Mentor texts are powerful allies in the teaching of writing to high school students. In fact, Allison Marchetti and Rebekah O’Dell wrote the book on it. In Writing with Mentors they not only tell you why mentor texts work and how to teach them, but they also share five big questions to ask when you’re choosing a mentor. Here, in an excerpt from Writing with Mentors, they share those questions:
When we select mentor texts, we mean business. In a world full of mentor texts, we have to choose those that will best engage and inspire our students, give them vision for the writing they’re about to do, and propel them forward through the process. We can’t risk choosing poorly and losing our students along the way, so we search with clear selection criteria in mind. We ask a series of questions of all potential texts we’re considering as mentors.
Finding mentor texts that are engaging in both content and form is a major success. However, some mentors deliver even more, providing little bonuses that can both simplify and enrich their study. We do a little happy dance when we strike mentor text gold.
Being a teacher who puts mentor texts at the center of the classroom is a rich and exciting way of life. It means running to your computer to scan your Twitter feed in the morning as you look for mentor text treasures for your students. It means tapping into your writing sensibilities every time you read and enjoying it doubly—as a reader and as a teacher of writing. It means learning beside your students and keeping their interests at the helm. It means finding an organizational system that works for you and your students and puts the mentor texts at everyone’s fingertips for the moments when they will be needed in the throes of writing. It means finding texts and mining them for lessons because there is no better way to honor your teaching and increase the repertoire of what you can offer students.
Allison Marchetti is coauthor—with Rebekah O'Dell—of Writing with Mentors and Beyond Literary Analysis. Their popular blog Moving Writers focuses on writing instruction in middle and high school classrooms with an emphasis on voice and authenticity. Traveling the country to work with teachers and students provides constant inspiration as they help educators do the hard-and-transformative work of teaching real writing.
Allison has taught middle and high school English in both public and independent schools in Richmond, Virginia. Her favorite moments in the classroom happen at students’ desks, thinking and reading and writing beside them.
Rebekah O'Dell is coauthor—with Allison Marchetti—of Writing with Mentors and Beyond Literary Analysis. Their popular blog Moving Writers focuses on writing instruction in middle and high school classrooms with an emphasis on voice and authenticity. Traveling the country to work with teachers and students provides constant inspiration as they help educators do the hard-and-transformative work of teaching real writing.
After more than a decade in the high school classroom, Rebekah currently teaches middle school English in Richmond, Virginia. She has experience using the reading and writing workshop model to transform student engagement at all levels, from inclusion classrooms to the International Baccalaureate program.