Teachers know that using literature is the perfect way to introduce a lesson, but starting EVERY lesson with a new book would make it impossible to teach all of the required standards! That’s why it’s important to use mentor texts: a short text like a picture book (fiction or nonfiction), a chapter from a novel, an article, a song, or a poem, which can be used to teach several skills.
Using mentor texts is a best-practice strategy that maximizes your teaching time. You’ll have more time to teach because once you’ve read the book one time, you only need to re-read or refer back to parts of it for your different mini-lessons.
And best of all, a well-chosen mentor text will be enjoyable to read, and one you will want to return to over and over!
Choosing Mentor Texts
When choosing mentor texts, you’ll want to find models that inspire students to practice a few skills.
It’s typically easy to identify reading standards that can be addressed with a book, but make sure to step back and look at the book with a writing eye, too.
A good mentor text will always have writing and language techniques that students can imitate. (This is another reason why using picture books is SO important, even in upper grades!)
More Bang For Your Buck
Of course, it’s a bonus when you can tie in another content area, too!
It’s so great when you find a book that also incorporates some science, social studies, math, or even social-emotional skills!
A new favorite of mine does just that! You do not want to miss the book, Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds. (This link is an Amazon affiliate link- if you use it to purchase the book, I earn a few pennies which I put toward book giveaways for teachers, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra!)
In this empowering picture book, students will discover the many ways that a single voice can make a difference with our actions, our words, and our voices.
This book can be used for SO many skills across all content areas!
Peter Reynolds writes this book almost entirely in conditional statements (these are sentences with dependent clauses beginning with “If,” followed by an independent clause with advice or directions). This is the PERFECT way to help students practice writing conditionals, as it’s been modeled over and over for them in this book.
There is also a VERY clear message in this book. Students can identify key details in the text to determine the message.
And of course, what better way to reflect the message than to show students that even kids can make a difference when they say something? Allow students time to learn about famous young people like Malala Yousafzai, Greta Thunberg, or Mari Copeny, just to name a few. I like to provide an article that can be used for more reading comprehension practice, like the one below about Mari Copeny and the Michigan Water Crisis, but you can also let them practice their research skills to learn about them, too.
There is so much more that can be done with this book and topic!! I have an entire mentor text unit that provides a week of explicit lessons and activities for reading, writing, and grammar:
This unit is a part of my Mentor Text Club: Second Edition, where teachers get a weeklong mentor text unit once a month which THEY get to have input, and even WIN the mentor text for their classroom! This club is NOT a membership- it is a one-time purchase and then all 12 weeklong units are yours to use year after year.
Want even more ideas for mentor text integration?
I have a FREE database where I have listed all of the mentor texts I’ve used in my resources, as well as all the skills covered with those books. Check it out!