use in your blog on on your products. Can you tell me where you get them?

Hi Sandra! Most of them are from, but some are from Pixabay. 🙂

Great resources, thanks. I appreciate seeing some female and minority authors and characters, and encourage you to keep up the good work!

This is is a super resource! I’m always on the lookout for mentor texts for writing. I’m so glad for your email about this – I just recently subscribed to it. I also bought your complete writing bundle this week and am delighted with it. Thank you!

So happy to hear that, Debbie!! I hope you enjoy using the lessons – feel free to reach out anytime if you have questions!

thank you so much for your help. I really appreciated it . This will be a hug help for my kindergartens

I’m so glad!! 🙂

Hi Alison and thank you for this. We are a tc school and are building our k mentor text reaching text collections and I was wondering if you could suggest a few for Non Fiction and How To ( beyond the Gail Gibbons). For example I want to emphasize certain elements such as bold words for both caution and new or important words -not just for the index. I would love a few ideas that you use or feel are your go to titles for non fiction and how to Thank you for any ideas and the resource list above. …  Read more »

Is there a link somewhere that I can download just the list of books? I want to be able to save it and I don’t see a list in the post, just it listed with links. Thank you for all of your hard work!

Hi Danielle! I don’t have these particular books in a list form, but I do have the mentor texts I use with my Kinder, 1st, and 2nd grade writing units in document form. If you’re interested, you are welcome to email me and I will send it over to you! 🙂

Hello Alison, I would also love the mentor text list in document form for Kindergarten and grade 1.

Hey Paula! I don’t think I have this exact list in document form, but I have others that I can send to you. Please email me at Alison@learningattheprimarypond . com!

Thank you for sharing!

This is amazing! Do you have any mentor texts for Poetry? Thanks!

Hey Anny! I love Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, and the Random House Book of Poetry for Children. 🙂

Such a perfect list of books for each genre! Thank you!! 🙂

Wow! This was an awesome resource. I have been teaching math, science, and health only for a while. Now I have to get back in the grove of teaching reading language arts and writing. Writing doesn’t get the proper time like it should in my class. So reading your blog and doing your workshop will help me become more efficient when teaching writing.

Hey Leslie! So glad this is helpful. Welcome back to the world of literacy! 🙂

Thanks for reading! Alison

Thank you! Looking forward on using the second grade writing bundle. Great Mentor text list.

Thank you so much! I really appreciate this wonderful list of mentor texts to help build up our Writing Workshop program this year.

You’re welcome! 🙂

I purchased, I thought, your K,1st, and 2nd writing workshop bundles from the webinar that I watched. Thank you for sending the video. I had major technical difficulties that day and couldn’t log in. I went to the bundle link in your e-mail and used paypal to purchase all 3, but I can not find the downloads. Can you check for me please? I really want them. Thanks, Sue

Hi Susan! I’m so sorry that you were having technical difficulties! I have contacted my customer service team and a member will look up your purchase and get that resent to you within 24 hours. 🙂 Thank you for reaching out!

Can you recommend a mentor list in Spanish for the Units of Study poetry unit? (K-2, specifically 2nd grade) Thanks!!

Hey there! Right now, I can’t think of a solid recommendation off the top of my head. I’ll let you know if I come across anything!

writing with mentor texts

I’m Alison, a literacy specialist. I love getting kids excited about reading and writing – and sharing teaching ideas with other teachers!

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Writing with Mentors: How to Reach Every Writer in the Room Using Current, Engaging Mentor Texts

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Rebekah O'Dell

Writing with Mentors: How to Reach Every Writer in the Room Using Current, Engaging Mentor Texts

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" Writing With Mentors is one of the best books I've read on harnessing the power of mentor texts to spur authentic student writing." --Kelly Gallagher, author of Write Like This

"Writing With Mentors has transformed the way I think about using exemplar pieces." --Christopher Lehman, coauthor of Falling in Love with Close Reading

"I am certain Don [Graves] would have celebrated these wise, kind, and fearless advocates for young writers." --Penny Kittle, author of Write Beside Them

In Writing with Mentors , high school teachers Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O'Dell prove that the key to cultivating productive, resourceful writers-writers who can see value and purpose for writing beyond school-is using dynamic, hot-off-the-press mentor texts. In this practical guide, they provide savvy strategies for:

--finding and storing fresh new mentor texts, from trusted traditional sources to the social mediums of the day --grouping mentor texts in clusters that show a diverse range of topics, styles, and approaches --teaching with lessons that demonstrate the enormous potential of mentor texts at every stage of the writing process.

In chapters that follow the scaffolded instruction Allison and Rebekah use in their own classrooms, you'll discover how using mentor texts can unfold across the year, from inspiration and planning to drafting, revising, and "going public" in final publication. Along the way, you'll find yourself reaching every writer in the room, whatever their needs. "Our hope in this book," they write, "is to show you a way mentors can help you teach anything you need or want to teach in writing. A way that is grounded in the work of real writers and the real reading you do every day. A way that is sustainable and fresh, and will serve your students long after they leave your classroom."

  • ISBN-10 032507450X
  • ISBN-13 978-0325074504
  • Publisher Heinemann
  • Publication date September 16, 2015
  • Language English
  • Dimensions 7.4 x 0.43 x 9.2 inches
  • Print length 224 pages
  • See all details

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  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Heinemann (September 16, 2015)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 032507450X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0325074504
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 14 - 17 years
  • Grade level ‏ : ‎ 9 - 12
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13.6 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7.4 x 0.43 x 9.2 inches
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About the authors

writing with mentor texts

Rebekah O'Dell

Rebekah O'Dell believes in the power of choice, authenticity, and students' voices in the reading and writing classroom.

Traveling the country to work with teachers and students provides constant inspiration as she helps educators do the hard-and-tranformative work of teaching real writing. In both public and independent schools, she taught middle and high school students at all levels -- from inclusion to AP and IB classes.

She is a co-founder of Moving Writers and the authors of Writing With Mentors (Heinemann 2015) and Beyond Literary Analysis (Heinemann, January 2018).

writing with mentor texts

Allison Marchetti

Allison Marchetti believes in the power of choice, authenticity, and students’ voices in the reading and writing classroom.

Traveling the country to work with teachers and students provides constant inspiration as she helps educators do the hard-and-transformative work of teaching real writing. In both public and independent schools, she has taught middle and high school students at all levels — from inclusion to AP classes.

She is the co-founder of Moving Writers, a blog for secondary writing teachers, and co-author of Writing With Mentors (Heinemann 2015) and Beyond Literary Analysis (Heinemann, January 2018) with Rebekah O'Dell.

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Imagination Soup

30 Inspiring Picture Books About Writing a Story

T eachers and parents,  use these  picture books  as  mentor texts  to show kids the process of writing a story. Read about getting ideas for stories, and the storytelling/story writing process, including story elements.

Some of these books show how writers get ideas.

Others show the challenges of plotting and drafting the words in a story.

All are about a part of the storytelling process and make for helpful mentor texts. Because kids need plenty of examples to encourage them as they develop their own storytelling abilities.

Look for mentor texts that meet your children where they are. In other words, what are your children or students struggling with currently? Is it finding ideas? Start there. Maybe it’s facing the challenges that come with writing a story draft.

I’ve divided this book list into three parts:

  • Finding an Idea
  • Plotting and Drafting
  • The Writer’s Life / Getting Published

Writing isn’t easy. Many of these books show that the struggle of writing is OK and part of the creative process. (And sometimes funny!)


The Best Picture Books About Writing a Story

Mentor texts about finding an idea for a story.

Amy the Red Panda Is Writing The Best Story in The World by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ruth Chan

Amy’s frustrated with her story, especially when all her friends share their opinions about what the story should be. Then, Mervin the Sloth tossed the letter “O” at her. It’s a letter fight!! Now, she’s got a story to tell. Cartoon panels and cheerful illustrations give this mentor text lots of pizazz.

Ralph Tells a Story  by Abby Hanlon

Stories are everywhere. In fact, Ralph’s teacher helps his classmates and him find story ideas in everyday things.

The Best Story  by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Anne Wildsorf

A little girl wants to write the best story in order to win the library’s writing contest. Her family shares their specific opinions about exactly what makes up the best story. And they all are different. Fortunately, her mom encourages her to write from the heart — and that makes for the best story.

Any Questions  by Marie-Louise Gay

Marie-Louise Gay shares with children about how to get ideas for a story and writing a story. It’s an interactive experience because you get to write part of a story, too. Beautifully illustrated with watercolor and ink.

Idea Jar by Adam Lehrhaupt, illustrated by Deb Pilutti

Use  The Idea Jar  to help young children understand that they can invent their own stories with  any  ideas. The teacher’s idea jar is filled with words that can be story ideas. These ideas need a story! Watch as the narrator shows what happens when you start with Vikings, then add in a space robot and a dragon. Perhaps this mentor text will inspire a story idea jar of your own.

The One-Stop Story Shop by Tracey Corderoy, illustrated by Tony Neal

What a delightful, funny celebration of stories and imagination!  When the knight’s dragon is on vacation for some “me” time, the knight goes to the One-Stop Story Shop for help. The shopkeeper gives him some story idea options starting with a feisty ferret character and settings like space, jungle, and the wild west. This story is pure fun!

Picture Books (Mentor Texts) About Writing a Story

Little Red Writing  by Joan Holub, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

This brave red pencil is so excited to write a story… an exciting story. Laugh-out-loud humor rich with wonderful words and exquisite illustrations show that the writing process is not as easy as it seems. But, it’s worth it in the end. Delightful parallels to  Little Red Riding Hood  abound — watch out for that Wolf 300 pencil sharpener!

The Plot Chickens  by Mary Jane Auch, illustrated by Herm Auch

Henrietta is a writing chicken who uses the book  Writing Rules  to explain story elements and her story writing process with her chicken aunts and you, the reader.

Bearnard Writes a Book  by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Misa Saburi

I love this darling mentor text story about how to write a story with characters, a problem, and excitement.  Bearnard wants to write a story about his friend Gertie, a goose. The first draft isn’t very exciting so Bernard takes a thinking walk. Then, he rewrites and the story gets more adventure and excitement with pirates, a shapeshifter Gertie and a monster. Gertie is inspired to write her own…poems.

Dragons Eat Noodles on Tuesdays  by Jon Stahl, illustrated by Tadgh Bentley

The big blue monster begins writing a a story with “once upon a time” and adds, “the end.” Little by little, his yellow monster friend helps the blue monster improve his story, so there is a dragon, a knight, a super smart damsel, and a plot. And the story is much better. But wait! The dragon from his story arrives in real life. Yikes. Luckily for the monsters, they remember from the story that dragons only eat noodles on Tuesdays. Yay. But, it’s Wednesday! Ut-oh! This ending will totally crack you up.

This Book Has Alpacas and Bears  by Emma Perry and Rikin Parekh

A darling story about Alfonso Alpaca who wants to be in a story and tries to write a story but CAN’T because it’s tricky without opposable thumbs.  So he sets out to convince his bear friend named Colin to help him, pitching him the marvelous idea of an alpaca story every day. Eventually, he realizes he must prove himself — dancing, standing on his head, gobbling grass, skateboarding, and it works! Together, they write down, share, rewrite, draw, and print out the story! It’s such a funny plot and Alfonso is totally endearing.

Let’s Tell a Story! Fairy Tale Adventure  by Lily Murray, illustrated by Wesley Robins

Pick the story elements and write a story… Choose something on each page (using the pictures) and invent million of different stories. Do you want to be a prince, a troll, a princess, a black cat, these are just some of the main characters you could be. Then choose your outfits and accessories, where you want to go, who you’ll take with you, how you’ll get there, which path you’ll take, and so on until you get to the end of your dangerous adventure. Then start over and tell a new story! Also read   Let’s Tell a Story! Space Adventure  by Lily Murray.

Miss Brook’s Story Nook by Barbara Bottner, illustrated by Michael Emberley

In the story nook, Miss Brooks teaches the class and Missy about writing stories: plot, characters, action. Missy takes her real-life story of hat-stealing Billy, invents a satisfying ending, and solves her real-life problem in her written story. See how storytelling helps us after all?

Rocket Writes a Story  by Tad Hills

Rocket loves reading stories so it’s only natural that he wants to write his own story. He collects words and looks for inspiration which he finds with Owl. Little by little he adds to a story about his new friend owl. This book is sure to inspire  storytelling  and writing.

A Perfectly Messed-Up Story  by Patrick McDonnell

Very funny with fantastic art! Louie is happy to tell his happy story until — hey, did you just spill peanut butter on me? As the reader makes more of a mess, and Louie tries to restart the story without success, he gets upset and tells the reader to start treating books with some respect. But as he learns, even when things don’t go perfectly, it will be okay.

I Want to Be in a Scary Story  by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Jean Jullien

Little Monster wants to be in a scary story. In a conversation between he and the author of the book, Little Monster helps the author write something a little scary and a little funny both. It’s a clever premise to have the interaction between author and main character determine the plot. It shows growing writers and readers a bit about the ever-changing process of storytelling.

Violet and Victor Write The Best-Ever Bookworm Book by Alice Kuipers, illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Murguia

Violet Small wants to write the best-ever book with help from her twin brother Victor Small who would rather count his pet worms. But, through brainstorming of the bickering kind and some cooperation, the two invent a suspenseful adventure about a book-eating bookworm. The illustrations are eye-catching, too – mixed media and pencil sketches. I love how the twins each have their own color ink and own color notebook paper for the story. This is a fantastic story about the creative process.

A Squiggly Story  by Andrew Larsen, illustrated by Mike Lowery

I love this book because it shows that all of us are writers — even when we can’t write letters or words quite yet! And this determined young writer proves it.

Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise  by David Ezra Stein

The Little Red Chicken is sure that every story has an elephant of surprise. Papa explains that it’s an element of surprise, not an elephant. Thus begins a hilarious storytelling adventure (with elephants) that will crack you up. The Ugly Duckling, Rapunzel, and The Little Mermaid all have “ Surprise! I’m an elephant! ” moments as interrupted by, guess who, Chicken. Then Papa tells a silly story of his own with no elephants? Surprise! Elephants! (Teachers, wouldn’t this be fun for introducing plot in writing workshop?)

Look! I Wrote a Book! (And You Can Too) by Sally Loyd Jones, illustrated by Neal Layton

A little girl with a big personality narrates the basics of writing a story from coming up with an idea to knowing your audience, thinking of titles, problems and solutions, endings, revising, and publishing including an author section, drawings, and cover art. Not only that, she even suggests how to sell your book. (This involves friendly persuasion or, if that doesn’t work, tying someone to a chair.)

The Tale of the Valiant Ninja Frog  by Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Jez Tuya

One evening at a campfire, a dad invents a goodnight story with his kids’ help. As Dad starts the story, the kids interrupt with anecdotes, questions, and suggestions. Hilarious adventures ensue and the littlest one saves everyone with a happy ending!

Picture Books Showing the Writer’s Life & Getting Published

My Worst Book Ever!  by Allan Ahlberg, illustrated by Bruce Ingman

We adore this delightful story all about the picture book author experience. Allan narrates his process of sitting in his shed, thinking up, and writing a story. But he’s thwarted by one thing after another — a coffee spill, a family vacation, paper-eating snails, an uncooperative illustrator, messy kids, and the printer’s niece called Lucy. It turns out to be his worst book ever! It’s so charming, you’ll want to be a picture book author yourself.

How This Book Was Made  by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex

I love this humorous account shared by the author and illustrator about their amazing (and slightly unusual!?) process of writing a story and publishing a book. It goes something like this: getting an idea, writing lots of drafts, arguing with an editor, playing cards with a tiger, waiting forever for the illustrations, growing a long beard, printing the book in a huge pile which could be seen from space by ice-cream eating astronauts, sending books on a ship captured by pirates who don’t read, delivering books to places everywhere, and then the most important part — the waiting . . . the long waiting for someone to open a book. Because what’s a book without a reader?  Read more in  my interview with Mac and Adam . 

Author: A True Story  by Helen Lester

The author of the beloved Tacky the Penguin series shares her writer’s journey starting with her challenges writing as a child all the way to becoming a published author. Kids will be encouraged to know that even if you struggle at first, it’s possible to succeed.

Big Machines The Story of Virginia Lee Burton (How Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel and Friends Came to Life)  by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by John Rocco

Jinnee creates wonderful drawings and stories for her two young sons that become beloved picture books like  Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel ,  Katy and the Big Snow ,  Maybelle, The Cable Car , and  The Little House . Reading this picture book gives us insight into an artist’s creative process as well as the process behind writing and illustrating a children’s story. Also on:  Big List of Picture Book Biographies .

The Whisper  by Pamela Zagarenski

The little girl can’t wait to read her teacher’s magical book of stories. Only when she gets home, there are no stories, just pictures. The wind whispers, “ You can imagine the words. You can imagine the stories. . .  ” and so the little girl does, finding her inner storyteller. Not only is this story rich with the power of imagination, but the illustrations also evoke stories within stories. Use this mentor text picture book for writing a story — it’s marvelous!

Once Upon a Zzzz  by Maddie Frost

Once upon a time, the author took a nap so the illustrator decided to write the story. It’s a story about a llama princess and her little Penguin sister who wished on a star that her older sister would be sent to the moon. As Princess Penguin tries to sleep, she realizes that she’s terrified without her big sister. Lucky for the illustrator, the author wakes up in time to help Princess Penguin rescue Princess Llama.

I Am a Story  by Dan Yaccarino

This informative picture book describes the history of stories: oral tellings around campfires, paintings on cave walls, weavings into tapestries, printings, and more. For me, the writing is a bit too dry but I like that it exemplifies how stories connect us and endure throughout time.

Written And Drawn By Henrietta  a Toon Level 3 Book by Liniers

This isn’t a picture book but it’s SUCH a wonderful early reader book for children who are developing as readers and writers! It’s about a young writer who gets new colored pencils that inspire her to write and illustrate a story. As it continues, we see her discussing the plotting with her cat — it’s such a great example of the story writing process!! LOVE! Also see:  The Big Wet Balloon  by Liniers.


Books for Kids That Celebrate Words

Writing Prompts for Kids

Picture Books  About Libraries and Librarians

Little Red Riding Hood

The post 30 Inspiring Picture Books About Writing a Story appeared first on Imagination Soup .

Teachers and parents, use these picture books as mentor texts to show kids the process of writing a story. Read about getting ideas for stories, and the storytelling/story writing process, including story elements.

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Writing with Mentor Texts

During our February event, Kristine Kelly and Stephanie Sommers discussed how to use mentor texts to guide student writing. This is an evidence-based practice as it is informed by the research on using models to teach writing . Examining written models with guided practice helps students learn to write, especially beginning writers. Models also help students learn about different types of writing.

Mentor texts function much like human mentors. Mentors serve as good role models, explicitly teach us what to notice, and provide an example to emulate. Mentor texts can be any example of strong writing such as an article, poem, short story, essay, email, or editorial. 

A common problem with using mentor texts is just showing students models with no explicit teaching about why the text is effective. Instructors should invest the time to do a think aloud with learners showing exactly what to notice and why certain writing elements work well.

Where do we find mentor texts? Please consider:

  • Reading Skills for Today’s Adults
  • Bow Valley College
  • New York Times  

Using the Stress in My Life reading from Reading Skills for Today’s Adults, Kristine and Stephanie demonstrated how they would teach with a mentor text. They suggested ways students could combine some of the short sentences to reduce repetition. They modeled asking questions about where the writer might add some additional details and where these details would go in the text. 

Our subject matter experts continued the lesson with a teacher created mentor text and writing frames. They discussed a model paragraph about stress that provided specific details about causes of stress and how to reduce stress:

“Stress is something I sometimes feel. I get stressed when I have too much work to do. I don’t like to get behind in my work. I also get stressed when I’m too busy to clean my house. My husband helps me when he can, but he is busy too. One thing that helps me to be less stressed is to watch my favorite movies or series on television. Another way to help me to be less stressed is to cook. I like to cook when I have lots of time. I think that stress is something that everyone feels and should know how to reduce.” 

Then, students are invited to complete sentence frames about stress from their own context:

I get stressed when _________________________________________.

I also get stressed when _____________________________________.

One thing that helps me to be less stressed is ____________________.

Another way to help me to be less stressed is ____________________.

I think that stress ___________________________________________.

Please find a PDF of the PowerPoint here . Thank you so much Kristine Kelly and Stephanie Sommers for sharing with us during this event!

How do you use mentor texts with your students?

Thanks for your participation in our community!

Steve Schmidt, Moderator

LINCS Reading and Writing Group 

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