Mentor Texts: Literature-inspired Lessons
using literature excerpts to inspire skilled, thoughtful writing from students of all ages
WritingFix features several very popular collections of lessons, all of which are categorized by the type of mentor text that is used to inspire the students' writing; our picture book collection is the most popular, but so too are our collections inspired by chapter book exerpts, poetry, and song lyrics.
As we built these popular collections through our work with teachers during workshops, we kept asking ourselves, "What else could serve as a mentor text for a writing lesson?" The idea of using great literature to inspire a skill-based writing lesson is the thought that built the lesson collection housed on this page.
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 their own writing. During our Northern Nevada teacher workshops, we help our participants explore all three of these purposes of a mentor text. Here is a link to a Powerpoint slideshow used by one of our trainers, Corbett Harrison; 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?"
These lessons are just for high school and middle school literature teachers. Traditionally, teachers use the great works of literature during their college preperatory literacy programs and for those literary analysis writing assignments. The lessons on this page are purposely different. They ask the student writer to imitate the ideas, structures, or writing skills used by the greatest authors of our time. Students do not write literary analyses here; they write narratives and poetry based on their analysis of writing skills used by these great authors in excerpts or single chapters.
The lessons on this page can certainly be used during teaching units based on any of the great novels featured below. But think beyond that too. Most of these lessons here can be used without having to read the entire text being cited, so the lessons are appropriate for both the college bound and the non-college bound. The Tale of Two Cities lesson, for example, focuses students just on the writing style in the famous first paragraph from Dickens' novel; teaching this writing lesson requires no further reading of the novel. But might just using the lesson well with a non-college bound student inspire him/her to someday pick up the book and read it independently? And couldn't a fifth grade teacher use the lesson well, piquing the interest early on of a student who may someday be assigned the entire work in high school?
Please...think beyond your traditional view of using literature when you look over these lesson. Don't avoid these great lessons just because you don't teach the great books that serve as their mentor texts. Excerpts from larger works make superb writing lessons that can be considered use-able by any teacher.
Propose your own Literature-inspired Lesson! Join our WritingFix Family!
Propose your own literature-inspired lesson to be posted at WritingFix! Here is our template for literature-inspired teachers' lessons. If we end up using your lesson at WritingFix, we will send you any two of the NNWP's Print Resources as our way of saying thank-you for sharing your ideas with the thousands of teachers who use this website.