Mentor Text Lessons to Improve Student Writing

by Joan Sedita | 1 | 2 Comments

The seminal report Writing Next (Graham & Perin, 2007) is based on a meta-analysis of research related to best instructional practices for improving student writing. One of the eleven elements identified in the report as most effective is Study of Models (i.e., provide students with opportunities to read, analyze, and emulate models of good writing). Showing models is also one of the six instructional practices that make up the teaching routine for Keys to Content Writing (Keys to Literacy’s writing professional development program). But many teachers are not sure about where to find good mentor writing samples, or what would be a good focus for analyzing a mentor text.

That’s why I was so pleased to learn of a website,, that provides a large number of free mentor text lessons developed by teachers. The WritingFix website was started in 1999 by Corbett Harrison, a writing teacher, as a way for writing instruction ideas to be shared by educators. From 2002-2007 while Corbett served as director, the Northern Nevada Writing Project raised funds to grow the website, which now houses hundreds of writing lessons.

The mentor text lessons, of which many include passages from the texts, are organized into the following categories. I have included links to the web pages for each category:

There is also a category for analyzing and emulating songs and lyrics.

Each lesson identifies the specific writing skill focus for which the mentor text has been chosen. For example: word choice, conventions, voice, organization, sentence fluency.

To give you a sense of what’s provided in a lesson, I have included the text samples from a lesson about how to describe a natural object or place.  After reading and comparing the four mentor samples, students emulate this technique by writing descriptive paragraphs of their own.


Joan Sedita

Joan Sedita is the founder of Keys to Literacy and author of the Keys to Literacy professional development programs. She is an experienced educator, nationally recognized speaker and teacher trainer. She has worked for over 35 years in the literacy education field and has presented to thousands of teachers and related professionals at schools, colleges, clinics, and professional conferences.

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  1. Sandy Grant

    I am looking for models of expository writing for 3rd and 4th graders. It looks like all of the mentor texts at Writing Fix are narratives. Is that right? If you know of a resource with non-fiction texts, please let me know.

    Thank you.



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