New Mentor Text Lessons, Mentor Texts Lists, and More!

Guest Posts Around the Web

You may have noticed I haven’t been blogging much lately, but I have been doing some writing out and about on the web-o-sphere.

Using Mentor Texts to Revise a Novel in Verse at Teach Mentor Texts (Jen Vincent’s blog)

Author Study on Newbery Award Winner, Matt de la Peña at Picture Book Summit

New Mentor Text Lesson Plans

I have added 4 new mentor text lesson plans for Laura Murray’s Gingerbread Man books. You can find all of the links at this page or by clicking on the titles below.

The Gingerbread Man Loose at Christmas

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the Firetruck

The Gingerbread Man Loose on the School

The Gingerbread Man Loose at the Zoo

collage of gingerbread men

Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Why Mentor Texts Work: The Consume, Critique, Produce Model by Pamela Brunskill

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Welcome back to Pam Brunskill! Pam is an author and educator and I’m happy that she’s sharing some of her mentor text experience with us! 


As teachers, we know that students engage in the classroom when they are involved in designing their own learning experiences. They gain ownership over the criteria, develop a deeper understanding of what they are studying, and take pride in creating their final projects. When teaching Language Arts, mentor texts can provide the tools to motivate and guide students in this type of learning, which will enable them to produce quality writing themselves.

This past semester, I taught a class called Literacy Across Contexts to pre-service teachers at the university level. One of the goals was to address Language Arts methods for students in PreK-4th grade, so I introduced my undergraduates to the Consume, Critique, Produce (CCP) instructional framework. Developed by John O’Flahavan at the University of Maryland, this model requires students to read and analyze numerous texts within a genre before asking students to write their own. It is because of this framework that mentor texts work.

To demonstrate, each portion of the process is explained below.


Students need to consume lots of mentor texts in order to gain an idea of the characteristics of a genre. For example, teachers who wish to have their students write poetry should have their students read and listen to lots of mentor poems to experience rhythm, use of figurative language, different forms of poetry, and other poetic elements. The students get a feel for what makes a poem a poem.


Students need to critique the mentor texts to determine the criteria used in that genre. They engage with mentor texts like researchers and discuss what makes something good in a genre and what does not. They make a list of examples and non-examples. In this bottom-up approach, students are involved in discovering how writing works, and are involved in developing the criteria they will use for their own writing. In the poetry example, students analyze the mentor poems to note characteristics that distinguish poetry from prose. If a specific type of poetry is to be studied, such as a limerick, the students figure out the rhyme scheme, humor, and meter by noting the commonalities amongst various mentor limericks.


Because students following this framework have immersed themselves in a genre and developed the criteria for what that genre requires, they can confidently and competently produce something that fits the expectations of that genre. If the class is writing limericks, after going through the consume and critique stages, a teacher could realistically expect her/his students to produce a witty poem with five lines, in the rhyme scheme of AABBA, and with the 3-3-2-2-3 meter. Since the students were involved in designing their conditions for success, they will be better prepared to produce high-quality poems, and have ownership and appreciation for their work.

Using the Consume, Critique, Produce model in classrooms allows teachers to use mentor texts in authentic, high-interest ways. Taking the time to immerse students in reading and studying quality writing enables teachers to engage their students with literacy. And, this fosters a classroom of capable writers.

To view a great 3 minute video that demonstrates how CCF works in regards to flash mobs, click here:


Pamela Brunskill began her career teaching 3rd and 6th graders in Clarence, NY, focusing mainly on language arts and social studies. Over the past ten years she has been writing, teaching as an adjunct instructor in the education departments at Bloomsburg University and Bucknell University, and raising her three children. She has been published in Highlights for Children and is represented by Louise Fury from the Bent Agency. Pamela also helps authors create educational resources for their books at Authors and Educators. You can find Pamela at her website,, or on Twitter under the handle @PamBrunskill.









Mentor Texts in the Classroom: Pet Projects by Lynne Marie

Please welcome author Lynne Marie to our Mentor Texts in the Classroom series. Teachers are always looking for new ways to help kids tell their own stories. Pet stories often make their way into student writing. What better way to help students become better writers than to introduce them to some mentor texts about pets. 

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hedgehogA growing number of authors/writers rely on “Mentor Texts” as research for their current writing projects, whether fiction or non-fiction. Mentor texts can inspire a new or different idea, illuminate a genre, exhibit a style, teach facts, demonstrate the way a theme is handled, express the ways a story can be told or show what has been done before and need not be redone. The same is true for using Mentor texts in the classroom.

There are many ways that I have used picture books to teach students of all ages about writing. Picture Books work well because you can get a complete point across, completely from beginning to end, in a fairly short amount of time. However, the best way to teach about writing is to begin at the beginning.

Every story starts with an idea. If a writer or student is stumped about what to write about, all he/she needs to do is pick up a book. Any book can be used as an example for potential methods of finding their own ideas OR taking an old idea and freshening it up to make it appear new. For the purposes of this post, we will assume our writer wants to write about wanting a pet – a story that has been told time and time again, and is perhaps old and overdone.

Take a look at these “Pet Projects” and see how pairing an idea that has been done with something that is different, new, or unusual, turns into a whole NEW idea!

me want pet1. ME WANT PET by Tammi Sauer. Pictures by Bob Shea.

This author takes the universal problem of a child’s desire to own a pet, and shakes it up by adding a main character who is a Cave Boy, which opens up a stone age of new and exciting pet possibilities! Can you say Saber-toothed Tiger?

snow dog

2. SNOW DOG SAND DOG by Linda Joy Singleton. Illustrations by Jess Golden.

This author takes on a similar problem, but her Main Character is allergic to dogs, so must find creative ways to “make the best of a sneezy situation.

princess peepers

3. PRINCESS PEEPERS PICKS A PET by Pam Calvert. Illustrations by Tuesday Mourning.

Again, here we have the usual dilemma of our Main Character wanting a pet. However, combine that problem with a Princess who is nearsighted and loses her glasses, and we have medieval mayhem and lots of fun illustrations!


But those are just a few successful TWISTS on what have might have seemed like an overdone story line of a Main Character wanting a pet – here are some more….


gilbert goldfish i wanna iguana







my pet book
prudence wants a pet







jacob oreilly









Now that you’re done reading this post, challenge yourself to pair an overdone plot or subject with something unusual or rare and see what you or your students come up with!

Of course, using a picture book to teach idea inspiration is just one item at the top of the list of how Mentor Texts can be used in the classroom. Be sure and check back here for more ways!



Lynne MarieLynne Marie is a New York Girl living in a Florida World. She loves anything any everything Disney, Broadway, European History and the Everglades. She’s an avid picture book reader and the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, published by Scholastic, and a Travel Agent. Please visit her on Facebook:

Poetry Mentor Texts: Snoozefest by Samantha Berger



By Samantha Berger

Illustrated by Kristyna Litten

Dial, 2015

Snoozefest is a delight! Berger had me at the title: Snoozefest! I think the thing that delighted me (and would delight younger readers) is the word combinations. Snoozefest, Nuzzledome, naptacular, even the character’s name, Snuggleford Cuddlebun, play with sleepy language. There are also fun words in the illustrations. Snuggleford is a sloth who attends a sleeping contest, or Snoozefest, and it’s quite a celebration of sleep. This book is full of sleepy, snoozy language. The rhythm and rhyme makes it fun to read.

This book would be good a mentor text for:

* Word Play (especially puns)

* Alliteration

* Descriptive language

I’d highly recommend listening to Matthew Winner’s podcast episode with Samantha Berger, where she gives lots of inside scoop on Snoozefest and her process.

Other Poetry Month Posts

Some Bugs

Raindrops Roll

A Rock Can Be…

Poetry Mentor Texts: A Rock Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas

a rock can be

A Rock Can Be…

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Violeta Dabija

Millbrook, 2015

On Tuesday, my students and I had a Skype visit with Laura Purdie Salas. Just hearing her talk about her process was so encouraging to all of us. In preparation for her Skype visit, we studied Laura Purdie Salas’ work. We wrote poems using her books  A Rock Can Be, A Leaf Can Be, and Water Can Be as our mentor texts. We’d been studying weather, so students wrote their poems as “A Cloud Can Be…”

One of the things I love about Laura’s series of books is that she captures the beauty of poetry, nuance in language, and still manages to teach facts in a subtle way. The back matter in each of her books can be used to connect the poem to standards in Science.

Each spread follows the pattern, “A rock can be…”

My favorite spread is:

“Lake skimmer

Building trimmer”

This book would be good a mentor text for:

* Word Choice

* Rhyming words

* Specificity

* Word Play

Here is my poem using Laura’s form as a mentor text. 

A Cloud Can Be…

By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Inspired by Laura Purdie Salas’ Can Be … books

A cloud is a cloud—

It’s water, air, dust

When weather starts changing

It’s the clouds that we trust.

A cloud can be a…

Sleet maker

Snow shaker

Sun shader

Star fader

Shaper shifter

Dust lifter

Drizzle downer

Garden drowner

Storm grumbler

Tornado rumbler

Sky crawler

Rain hauler

A cloud is a cloud

Droplets above sea

When clouds tumble-bumble

A cloud can be a…

Rainbow revealer

Moon concealer

Hail pelter

Thunder belter

Swimming spoiler

Plan foiler

Lightning dasher

Party crasher

Balloon catcher

Dream hatcher

A cloud is a cloud—

Look up and see

Now go and discover

What else it can be.

Check out my other posts about Laura Purdie Salas’ work:

Water Can Be.. and A Leaf Can Be…

Laura also has new poetry collections available. I had the privilege to write the teachers’ guide for RIDDLE-KU.

RiddleKu Cover

Other Poetry Month Friday posts:

Raindrops Roll

Some Bugs

For more poetry resources, check out this page.

Poetry Mentor Texts: Some Bugs by Andrea DiTerlizzi

some bugs

Some Bugs

By Andrea DiTerlizzi

Illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

Beach Lane, 2014

Some Bugs is one of those books that completely absorbs the reader in it’s fun but spare language. It’s a brilliant 94 words! Like Raindrops Roll, it’s one I typed up because I wanted to study the text. Not only does this text introduce different types of bugs to the youngest reader, it also invites older readers into the illustrations and rich language.

Mentor Text Writing Skills:

* Word Choice

* Vivid Verbs

* Rhythm

* Rhyme

* Spare language

* Specificity

I also featured Some Bugs in a nonfiction poetic picture book post recently.

Poetry as Mentor Texts: Raindrops Roll by April Pulley Sayre

April is poetry month. Every Friday in April, I will feature a poetic picture book that can be used as a mentor text for writing. For past Poetry Month resources, check out these resources.

raindrops roll

Raindrops Roll

By April Pulley Sayre

Beach Lane, 2015

I can’t say enough good things about this book! I have recommended it to everyone. I have read it multiple times. I’ve typed out the words because I wanted to savor and study the language. At only 103 words, it’s a masterful work! And photographs are absolutely stunning.

I’m a big fan of April Pulley Sayre and this book might be my favorite of hers yet. This book can be used to teach the water cycle to primary students. But it can be used at ANY age to help students study poetic language.

Mentor Text Writing Skills:

* Word Choice

* Specificity

* Spare language

* Rhyme

For another post where I featured poetic mentor texts, see this Nonfiction Poetic Text post. 

Mentor Texts in the Classroom: A Second Person Point of View Writing Challenge

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I love it when my day job and my writing life merge together–when research and studying in one feeds the other. I was working on a post for ReFoReMo on second person point of view (which you can read here) in my writing life. In my teaching life, I was preparing for an upcoming mentor text book study meeting using Georgia Heard’s Finding the Heart of Nonfiction.  I wanted to use some nonfiction mentor texts in a short lesson in science class.

NF collage

I utilized some nonfiction picture books that were written in second person point of view. I read snippets of some of these books as mentor texts and my students and I talked about features of second person point of view. Because we were studying some tricky concepts in electricity (insulators, conductors, series circuits, parallel circuits, open circuits, closed circuits, and more), I wanted to see how well students understood those concepts.

I asked students to pick an electricity term and write a short piece that gives facts about that term using second person point of view. Example: If you were an insulator you would slow down electricity.

Right away we applied our newfound writing technique (second person point of view) to our content knowledge (electricity). Students wrote a few sentences, a paragraph, or even a page. But I quickly was able to find out two things: 1) Do they understand the electricity concept and 2) Were they able to apply the point of view lesson.

The results were fascinating. Students eagerly shared. Their examples were full of voice, full of knowledge, and mostly clearly understood how to write in second person.

It was a quick and easy way to utilize nonfiction mentor texts and a quick way to do some cross-curricular nonfiction writing.

This took less than one class period to implement and it could be done in any content area.

More Resources:

Second Person Point of View Primer and Examples for ReFoReMo

Printable PDF Bibliography of Second Person Point of View 

NF 10 for 10: Nonfiction Poetic Picture Books

Nonfiction PB 10 for 10


I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction picture books lately because we are doing a nonfiction mentor text book study at my school using FINDING THE HEART OF NONFICTION by Georgia Heard.


One of the things I admire about nonfiction is an author’s ability to convey facts in a very spare text. I especially enjoy it if the text is spare and beautiful. Today, all of my books have two things in common: 1) They are nonfiction picture books. 2) They have poetic texts. Not all of them are rhyming texts, but some of them are.

NF 10 for 10 with words

They can be used to cover content in the classroom, but they can also be used to teach writing techniques like vivid verbs, imagery, word choice, point of view, and much, much more.

eat like a bear

Eat Like a Bear

By April Pulley Sayre

Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

This book is told in second person point of view and also shares information about how bears eat after a long hibernation.

raindrops roll

Raindrops Roll

By April Pulley Sayre

 With extremely spare text, this book of photographs using lovely language to describe raindrops. A must-read if you are talking about word choice or the water cycle.

iridescence of birds

The Iridescence of Birds: A Book About Henri Matisse

By Patricia MacLachlan

Illustrated by Hadley Hooper

One of my favorite books of 2014. This is a picture book biography that’s a poem told in second person point of view.


water can be

Water Can Be… (and also A Leaf Can Be…)

By Laura Purdie Salas

Illustrated by Violeta Dabija

Much like her poetic book about imagine what leaves can be, Salas’ book about water is also an excellent book to use with the water cycle and word choice.

some bugs

Some Bugs

By Angela DiTerlizzi

Illustrated by Brenden Wenzel

 Some bugs introduces all different types of bugs with fun, playful language.


swamp chomp

Swamp Chomp

By Lola Schaefer

Illustrated by Paul Meisel

Another very spare text with excellent vivid verbs. It also introduces the concept of a food chain.




by Jonah Winter

Illustrated by Sean Qualls

This picture book biography utilizes language that mirrors jazz music. An excellent biography, but it could also be used talk about pacing, rhythm, and word choice.

mama built a little nest

Mama Built a Little Nest

By Jennifer Ward

Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

This rhyming text told in first person point of view shows different birds and their nests. Small bits of expository text on each spread also provide additional information.

hello I'm johnny cash

Hello, I’m Johnny Cash

By G. Neri

Illustrated by A.G. Ford

Another picture book biography told in verse. The collection of free verse poems tell about Cash’s life. It would be good for teaching biography and word choice.


all the water

All the Water in the World

By George Ella Lyon

Illustrated by Katherine Tillotson

This is a poem spread out over a picture book format. All the water in the world can touch on water cycle standards and also be a great example for word choice.


Other 10 for 10 Posts

 10 for 10 Picture Books for Mentor Texts for Word Choice

10 for 10 Nonfiction Picture Books about Virginia History as Writing Mentor Texts


Want to see other PB 10 for 10 Posts for today and the archives? Check out the Google + community. 



Mentor Texts for Teachers 2015: Guest Posts

When I did my list of most popular blog posts in 2014, I noticed that six of the ten posts were mentor texts posts. I want to bring more mentor texts posts to you in 2015.

I’m inviting other teachers and librarians to post about how they use mentor texts with students. I hope their insights will be helpful as you explore mentor texts in the classroom.

These posts will be on Thursdays (1-2 times per month). Teachers will provide tips and ideas for using mentor texts successfully.

If you are a teacher who uses mentor texts in the classroom, and you would like to participate as a guest blogger, e-mail me (marcie AT marcieatkins DOT com) and I will put you on the schedule.Image for posts--mentor texts in the classroom