A Discussion Prompt for Teachers Using this Page during Collaborative Professional Development: We have come to believe in the importance of incorporating a great mentor text into a writing lesson. A mentor text is a published piece of writing whose idea, whose structure, or whose written craft can be analyzed andd discussed as a means of inspiring students' own writing. During our teacher workshops, we helped our participants understand these three purposes of a mentor text. Here is a link to a used by one of our trainers, ; it explains the three categories of mentor texts we ask our teachers to think about. As you explore the lessons posted on this page--alone or with colleagues--here are two discussion questions to help you think about these lessons' design: "Is the mentor text being used to inspire an idea, a structure, or a craft skill from student writers? What's an additional mentor text that you might incorporate into the already-written lesson that would add another opportunity for students to think about ideas, structures, or writing skills?"
I'll conclude this section on this resource page by reiterating what I said a few paragraphs back. Good writing instruction has never been never easy; it involves many purposeful elements (, according to my most requested workshop) coming together as the writing process unfolds, and use of mentor texts is but one of those elements. If what I've said on this page intrigues you, I invite you to explore the entire set of materials for my "7 Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson" Workshop (available at ) and begin categorizing your mentor texts for writing. Or--better yet--have your school or district's professional development coordinator about coming and presenting the idea to your staff in the future.
To help our teacher participants design something that has the potential to transform their classrooms, Corbett Harrison, one of the presenters at our Persuasive Writing Workshop, shares ideas from one of his favorite original trainings: . He challenges the workshop's attendees to consciously design a lesson that--at the very least--makes use of five of the seven elements he discusses. To learn more about Corbett's trainings and workshops, you can visit .
I often base any new inservice workshops on a brand new professional book for teachers that I've discovered and enjoyed reading and implementing from. Below, I share the six mentor texts that I have used when designing six of my most successful and popular inservice classes for teachers and administrators.
I select my mentor texts carefully, and though they are based on my current needs for improving writing, I invite other teachers to join me in exploring them. Eventually, I begin posting lessons based on them as part of our Ning.
The astronomical phrases and concepts in the Abraham texts were also common in Joseph Smith's environment. For example, in 1816 Thomas Taylor published a two-volume work called The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato. Volume 2 (pp. 140-146) contains phrases and ideas similar to the astronomical concepts in Abraham 3 and Facsimile No. 2. In these six pages, Taylor calls the planets "governors" and uses the terms "fixed stars and planets" and "grand key." Both works refer to the sun as a planet receiving its light and power from a higher sphere rather than generating its own light through hydrogen-helium fusion (cf. Fac. 2, fig. 5). LDS scholar R. Grant Athay, a research astronomer and director of the University of Colorado Observatory, has written, "At the time that the Book of Abraham was translated…the energy source of the sun was unknown," and "the concept of one star influencing another was also a common concept of the time." Grant Palmer
Besides being a well-liked 6th-8th grade teacher (though I've taught writing to 3rd-12th grades), I too am a presenter of professional development. I don't like traveling away from my wife and my dogs more than five or six times in a year, so even though I have presented over a dozen times at the national conferences, I have chosen not to do much of that over the past five or six years. Northern Nevada has several local teacher organizations that put on district-wide conferences here for teacher re-certification credit, and I'm a regular speaker at those local events. I turned my "classification of mentor texts" into a half-day session, and it has become a popular request when organizations are "booking" me to speak.
What you are finding on this page is the work I did around mentor texts as a presenter from 2006 until the present. I have posted my handouts and links to the very lessons I would have my participants analyze (and write to!) for how the mentor text is incorporated. I happily give all this mentor text stuff away for free, but I hope if you like it and make use of anything on this resource page, you'll also check out my work on , , and . These three subjects are the professional development topics I've developed into sessions for teachers, and they also continue to serve as a backbone for my students' weekly routines that teach reading and writing skills.
We all have those favorite books (or poems or short stories) we absolutely love to read out loud with our students. When I start discussing mentor texts at my teacher workshops, I always like to ask my participants, "What are your best read-alouds? What author's words do you bring to life best?" Teachers love to share the story titles that captivate their students the most. I usually have to pry teachers away from that discussion question with a metaphorical crow-bar so we can proceed with the training, and this always reminds me of some true facts. True Fact #1: Teachers like to talk about their favorite texts to read. True Fact #2: Students like to be asked to write stories, poems, and responses based on something the teacher loves to read; they'd much rather do that than find inspiration in something the teacher doesn't enjoy sharing: like any five-paragraph essay, just to throw an example into the ring.
When I encountered that term mentor text at in summer of 2006, I decided not to let my cynicism overshadow the opportunity. I figured if they'd bothered to name an old, nameless idea, they must have some fresh ideas about using them that they've recently discovered. I listened intently at each conference session, then processed the information by reflecting on my own classroom practices. What I discovered was that I already had three distinctly different ways I was using mentor texts to design my writing lessons, so I classified them into three groups. I did this to see if I could figure out which category of the three I used more frequently, and I used that information to help me decide on what technique I wanted to work on with my next set of lessons. I chose to design some new lessons inspired by the mentor text technique I discovered I used the least. I set it as a professional development goal with my evaluator, and I've been working on bettering my use of mentor texts ever since.
A mentor text should ultimately be discussed by students for one of two purposes: 1) to showcase a writing skill found in the text that you want students to notice and then practice in their own writing; and 2) to motivate students to write something different-yet-similar that was inspired by the mentor text's idea or structure.