Mentor Text Lessons to Improve Student Writing
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, WritingFix.com, 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:
- Picture Book Lessons, K-2
- Picture Book Lessons, 3-12
- Chapter Book Excerpts, 3-12
- Literature Excerpts, 5-12
- Poetry, K-12
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.