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Analyze & Apply

Using Mentor Text to Teach Craft at Every Stage of the Writing Process

Extension: 3041

Vanessa Chatman

3-12 Reading Language Arts and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator

With your partner, discuss a time you had to approach an unfamiliar writing task (i.e. a resume, cover letter, letter of rec, grant). How did you tackle it? The person who woke up earlier this morning will go first!

If you already know each other, please share...

  • Something about yourself they may not know

If you don’t know each other yet, please share...

  • Your name
  • Your School
  • Your current position or teaching assignment

Find a Writing Partner

NOTE: A mentor text is not the same thing as a shared text, anchor text, or fill-in-the-blank imitation assignment.

Can be anything--complete texts, short excerpts, single sentences, even visuals--that inspires and informs student writing

Used throughout the writing process to launch writing, study and develop craft, influence improvements, inform mechanics, and inspire publication

Strategically chosen to demonstrate effective use of a particular craft move, genre characteristic, or language convention

Key Term: Mentor Texts

Using Mentor Texts in the Classroom helps Students to READ LIKE WRITERS and to WRITE WITH THEIR READERS IN MIND

Take a moment to read the quotes in your handout from some great literacy leaders. Share your favorite quote with your writing partner and explain why it resonated with you.

Experts in the Field

Kelly Gallagher

Ruth Culham

Allison Marchetti

Rebecca O'Dell

  • Using mentor texts is a great way to offer student choice and/or targeted differentiation.
  • Secondary GT students often struggle with risk-taking. Using mentor texts can help get them out of their comfort zones by encouraging experimentation with unique writer’s craft.


“The student uses critical inquiry to analyze the authors' choices & how they influence & communicate meaning within a variety of texts. The student analyzes & applies author's craft purposefully in order to develop his or her own products & performances.” Intermediate TEKS 9A-G High School TEKS 8A-G

STRAND 5: Author’s Purpose and Craft

“The English language arts and reading Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) embody the interconnected nature of listening, speaking, reading, writing, and thinking through the seven integrated strands...”

TEKS Connection:

For the purpose of our learning today, I will be using just a few mentor texts to model what instruction might look like at various stages of the writing process. We know that, in an actual classroom, student writers need a greater volume and variety of texts, as well as teacher modeling and feedback.

Today's Session:An Abbreviated Writing Process

Part 1

Using Mentor Texts to Generate Ideas for Writing

  • As we read, underline your favorite sentence.
  • After reading, discuss with your partner:
    • What sentence did you mark and why?
    • What do you notice Rief doing strategically as a writer? How is she able to capture her life and identity differently than a traditional author’s bio would?

“Rambling Autobiography” by Linda Rief

Mentor Text #1

Take a few minutes to begin writing your own rambling autobiography. Let each new phrase take you in another direction as Rief does. If you need a place to start, consider borrowing some of the opening phrases from the mentor text:

  • I was born…
  • I adore…
  • ___ is my favorite month, when…
  • I bought my favorite…
  • I have…
  • With ___, I…
Write as much as you can, as fast as you can, as well as you can--and be prepared to share!

Let's Write

I was born in Philadelphia-a place where poverty and violence coexist with culture, arts and history. I adore every animal and plant there is, with three important exceptions. I have been personally serenaded by all forms of music. I never bothered getting my cartilage re-pierced when it closed up a few years ago. My not-so-secret anxiety is that everyone will discover that I am afraid of public speaking. I can still smell honeysuckle down the hill when I think of one of my childhood homes. I refused to take honors classes in school, because I didn’t think I could do it-my first true act of not believing in myself. I gave birth to 3 forces of nature who I hope will use their powers for good. I am a…

Teacher Model
  • Read all or part of what you wrote aloud to your writing partner exactly as you wrote it.
  • The person with the longer draft goes first.
  • Underline one sentence from your autobiography that you could tell a story (or write a personal essay) about.

Let's Share!