Ideas By Jivey: For the Classroom
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Ideas by Jivey explains how to incorporate mentor sentences into your writing time to ensure that the grammar, mechanics, and style lessons you teach are sticking!

I am often asked by people who use mentor sentences, "How can I get the kids to carry these skills over into their writing?"

Remember, the idea of using mentor sentences is to move AWAY from teaching grammar in isolation. This means, don't have a "mentor sentence time" in isolation either! Mentor sentences must be woven into the fabric of your writing time. I know that sometimes your schedule may not allow for mentor sentences to happen at the start of your writing time, but no matter when it occurs in your day, your writing time should still include what is happening in mentor sentences.

During writing, teachers must lead lessons (and/or model) about organization, ideas, content, word choice, voice, style, and conventions. That's a LOT of components to be taught, right? Luckily, mentor sentences covers a lot of your word choice, style, and conventions lessons and modeling! And just like with anything else, the more exposure they have to these components, the more they will understand and start to actually use them! But, of course, showing them in a ten minute lesson and then "moving on" to something else in writing is NOT going to help them apply those word choice, style, and conventions lessons.

First, I would urge you to make the mentor sentence student notebook a RESOURCE and not just another notebook. You can read all about how I set up student notebooks here. If you have students draft OUTSIDE of their mentor sentence/writing resource notebooks, they can actually flip through the notebook as a resource to get ideas. (It's difficult to flip pages in a notebook you are actually writing in, right?) This is something you will have to model and train your students to do, but after a while, you'll find that the students use their notebook as a resource unprompted!

Let's look at how I would schedule writing lessons to make sure mentor sentence lessons are woven in to writing time:

Ideas by Jivey explains how to incorporate mentor sentences into your writing time to ensure that the grammar, mechanics, and style lessons you teach are sticking!

On Monday, you introduce the sentence and talk about what the students notice during the Mentor Sentences lesson. Because you've only introduced the sentence, this is the perfect day to also use the mentor text that the sentence is from to get in an organization, content, or ideas lesson to work on during writing. This lesson and text model should be referred to all week long, as well as the focus skill from your Mentor Sentence lesson (which you'll introduce on Tuesday).


On Tuesday, students work on seeing how the parts of speech work together in the sentence. This should also be the day you focus solely on the focus skill from the mentor sentence. You can introduce (or review) the skill by using the Interactive Activity Companions that go with each mentor sentence lesson. This will be your "writing mini-lesson." Typically, these are conventions lessons, but sometimes are word choice or style lessons (figurative language, descriptive language, etc). Have the students practice this skill in their own writing after the focus skill mini-lesson.


Wednesday can become REVISION DAY in your classroom during writing time. Practice revising with the mentor sentence, then have students revise for that same focus skill in their own writing.


But what if my students aren't done drafting?


Friends, writing is a CONSTANT PROCESS. We must teach our students that revision (and editing, for that matter) must be done many times and over the entire writing piece, not just when they are "done." Think back to when you had to write those dreaded papers in college (and maybe some of you are still now as you get higher degrees). How many times did you read and re-read and add and change and delete before you EVER came to that last paragraph? This is a skill our students should learn, too. In fact, just writing this blog post, I have moved paragraphs, added sentences or phrases to be more clear, and changed words several times already... and I'm not finished! :)

So yes, on Wednesday, no matter how long their writing piece might be, have students work on revising. You could even have students look back at older writing pieces (not just current) to look at how they could improve them. 


Thursday is the students' FAVORITE day during Mentor Sentences: Imitation Day! Students seriously love this day, so work that love for all it's worth! After imitating the mentor sentence, have students work to use that same sentence structure in the writing piece they are working with at that time. Of course, this should not be all they do during writing that day. Aside from trying out the sentence structure in their writing, they should still be working on applying relevant skills they have already learned. (This is a great day to encourage them to "flip through" their notebook for ideas!)


On Friday, you'll give students the assessment to see how much they understood the focus skill from the week. If desired, you can deliver another organization, content, or ideas lesson for students to work on during writing, or students can continue applying relevant skills they have already learned. 


Please understand that this is a framework, or outline, to help give you an idea of how you can incorporate mentor sentences into writing, but how you deliver it all is dependent upon your style (small groups vs. whole group, conferring, etc). This is certainly not the only way to "get it all in" and "make it stick" but it is what worked for me!

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Ideas by Jivey explains how to incorporate mentor sentences into your writing time to ensure that the grammar, mechanics, and style lessons you teach are sticking!


Ideas by Jivey shares ideas to use nonfiction texts to close read and practice paired texts, as well as work on writing poetry in upper elementary classrooms.
**This post contains Amazon affiliate links. The few cents I earn on affiliate purchases is used to fund awesome giveaways!**

When I read Molly's blog post (Lessons with Laughter) where she described using the book, Vulture Verses with her students to create a class book of poems for the unloved...


...I immediately thought of a fun Seymour Simon book, Animals Nobody Loves.


The cover alone is enough to send some running! This is a great non-fiction book on animals, of course, but this book is the PERFECT book to use for modeling close reading. The book has 26 different pages/animals, each with its own short passage.

Ideas by Jivey shares ideas to use nonfiction texts to close read and practice paired texts, as well as work on writing poetry in upper elementary classrooms.

Seymour Simon does an excellent job describing each "gross" animal in an engaging way. It's really a great book to show how to make their non-fiction writing more interesting (because we know those can sometimes be the students' most BORING pieces of writing...) while still maintaining the truth.

The poems in Vulture Verses are also only one page each, and each page focuses on just one animal that people don't really care for too much.

Ideas by Jivey shares ideas to use nonfiction texts to close read and practice paired texts, as well as work on writing poetry in upper elementary classrooms.

These two books together will address Reading Anchor Standard 9 perfectly! (Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.)

LESSON IDEAS

Give students a photo copy of a page from each book on the same animal so they can write on it (remember, you can copy pages that are for classroom use!!) and use this activity sheet (which you can grab for free):
Ideas by Jivey shares ideas to use nonfiction texts to close read and practice paired texts, as well as work on writing poetry in upper elementary classrooms.
Here are the animals that are in both books:
vulture
spider
skunk
cockroach
bat (there are two kinds in the poems)

Allow students to research an animal of their choice, and then write their own animal poems!

Here are a couple examples of  the beginning of some poems from a previous class of mine.

Ideas by Jivey shares ideas to use nonfiction texts to close read and practice paired texts, as well as work on writing poetry in upper elementary classrooms.

This student was upset that zebras are hunted for their hide, so she was on track to write about that being unfair:

Ideas by Jivey shares ideas to use nonfiction texts to close read and practice paired texts, as well as work on writing poetry in upper elementary classrooms.

Of course, around Valentine's Day, you could have them imitate Vulture Verses and write LOVE poems to those animals! :)

Check out more poetry ideas HERE!

Get this Close Reading Poetry pack for even more practice!


Get this Nonfiction Better Than Basal Unit for MORE nonfiction activities!


Ideas by Jivey shares ideas to use nonfiction texts to close read and practice paired texts, as well as work on writing poetry in upper elementary classrooms.

Ideas by Jivey tackles the tricky topic of refugees with students by using Gleam and Glow by Eve Bunting.

In light of recent events, I felt this post was an important one to write. This is definitely a tricky topic that I'm going to tackle here, but I think it is essential to help students understand current events happening in their world. Of course, if you know me, you know I LOVE using a mentor text to integrate across content as much as possible!

Your students have most likely heard the word, "refugee," in the news a lot lately. It would be a good idea to help them understand the difference between a refugee and an immigrant- especially those of you that teach about immigration in social studies. You can download this definition sheet as a pre-reading activity:
The official definition is, "someone who flees persecution and conflict." The vocabulary used in the definition is pretty high-level, so use the activity above to help students define flee, persecution, and conflict. You might have students even write synonyms or real-world examples of the words. (I have included some in the download, too, to help you!) It would be a good idea to have students put that definition in their own words to help them understand the meaning of REFUGEE. Although similar to some immigrants who move to a new country seeking a new life, refugees are different from immigrants because they are forced to leave their home for survival.

Once they understand the word, read them the book, Gleam and Glow, by Eve Bunting. I adore all of Eve Bunting's books because she tackles deep issues in ways that students can understand, and aren't too scary or overwhelming for them.

Don't own the book? You can use my affiliate link to purchase it!
The few cents I earn on affiliate purchases is used to fund giveaways!

I appreciate School Library Journal's description of this book, and couldn't really say it better myself, so I am going to share their review below:

With her noted skill in presenting difficult topics with clarity and sensitivity, Bunting has written an inspiring story based on the true experience of a Bosnian family forced to flee their country during the recent civil war. Eight-year-old Viktor watches as his father walks away to join the Liberation Army, and knows that soon he, his mother, and younger sister, Marina, will be forced to leave their home, just one step ahead of the approaching enemy forces. Already, strangers pass through Viktor's town on their way to the border. One man leaves his two golden fish with the family, explaining that, "An extra day or two of life is as important to a fish as it is to us." But just a few days later, as they ready themselves to depart, Viktor releases the fish into their pond. After days of walking and weeks of living in a refugee camp, the boy and his mother and sister share a glorious reunion with Papa and eventually return home. The land is ravaged by war and their home is destroyed but the fish have survived, even thrived-they and their offspring fill the pond. The simple, elegant language is at once moving and eloquent when juxtaposed with Sylvada's expressive oil paintings. The artist's palette of rich earth tones and striking brushwork reflect the strong emotional tenor of the story. Focusing on the fearsome impact of war upon families and children, and on those things that allow people to retain their humanity, this book deserves to be introduced and discussed.

The oil paintings in Gleam and Glow are beautiful, and as always, so is Eve Bunting's language. The theme of hope and strength is evident throughout the story. 

Because this book is based on the true experience of a refugee family, you can help students understand what is occuring in other countries by stopping and discussing while you read. 

Important Times to Stop and Discuss

At the beginning, after Papa leaves to help fight the enemy, Mama says they would have to leave soon because it was getting too dangerous to stay. Explain that there is conflict (war) that will force the family to flee. 

The family must walk to the border. Discuss that the country where they lived (Bosnia) was involved in a war, but a neighboring country was not. They would be safe if they left their country- crossing the border. It is a very far walk. This is how it is for present-day refugees that must walk, too. Talk about how people who would walk for many miles to escape their country would only do this to survive and be safe. 

Mama, Viktor, and Marina must leave everything behind except for a few essential items that they carry in their bundles. Have students imagine leaving their home and all of their possessions behind, except for a few things that they could carry. 

The evidence of humanity is strong in this book. You can point out instances when strangers helped each other many times throughout the book. 

Once the family crosses the border, they stay in a refugee camp. This is also the case for present-day refugees. Discuss the difficulty of living in a tent for a very long time, cooking food on a fire. Have students imagine again how different it would be from living in their home- having to make all new friends, too. 

Papa is reunited with his family in the camp. This happens sometimes, but often, families must live without each other for a very long time. 

Walking home, and arriving home, they see that nothing is left. This family chose to return home and try to rebuild once it was safe, but for many refugees today, wars go on for years and years. Refugees must make the decision to start over in a new country, or live in the refugee camp, which do not have good conditions. 

Integrating With Reading and Writing

Reading: Use this book for summarizing, character traits, theme, providing evidence, and more! Like all of Eve Bunting's books, the rich and deep content is wonderful for upper grades students to practice comprehension skills. 

Writing: There is vivid language (and figurative language) in this book that you can use as examples of mentor sentences. This book is also a good one to use for reflections - have them think of what they would take with them if they had to leave their home like Viktor and Marina did. 

If you are interested in activities already created for this book, you can get the Gleam and Glow Mentor Sentence and Mentor Text Activities pack in my TpT store. 


I hope this post helps you tackle this tricky topic! Thank you for visiting today!
Ideas by Jivey tackles the tricky topic of refugees with students by using Gleam and Glow by Eve Bunting.


Use the mentor text, Terrible Things, to teach students how to be upstanders, combat bullying, and support and stand up for what is right and fair. Ideas By Jivey shares a free resource and ideas to teach with the book.

At a time where our nation is very divided, we as teachers must impress upon our students that WE CAN spread kindness and love to combat the hatred and bullying. For this reason, hundreds of Teachers Pay Teachers authors have joined a movement. We want to support classrooms across the country (and world) in ways that are most needed, so we have uploaded free resources that will help do just that!

You can find these free resources by searching #kindnessnation and #weholdthesetruths on TpT, as well as social media. They will tackle topics like: kindness, empathy, anti-bullying, equality, inclusion, understanding and respecting others' differences, civil rights, democracy, and civics. There are A LOT of resources, so I recommend narrowing your search on the left side using your grade level. :)


The forever free resource I created is for a really thought-provoking book, called Terrible Things by Eve Bunting. It is an allegory of the Holocaust, but even if you don't teach about this event or time period in history, it is still a phenomenal book to teach students about being upstanders rather than bystanders. The story is about animals who live contently in the woods together. But one day, Terrible Things come and take all of the animals with feathers. Although they all lived together and got along before, once the birds were gone, the other creatures talked about the negative characteristics of the birds. They said they were better off without them. Little Rabbit doesn't understand why they were taken and why no one spoke up. As the story continues, the Terrible Things come for a new type of animal, and each time the same thing happens. Finally, all that is left in the clearing are the rabbits, and one day, the Terrible Things come for them, too. No one is there to help them, but Little Rabbit manages to hide. He decides he will go off to tell other animals in other places about them, and hope they will learn to stick together and speak up for each other.

You can purchase the book using my Amazon affiliate link by clicking above on the image of the book. I use the money from my Amazon affiliate payments to fund awesome giveaways!

Before reading the book, ask students to think of things that are terrible (you may want to also prompt their thinking with words like scary, wrong, etc…) This can be done on the board as a compiled list, and/or on the included page in the free pack I have made. 

Read the book. Ask the students to think about the animals (not the little rabbit) in the book. Is there anything they could have done to stop the Terrible Things? What could they have done? Discuss the words bystander and upstander. I have included posters in the free pack I created.

Use the mentor text, Terrible Things, to teach students how to be upstanders, combat bullying, and support and stand up for what is right and fair. Ideas By Jivey shares a free resource and ideas to teach with the book.

Review the story and discuss how Little Rabbit changed from the beginning to the middle to the end. This can also be done on the included page in this free pack. Discuss how Little Rabbit changed from a bystander to an upstander.

Take a look back at the list of terrible things the class compiled. Is there anything on the list that they could change or do to make a difference? Have them list those things on their own page if completing that way. Circle the things on the board that could be changed if a class list was compiled. You might also discuss what to do to make a difference.

Use the mentor text, Terrible Things, to teach students how to be upstanders, combat bullying, and support and stand up for what is right and fair. Ideas By Jivey shares a free resource and ideas to teach with the book.
These are some things that students have said are "Terrible Things." It is your decision how terrible you want to get on your chart (i.e.; murder and death). And can we all just take a minute to laugh that vegetables made it on the chart? ;-) And of course, tests and homework. :)

There is also a reflection sheet in the pack, “Don’t Be a Bystander” – students can use something from the list or their own additional thought to explain what they could do to stand up for something that they know isn't right.



As I mentioned, LOTS of TpTers have come together in this movement. Here are just a few more resources that would compliment this lesson well:



There are SO many more on Teachers Pay Teachers. Just search the hashtags, #kindnessnation and #weholdthesetruths!


Thank you to Jillian for the awesome images to promote our movement!

Snowmen at Night is a great book for kids of ALL ages, not just little kids! Get some great ideas for the upper elementary kids to use with the mentor text in this blog post. Students will identify poetry elements, write their own poem, and create an art activity to go with their poem for a hallway display!
This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon. If you use my link, Amazon pays me a few cents, which I use to fund my giveaways! 

Typically, you probably think of the book, Snowmen at Night, as a book for "little kids." But this is a fun book to use with the big kids too!


Here are some great activities to use after you read this book with your grades 3-5 students!


This is a good book to use if you are working on identifying the structural elements of a poem.

Grab this freebie with an excerpt of the book that will allow the students to label the stanzas, rhyme scheme, and verses. 

Snowmen at Night is a great book for kids of ALL ages, not just little kids! Get some great ideas for the upper elementary kids to use with the mentor text in this blog post. Students will identify poetry elements, write their own poem, and create an art activity to go with their poem for a hallway display!
I also chose that excerpt of the book intentionally, to enable a focus on punctuation craft- discuss why the author used the long dashes instead of commas (what does it make you do as you read?) as well as the first stanza including parentheses.

This book also, of course, opens up a great writing opportunity! Have the students work on writing their own poem describing what a snowman does at night.

Here is a great video you can show your struggling students to help them understand how to write a rhyming poem. (Although the video is titled as "for K-2" I think it's still very appropriate for many students who need help understanding how to rhyme.)

Then, bring some art education into the classroom! Check out this fantastic post from A Faithful Attempt about the principle of movement in art using chalk pastels on construction paper! This would be a fantastic display for the hallway with their poems attached!

Not feeling the mess chalk pastels might create? Do this fun torn paper art activity instead found on The Elementary Art Room's blog:


I hope your students love this book as much as mine always did! :) Enjoy!

Ideas by Jivey uses the mentor text Recess at 20 Below to teach about details in text and pictures / photographs. Get a free activity in the post with the step-by-step directions to teach the skill with the book.

I am teaming up with The Reading Crew again to bring you some fun wintery mentor text lessons!


Here in the southeast, snow is a prized rarity. Seriously. It's exciting to see a few flakes in Georgia. Sharing books like Recess at 20 Below is important to give students around here an idea of what life is like in other places. I love the book, not only because of the great information shared, but also because of the gorgeous photographs! The book is written (and all photographs are taken) by an Alaskan teacher. She shares what it's like to go out for recess in the cold weather of Alaska. The students will love seeing kids just like them at recess, below zero!


This is a fantastic book for any grade level, but because of the amazing detailed photographs, I love using the book for standard RI.1.6: Distinguish between information provided by pictures or other illustrations and information provided by the words in a text. It's also great for standard RI.2.7: Explain how specific images contribute to and clarify a text.



Start the lesson by reading the book, Recess at 20 Below.


Tell students that when we read a book with pictures or photographs, especially a nonfiction book, it's important to also "read" the images. They help us learn more about the subject and can sometimes even tell information not given in the words.


Discuss how the photographs show what the text is saying. "Reading" the photos will give more information and provide a visual for the words. Especially review the photographs with which students do not have prior knowledge, and those that are not described in the text of the book, like when the students are walking to school and it is still dark out.



Complete this free activity together. Review the four facts by going to those pages and re-reading the text and looking at the photographs.




You can find more ideas and activities for Recess at 20 Below, along with nine other mentor texts perfect for Earth Science lessons integrated with reading and writing, in the Nonfiction Better Than Basal for Grades 1-2: Earth Science unit.



You can visit more blogs for some wintery mentor text lessons at the links at the bottom of this post.

Check out the other great lessons from The Reading Crew below!




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