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

Writing Wednesday: Using SNOWFLAKE BENTLEY as a Writing Mentor Text

snowflake bentley


By Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrated by Mary Azarian

Houghton Mifflin, 1998


I use this book for many things in the classroom. It’s a favorite we return to again and again. It’s a picture book biography of Wilson “Snowflake” Bentley, who lived on a farm but was passionate about photographing snowflakes when it had never been done before.

Since it’s snowy season here in North America, this is a great time to break out this book to read and enjoy, but also to use it as a mentor text for writing. It’s also a fabulous way to work in nonfiction as a writing mentor text.

Writing Skills:

* Organization of the text

* Leads (beginning lines)

* Sensory words

* Figurative Language

* Vivid Verbs

* Description

* Specificity of language


More Mentor Text Resources

Last week, I introduced my teacher useletter. I will feature writing tips and mentor text tips in this free useletter for teachers. Also, if you sign up, you get a FREE 50 page MENTOR TEXT TIPS printable e-book. Sign up on the sidebar to the right.

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Glossary of Mentor Text Terms

List of all Picture Book Month Posts


Verseday: Concrete Poetry Picture Books


Back in August, I did a post on resources to use when teaching LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech. I didn’t include my concrete poetry picture books because I knew it would be a post all on it’s own. Here are some of my favorite concrete poem picture books. I use some of these when teaching LOVE THAT DOG, but I also use them when teaching science concepts as well.

a poke in the i


Selected by Paul B. Janeczko

Illustrated by Chris Raschka

Candlewick, 2001

What I love about this book is that it’s a great introduction for concrete poetry. Janeczko gives a brief introduction to concrete poetry, but the collection itself is varied. Lots of different styles are represented. Combined with Raschka’s unique style of whimsical illustrations, this book is a must-have when introducing concrete poetry to all ages.

come to my party


by Heidi B. Roemer

Illustrated by Hideko Takahashi

Henry Holt, 2004

I found this gem of a book at my local library. Separated by season, the kid-friendly poems and illustrations are ones that would be fun for kids to emulate. These poems combine the shape of concrete poetry with the rhythm and rhyme of structured poetry.

curious collection of cats


by Betsy Franco

Illustrated by Michael Wertz

Tricycle Press, 2009

These fun poems about cats combined with Wertz’s fantastic illustrations really make for a stunning book. The words pop off the page, and readers will be amazed at how many poems Franco could write just about cats. This would be a fun book to pair with Bartoletti’s NOBODY’S NOSIER THAN A CAT or Creech’s HATE THAT CAT.

dazzling display


by Betsy Franco

Illustrated by Michael Wertz

Tricycle Press, 2011

Another amazing collection of concrete poems by Franco and Wertz. Both of their books would be great examples for readers on how small, everyday things make GREAT poetry. It would be also great to pair this book with Bartoletti’s NOBODY’S DIGGIER THAN A DOG or Creech’s LOVE THAT DOG.

flicker flash


by Joan Bransfield Graham

Illustrated by Nancy Davis

Houghton Mifflin, 1999

I’ve been using this book a long time in science with my electricity and Earth, Moon, Sun units. With poems about Edison’s lightbulb and Franklin’s kite experiment, I not only introduce students to great poetry, I’m also covering SOLs in science. One of my favorite things to do with this book is to use it as a mentor text to show young writers how you can take a science concept and create a poem out of it.

splish splash


by Joan Bransfield Graham

Illustrated by Steve Scott

Ticknor  & Fields, 1994

These concrete poems are about all things water. Clouds, snow, ice, waterfalls and sprinklers are just some of the concepts behind these poems. With stellar word choice, these would also be great examples of how ordinary, everyday things can be made into poems.

What are your favorite concrete poetry picture books?


Onomatopoeia Palooza!

I am a contributor to this onomatopoeia resource. If you are a writer or a teacher of writing, I hope that you will find this helpful. It’s like an onomatopoeia encyclopedia. To download this onomatopoeia resource, click on the picture below.

Onomatopoeia Sounds Like…

Screen Shot 2013-08-27 at 7.14.20 PM

Other Onomatopoeia Resources:

Onomatopoeia Mentor Text Lesson Plan

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County Mentor Text Lesson Plan


Onomatopoeia Resource Contributor Websites:

Tanja Bauerle

Robyn Campbell

Sue Frye

Kristen Fulton

Christine Irvin

Elaine Kiely Kearns

Joanna Marple

Yvonne Mes

Teresa Robeson

Donna L. Sadd

Saba Taylor

Mentor Text Tip Tuesday: Familiar Books


Use a book students are already familiar with as a mentor text.

When I pull out a book to use as a mentor text and students say, “Oh I’ve read that book,” I’m always thrilled. You know why? The first time we read a book, we are interested in story. We want to know what happens, we want to get to know the characters, and we are just steeped in the world of  the book. But on future reads, we can concentrate on something else. In this case, we can use the writing as a mentor.

winn dixie

Because of Winn-Dixie is one of my favorite books to read with students because of the story. But I also love to take a look at the writing. Last year I used it to study setting. The setting of the story is Florida, but within that greater context, different scenes in the book are in different places: Gloria Dump’s house, the Herman W. Block Memorial Library, the Winn-Dixie grocery store, the Open Arms Baptist Church, and more. We took a look at how DiCamillo described these places. Because students were familiar with the story, they were able to navigate their way from setting to setting and talk about them like they were experts. It gave them confidence because they knew the story, and it paved the way for them to dig deeper into the writing.

Owl moon

Another way to do this is look at picture books they students are familiar with. Owl Moon is an example that I often use for writing craft (see my post on picture books I use for word choice). But very few students come to fourth grade having never read Owl Moon. It’s a lovely book that is shared in the primary grades. But that’s okay. I want students to be familiar with the story. I also only pick really good books to use as mentor texts—books that I want to return to over and over again.

Once you have chosen a book that is familiar to your students, decide what writing technique(s) you want to study in that book.  Really delve into the book and take a look at how the writer has handled that particular skill.

Materials Needed:

* Books that you’ve already read with your students

More Mentor Texts

* Follow my mentor text Pinterest board.

* Mentor Text Tip Page

* Mentor Text Lesson Plan Page


We have reached the end of the summer. I hope the mentor text tip series has been helpful to you. If you want to stay up to date with more mentor text lesson plans and ideas, please subscribe to my blog via e-mail (top right hand corner of this page) or follow my mentor text board on Pinterest.

Mentor Text Tip Tuesday: Pictures as Mentors


Sometimes students need more than an author’s words to help them in their writing. Many students respond well to pictures. I know many primary teachers that start students out with drawing a picture first, then writing. This can work for older students too. Pictures can be mentors for writing.

1) Use a photo or painting as a prompt.

Students can imagine what might happen or use a picture to inspire a story. It can be a jumping off point. THE MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK by Chris Van Allsburg is a great mysterious group of drawings to use for this. I even have the portfolio edition where the drawings that make up the book are all on large pieces of papers. Students can take them to their desks for a closer look.

mysteries of harris burdick

I also have several books of paintings by famous painters that I use. And with Google Images, your possibilities are almost endless.

2) Use a photo or painting as a tool for writing description.

Instead of a jumping off point, encourage students to write what they see in as much detail. Then you can talk about what is important to leave in, what could be left to the reader’s mind to imagine.

After students write their descriptions, have them read it out loud to writing buddies. The buddy draws what he sees in his mind as the writer is reading (without seeing the original picture). Can the listener visualize what the writer tried to convey? If not, then perhaps the writer needs to revise a little more.

You can also reverse this activity in the beginning. Read an excerpt from a book (a paragraph to no more than a page). Read it aloud, slowly, and more than once. Have students draw what they see in their mind (visualizing). Have students compare their pictures. You will be shocked at how similar they will be. They’ll be different styles, but if the writer has done their job, the students’ pictures will share many similarities. One of my favorite mentor texts for this is THE NIGHT FAIRY by Laura Amy Schlitz.

the night fairy

To transfer this to student writing, have students draw a picture of a something in their own story they need to describe–character, setting. Then after drawing, they can write their description. After writing, they can share it aloud with a buddy and have the buddy do the drawing of what he sees in his mind (like the activity above).

3) Use wordless picture books.

Sometimes, students struggle with the structure of a story. Using wordless or nearly wordless picture books is a great way to provide a story structure that students can put into words. I have a few dozen wordless picture books that students can choose from. Then, they write the story to go with the pictures. No one ever says, “I don’t know what to write.” In fact, these are usually some of their longest stories because they have a bit of support for detail and structure. It’s a great way to help struggling writers accomplish a piece.

wordless collage

Materials Needed:

* Books with paintings by famous painters

* Photographs

* Drawing paper


* THE NIGHT FAIRY by Laura Amy Schlitz

* Wordless Picture Books


More Mentor Texts

* Follow my mentor text Pinterest board.

* Mentor Text Tip Page

* Mentor Text Lesson Plan Page

10 for 10: Top 10 Favorite Picture Books to Use as Mentor Texts for Word Choice

10 for 10 Badge

UPDATE OCTOBER 2014: This post has become so popular that I expanded it and turned it into a downloadable PDF. You can get the downloadable PDF for free when you sign up for my teacher newsletter (sign up is on the right-hand sidebar).


This year, I’m participating in August 10th’s #pb10for10 where friends of the Nerdy Book Club talk about 10 picture books they can’t live without in their classrooms.

I usually post about picture books that I use as writing mentor texts. So today, I give you, 10 picture books I’ve been using for several years in my classroom as writing mentor texts for word choice. Below I detail what types of amazing word choices the author uses and links to lesson plans I’ve written, in some cases.

Chicken Chasing Queen

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County

by Janice N. Harrington

Illustrated by Shelley Jackson

Mentor Text Lesson Plan

Word Choice Highlights:

Onomatopoeia, Figurative Language

Come on Rain

Come On, Rain

by Karen Hesse

Illustrated by Jon J. Muth

Word Choice Highlights:

Sensory Words, Vivid Verbs, Astounding Adjectives,

Imagery, Specificity, Figurative Language

great fuzz frenzy


The Great Fuzz Frenzy

by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Word Choice Highlights:

Onomatopoeia, Vivid Verbs, Alliteration, Word Play

Heat Wave

Heat Wave

by Eileen Spinelli

Illustrated by Betsy Lewin

Word Choice Highlights:

Vivid Verbs, Sensory Words

In the small, small pond

In the Small, Small Pond

by Denise Fleming

Word Choice Highlights:

Vivid Verbs, Word Play

Mostly monsterly

Mostly Monsterly

by Tammi Sauer

Illustrated by Scott Magoon

Word Choice Highlights:

Vivid Verbs, Word Play

Mr Duck Means Business

Mr. Duck Means Business

by Tammi Sauer

Illustrated by Jeff Mack

Word Choice Highlights:

Vivid Verbs, Word Play

Over and Under the Snow

Over and Under the Snow

by Kate Messner

Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal

Mentor Text Lesson Plan

Word Choice Highlights:

Vivid Verbs, Sensory Words

Owl moon

Owl Moon

by Jane Yolen

Illustrated by John Schoenherr

Word Choice Highlights:

Sensory Words, Specificity

quiet book

The Quiet Book

by Deborah Underwood

Illustrated by Renata Liwska

Word Choice Highlights:

Specificity, Astounding Adjectives

Mentor Text Tip Tuesday: One Thing at a Time


Revise one thing at a time. If you are working on describing the setting, then only work on composing and revising the setting. As a writer myself, revising a whole host of things at one time can be overwhelming. Many professional writers I know do several passes of revision, focusing on one or two things at a time, usually working from big picture problems down to word level revisions.

For students, it is helpful to have them focus on only one thing at a time. Of course, we eventually want them to put all of the things they’ve learned together. Here is an example of a revision sheet where we just looked at vivid verbs in their stories.

screen shot of vivid verbs sheet

Materials Needed:

* Draft of a story

* Highlighters or colored pens

* Vivid Verb Revision sheet or other checklist for a specific skill 


 Lesson Plan

WISDOM, THE MIDWAY ALBATROSS by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Kitty Harvill

More Mentor Texts

* Follow my mentor text Pinterest board.

* Mentor Text Tip Page

* Mentor Text Lesson Plan Page

VerseDay: Resources to Use with LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech

love that dog


One of the highlights of my year is teaching LOVE THAT DOG by Sharon Creech. My students love reading this book and discovering that they can write poetry too. Over the years, I’ve collected some favorite books that I use while teaching LOVE THAT DOG. The resources are listed in the order that I use them–in the order that Jack learns about them. As the poems from the famous poets appear in the book, I dig out these resources to help students understand Robert Frost, William Blake, and others a bit better.

love that dog audio


Performed by Scott Wolf

HarperChildren’s Audio

This is one of the books I do totally as a read aloud, but every student has a copy. But I don’t read it aloud. I let Scott Wolf do the reading. I first had this audiobook on cassette tape, then graduated to CD. His performance is fabulous, and we can pause it and talk about various poems and flip to the back to look at the originals.


william carlos williams poetry for young people


WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS (Poetry for Young People series)

Edited by Christopher MacGowan

Illustrated by Robert Crocket

Scholastic, 2004

This “Poetry for Young People” series is one that I recommend, and can be found often during April (Poetry Month) in Scholastic Book Club flyers. Each book, about a different famous poet, comes with a brief biography about the poet, and each poem features commentary/explanations and illustrations. I use this to show students the illustration of “The Red Wheelbarrow.”

A River of Words


by Jen Bryant

Illsutrated by Melissa Sweet

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2008.

I mentioned this book last week in my picture books about poets post. This is a phenomenal introduction to William Carlos Williams. The  illustrations, done on the pages of old books, are filled with words and make every page interesting to study. His poems are woven in the illustrations and typed on the end papers. The back matter includes a timeline of Williams’ life, an author’s note, an illustrator’s note, and a list of resources for further reading. I love reading this with students after we’ve read some of Williams’ poems.

stopping by woods illus susan jeffers


by Robert Frost

Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

Scholastic, 1978

When I share “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” I always pull out this illustrated version. I got mine through Scholastic, but I’ve seen a hardcover version of this recently in Ollie’s. Most of the illustrations are black and white drawings. But Jeffers throws in a little color. It is stunning and really gave me a new appreciation of the poem, and it also brings the poem to life for young readers.

the dead poets


You want to make young kids love and laugh about William Blake? This CD is one that I found several years ago at a teachers’ conference. They sing poems by dead poets. The first one on the CD is a rendition of “The Tyger” by William Blake, which is one of the poems that Jack doesn’t understand in LOVE THAT DOG. It’s catchy and makes the kids dance to William Blake. What more could you want?

all the small poems and fourteen more


by Valerie Worth

Illustrated by Natalie Babbitt

FSG, 1994

This collection of small poems features all of the “small” poems mentioned by Jack in LOVE THAT DOG. Kids always beg me to read more of these small poems.

animal poems


by Valerie Worth

Illustrated by Steve Jenkins

Take some of Valerie Worth’s small poems, add Steve Jenkins amazing collages, and you get this beautiful collection in a picture book format. Even though Worth’s poems are extremely kid-friendly, this picture book makes them even more so.

poetry for young people robert frost

ROBERT FROST (Poetry for Young People Series)

Edited by Gary D. Schmidt

Illustrated by Henri Sorensen

Scholastic, 1994

This collection does not feature “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” but it does divide some of Frost’s poems up by season. It includes “The Pasture” which is mentioned by Jack in LOVE THAT DOG.

street music by adoff


by Arnold Adoff

Illustrated by Karen Barbour

HarperCollins, 1995

This fabulous collection of city poems is out of print, but you might be lucky enough to find it at your library or at a used bookstore. It includes the poem “Street Music,” which Jack refers to the in the book and fourteen other city poems. This is a great book to look at when showing kids different forms of poetry because these poems don’t look like other poems they’ve read in LOVE THAT DOG. Adoff plays with space throughout these poems. Barbour’s loose paintings with bright colors bring these busy city poems to life. If you can snag a copy of this book, do it.

brown angels by myers


by Walter Dean Myers

HarperCollins, 1993

The poem that inspired Jack’s “Love that Dog” poem is in this book. “Love That Boy” by Walter Dean Myers is in this book, in its entirety. Jack only writes one stanza, but Myers’ original poem has four. The poems in this collection are illustrated with actual photographs, both the author’s and borrowed from sources like the Library of Congress. The black and white photos are of African American children are absolutely beautiful.

Concrete Poetry

I realize I didn’t include the concrete poetry books I use with “My Yellow Dog,” Jack’s concrete poem. I have a whole collection of concrete poetry books that I use. It would be worth it to me to do a whole post on just those books.

Readers’ Theater

Check out this Readers’ Theater Version of LOVE THAT DOG featuring Walter Dean Myers, Sharon Creech, Avi, and Sarah Weeks. It’s always my culminating activity. Just like Jack, my students are amazed that these authors are REAL people.


What have I missed? Do you have favorites that I didn’t list? I want to know what other resources you use when teaching LOVE THAT DOG! Tell me in the comments!

Mentor Text Tip Tuesday: Use Non-Book Resources


Use examples from non-book sources like newspapers and magazines. I tend to focus a lot of my energy on fictional mentor texts. However, much of what students will have to write and read in their school career will be non-fiction. So I’m working on incorporating more non-fiction into my lessons.


1) Use sports articles for excellent word choice.

Article from the Roanoke Times

Article from the Roanoke Times

A non-fiction book might be intimidating to a reluctant reader, but a short sports article might be just the ticket to word choice mentors. In the sample above, I circled some really interesting word choices: oft-groaning, miscues, double play-producing, rawness.

I also started making a list of specific vocabulary pertaining to baseball. This would be a great example of specific word choice. This article couldn’t be describing anything BUT baseball.

If students are struggling with ideas for writing, have them write about a recent game they saw or played in. They can describe it, like a sports writer would write it. But they MUST include specific vocabulary.


2. Use headlines from newspapers and magazines for good titles and word play.


Headline from the Roanoke Times

Headline from the Roanoke Times

So many titles use good word play. I clipped these out of my local paper and the SCBWI Bulletin. Students can use interesting titles as mentors for word play in their own titles.

Headline from the Roanoke Times

Headline from the Roanoke Times

Column Title from SCBWI Bulletin

Column Title from SCBWI Bulletin


 3. Use comics for a fun exercise in dialogue.

I have used comics to teach students how to punctuation dialogue. We use the speech bubbles as what would go in the quotation marks. Then we practice adding dialogue tags and description using the pictures.

Conversely, you can white-out the speech bubbles to have students use the pictures to create their own dialogue.


4. Use weather columns to help students dig deeper in setting.

In a regional literature class I took this summer, we talked about weather in books. Kate Messner also featured a great weather blog post for Teachers Write. Use your local paper or you local news station’s website to see how weathermen describe the weather. Then students can use these images and words to help them write about weather in their own writing and create a more vivid setting.


Materials Needed:

* Newspapers

* Magazines

* News websites

* Highlighters or colored pens


More Mentor Texts

* Follow my mentor text Pinterest board.

* Mentor Text Tip Page

* Mentor Text Lesson Plan Page


How do you use non-book resources as mentor texts?