5 Reasons to Use Mentor Texts With Big Kids

When I changed grade levels from second grade to 4th/5th, one of the things I really thought I would miss was all of my amazing picture books.

I used to love to read and re-read them to the kids, to look at their beautiful illustrations, and to use them to get kids excited about the magic of reading.

Over the years, I loved picture books so much that if you saw my collection, you might have wanted to nominate me for some kind of teaching hoarder show (I had that many)! When we moved across the country and my new teaching job was 4th/5th (scared the dickens out of me at that time), I thought I would have to give up my picture books, pack them into boxes, and store them in my garage.

But once I realized how effective they could be with my big kids, I happily unwrapped these picture book treasures and carted them off to school. Now, many of my picture books are key mentor texts…the stars of countless mini-lessons.

Why do I love mentor texts and use them so often in my classroom? Let me give you five good reasons…

1. Mentor Texts Can be Used Across the Curriculum

When you look at all of the things you have to teach during the day, it’s great to find a tool that is as versatile as mentor texts. Mentor texts can be used to teach just about any lesson you can think of. They model so many standards, from reading to writing, science, social studies, and yes, sometimes even math!

Once you find a great mentor text, you won’t forget it. That mentor text becomes a go-to lesson for you and something you’ll want to include every year.

2. Mentor Texts are Time Efficient

I love the fact that mentor texts are short and sweet. After all, unlike a chapter book, picture books only have a limited number of pages to get their point across.

That means that the lessons that we want to highlight in each mentor text are concentrated, highly focused, and we can get to the heart of the lesson in a very short period of time, unlike reading a whole chapter book as an example text. This is also helpful for the kids who have short attention spans (seems like all of them these days).

3. Mentor Texts are Engaging

One of the very best things about using mentor texts with big kids is that they’re fun! There’s no denying it!

Kids love the comfortable format of mentor texts, the colorful pictures that activate their thinking, and the feelings of nostalgia that they might feel when reading an oldie but goodie like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!

All of us know how much motivation plays into learning. A kid who is truly engaged is a kid who is much more ready to learn.

4. Mentor Texts Serve as a Bridge to More Complex Text

While mentor texts are awesome in their own right, of course, we don’t want students in the upper elementary grade levels using them as their only reading material.

Mentor texts can be thought of as a kind of training wheels for the harder, Look Ma, no hands, types of reading to come. This practice in a less threatening, easier to grasp format, gives kids the strategies they need, to tackle text that is much more complex.

5. Mentor Texts are Effective

Lastly, using mentor texts as part of a teacher’s tried and true strategies is very successful in the classroom. I know firsthand how much students learn from lessons that are built around an anchor text.

To me, to be able to explain a concept is one thing, but to see examples of the concept we’re highlighting, in a piece of quality literature, is definitely a stronger way to reach the learning goals that we’ve set.

Are you looking for some good mentor texts to use for reading strategies using literature? Make sure to click here to grab this freebie from my store.

Free Mentor Text Lists: Picture Books for Reading Strategies 

How do you use mentor texts? I’d love to hear what you’re doing in the classroom.

Thanks for stopping by!


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Hi, I’m Jenn! With 20 years of teaching in the classroom and a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, my passion is to support teachers and their students by offering helpful teaching tips and quality resources. Thanks so much for joining me here!

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