If you are all about the numbers, then you are going to love what I have for you!
In the upper grades, mentor sentences provide students the opportunity to notice and imitate grammar and craft in well-written sentences from mentor texts you love and use in the classroom. This is your opportunity to stop teaching grammar in isolation and teach mechanics, grammar, and craft together in your writing time.
Jeff Anderson says in his book, Mechanically Inclined, "Mechanics and grammar are inherently linked to craft… instead of separating them into different lessons, they should be merged whenever possible." Check out more books from Jeff Anderson about mentor sentences here!
By integrating your grammar and writing together, students will apply what they've learned to their own writing! I know this from my experience and from the experiences of others, but I wanted to give you some hard evidence, too.
In the lower grades, mentor sentences provide students the opportunity to read, learn vocabulary and/or grammar skills, and imitate grammar and craft in well-written sentences from mentor texts you love and use in the classroom. By using this balanced literacy approach, students will make the reading and writing connection!
I asked some fellow teachers to provide beginning of the year and end of the year writing samples so that I could analyze them. I received samples from classes that didn't use mentor sentences and classes that did use mentor sentences consistently all year long. This was NOT an *official* case study since I was not able to match up students' gender, race, ability, etc. but I think the numbers will still speak for themselves.
First up, upper grades data: I created a rubric to score all of the writing samples (used for beginning and end of the year samples from all students). Mentor sentences improve style, grammar, and mechanics, so those are the only areas I scored. This rubric was used to score the upper grade students:
In this first graph, you will see the data from a combination of third and fourth graders. The yellow columns are the students who DID NOT have mentor sentence instruction, and the green columns are the students who DID have mentor sentence instruction consistently over the course of the year.
If all of these numbers just made your eyes cross, let me help dissect this data for you.
With mentor sentences, 50% were more highly effective in style (that's HALF!!) and 100% were effective or highly effective in style. THIS IS HUGE! That means 100% of students are using concrete details and sensory details in their writing and using compound and complex sentences in their writing.
With mentor sentences, 43% were more highly effective in grammar. 96% were effective or highly effective in grammar compared to 61% without mentor sentence instruction. Again... HUGE! This means almost every student in the class used pronouns, conjunctions, and prepositions correctly and their sentences had subject/verb agreement.
With mentor sentences, 28% were more highly effective in mechanics and 19% were more effective in mechanics than those students without mentor sentence instruction. 86% of students were effective or highly effective in mechanics compared to 39% without mentor sentence instruction.
This next graph is what impacted me the most. When I scored the beginning of the year writing and compared it to the end of the year writing, students often improved in each area whether they had mentor sentence instruction or not... but the AMOUNT of growth was what I found so exciting!
Over half of the students made greater gains with mentor sentences!! All of this data definitely supports what I have seen using mentor sentences in my own classroom, too.
What about the lower grades, you ask? I created a rubric specifically for K-1 students in the areas of style, grammar, and mechanics. I received samples from two kindergarten classrooms - one that used mentor sentences consistently all year long and one that did not use mentor sentences.
Again, in this graph, the yellow columns are the teacher who did NOT use mentor sentences and the green columns are the teacher who DID use mentor sentences:
We don't see quite as much of a difference in 5-year-olds as we do with the upper grades, but there are definitely still some points to notice:
10% were more effective in mechanics with mentor sentences!
This next graph is definitely more exciting! When I scored the beginning of the year writing and compared it to the end of the year writing, students often improved in each area whether they had mentor sentence instruction or not... but look at the awesome growth that occurred with mentor sentence instruction!
Almost a third of the kindergartners with mentor sentence instruction moved two or three levels in at least one area on the rubric from the beginning of the year to the end!
I hope this helps you see the difference mentor sentences can make in your students' learning AND your teaching! You can see all of my mentor sentence products in my TpT store.