Using Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Maximize Your Time! - Ideas By Jivey: For the Classroom

Using Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Maximize Your Time!

I LOVE a good piece of literature, don't you?? And I REALLY wish that I could just read all day long, but I can't... because there just isn't enough time! (Can I get an AMEN?) So instead, I maximize my time with my favorite texts by using them several times for several subjects!

I'll start with reading since that's usually where we think of using a good book. We do not use a basal reader at my school. I know there are many of you out there that love your basal, but for me, it doesn't fit in with how I like to teach. There are definitely some good stories in the basal, and I see some benefits in all of the students having the same text in front of them... but I want my students diving into texts that are on their level to become better readers. This is why I use guided reading - to teach my students skills on their level. I have small sets of different leveled books in my classroom, and my school also has a fabulous book room of sets for small groups!

Of course, that does NOT mean I don't ever teach whole group. This is where mentor texts come in. I use a Reading Workshop Model in my classroom (read more about that here). I start with a mini-lesson that teaches them how to demonstrate one of our common core standards; during my mini-lesson, I get to use those fabulous books that I love. At some point in my day (usually on Monday because I like to use a book for an entire week), I read the mentor text to my students. Since this is the first time they are hearing the book, I generally read it just for the purpose of entertainment. Then, when it's time for my reading mini-lesson, I refer back to the book- sometimes just reading a few pages of it to focus on a skill. This helps to keep my mini-lesson "mini." I often use a graphic organizer to help guide their thinking. It also allows for an "I Do, We Do, You Do" lesson- I can start the graphic organizer with them, then they can help suggest something to add to it, and finally they can finish it on their own. Of course, then they'll also be able to use that graphic organizer with their own book to show their thinking!

Now, reading is over...but I'm not done using that text! That author got published for a reason, you know... usually because they show awesome craft and skill in their writing! Don't you want students to notice that as they read? I know I do! I use my mentor texts for grammar and writing through the use of mentor sentences. Haven't heard of mentor sentences? Read more about them here! I want my students to recognize what good writers do, and then incorporate those skills into their own writing. For 10-15 minutes each day at the start of writing time, we look at a mentor sentence that was taken from the mentor text we are reading that week. We notice all the wonderful things about it, we figure out patterns in parts of speech, we revise the sentence, and we imitate the author in our writing- all over the course of the week. I also like to use the theme of the mentor text for an on-demand writing prompt. (If we read Enemy Pie, for example, which is all about being a good friend and making friends, I might give them a writing prompt that week that asks them to describe ways they are a good friend.)

Writing is over......... but I'm usually STILL not done with the text! I love finding books that I can also incorporate in with science and social studies! There are so many great historical and science fiction texts out there. Now I can use that SAME mentor text to pull out information that the students need to know during science and social studies time, too! You can find a great example of this in a freebie I have listed on TPT:
Better than Basal Free Unit with Ideas by Jivey
This freebie uses the mentor text, The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg. There are so many fabulous skills that can be taught with this book in reading and writing, and it also lends itself well to exploration in social studies! (This freebie does not include the mentor sentence lessons for the book- it does include the reading lessons and the writing prompt.)

If you like the freebie and want more, I have also created a pack of FORTY of my favorite mentor texts to use in the classroom with over 100 graphic organizers WITH answer keys!
Favorite Mentor Texts with Answer Keys Freebie with Ideas by Jivey
There is ALSO a nonfiction companion mini-set!
Freebie Complete No Prep Mini Unit Lessons Using Mentor Texts with Ideas by Jivey
These forty texts are all of the same texts for which I have created mentor sentence units, too!
Mentor Sentence Units for Froty Texts with Ideas by Jivey
And...if you're like me and want more bang for your buck, you can pick up ALL of the mentor sentence units, interactive language arts notebook activities, and the Better Than Basal 40 book unit in the BIGGEST & BEST Mentor Sentence Unit Bundle, which will save you $20!

I hope this helps you "see" how to incorporate mentor texts into your classroom! For more ideas on using great books across the curriculum, check out my friends' blog, Amanda and Stacia at Collaboration Cuties!
They have a Must Read Mentor Text Linky and a tab of all the past link-ups so you can get even more ideas of how to use the same book in many areas!


  1. I am so excited about this freebie. I love the Wretched Stone and cannot wait to read it to my 4th graders this year! Thank you so much for a wonderful unit to go with it and I hope in the very near future to be able to buy the whole product!!

    4th Grade with Glitter

  2. I love this! Thanks for the freebie. I added your unit to my wish list for the day when I can finally afford it (too broke from buying pencils and notebooks that my students can't afford right now!). It looks awesome!

    Trials and Triumphs

  3. I love this post! Thank you. You are a rock star!

  4. Great post! Thank you for the freebie :) I enjoyed the video and seeing how you are using mentor sentences with your students. I am going to try and incorporate this with my class. When do you suggest introducing this. I know you said to do more simple sentences so student feel successful.
    Also, your classroom looks familiar... By any chance you teach in GCPS? I teach in the Meadowcreek cluster :) I was going to send an email through the portal, but unfortunately I cannot find "Jivey" in the directory... ha :)

    Looking forward to more posts!

    1. We have already begun in my room! I do choose simple sentences to start with, but still descriptive so they can "notice" extraordinary writing. And yes, I am in your county! Central cluster. :)

  5. I am LOVING this and can't wait to purchase it. However, my biggest question is...where can I get those genre posters in your video I MUST HAVE THEM!!! Just as much as I must have your Mentor Texts product!

    1. Hey! They are from Rachel Lamb :)

  6. Hi! Can you explain your volumes? Will one volume of better than basal last all year or just a 9 week period? I am confused with it. I am using your mentor sentences this year but not sure if I want to add vocabulary and the reading as well.. TY

    1. Each volume is more than you need for an entire year! 40 mentor texts :) Adding reading and vocabulary will allow you to use the same mentor texts as you are using for mentor sentences too.


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