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