Skip to main content

Writing Models/Mentor Texts Are Provided, As Well As Opportunities To Create A Variety Of Text Types Across Subject Areas.

Using Mentor Texts and Guiding Questions 

  • Writers have access to varied mentor texts to guide their understanding and use of specific writing strategies.
  • Writers help identify and analyze mentor texts to support their goals and purposes as writers.

Using a mentor text to shape writing involves more than just a quick read of a good model.  When students analyze mentor texts to enhance their writing, they look at specific things the author did to create a specific effect on the reader.  For example, if students are writing a narrative, they may closely read a mentor text to notice how (and when) the author starts the story, as well as how the author treats the passage of time, builds suspense, and uses dialogue. 

Guiding questions can help students pay close attention to writer’s craft as readers, and then use these observations to shape their own writing decisions. 

Readers as Writers: Analyzing Mentor Texts to Enhance our Writing 

[Note to teachers:  The following Guiding Questions PDF is to guide your students’ attention as readers and writers, as they work with mentor texts. This example is designed for analyzing a mentor text in a narrative unit, and the specific focus areas and questions can be revised to fit the teaching goals you have for your student writers.]

When we read as writers, we pay attention to specific choices an author makes and how these choices affect us as a reader.  This process helps us begin to notice specific writing techniques we can borrow and adapt in our own writing, especially when we want to create a similar effect for our readers.  Use the questions below to help you focus on specific elements of the mentor text you are studying and make plans on what you want to use in your own writing.

Guiding Questions Document

How Do Writers Develop Characters?

A 5th Grade Lesson 

Provide short examples of story elements, character growth and development (problem-solution), sequence of events (plot), descriptive language, etc. Students will later use practice these strategies in their own writing. 

Associated Standards:

  • 5W3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. 
  • 5W3a: Establish a situation and introduce a narrator and/or characters. 
  • 5W3b: Use narrative techniques, such as dialogue and description, to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations. 
  • My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother, by Patricia Pollacco 
  • Chart paper or digital location (such as Nearpod) to record student responses 

Tell the students you will together read the text of a book to see how Patricia Polacco uses writing to tell the reader about the characters in the story. Ask the students if they have read the story or any other books by Patricia Pollacco, and if so ask them to share any thoughts or observations about characters in her story .  

Next, tell the students you are going to read the text with them. Ask them to pay attention to how the writer uses different ways to tell the reader about the characters in the story. Here are some examples of student observations. Some include follow up questions for the student to prompt analysis:

  • “I notice that the author uses a lot of ‘talking’, or dialogue (quotes in the text) but the writer doesn’t tell who is talking.” 
    • Can you still figure out who is talking? 
  • “I notice that the author tells four important things about her Babushka right at the beginning in the first paragraph.
    • What does the author tell us?” 
  • “I notice that the author tells about how much she doesn’t like her older brother and keeps giving examples.” 
  • “I notice that the author uses the main character’s thinking and dialogue to show the conflict between the brother and sister.” 
  • “ I notice that there is a turning point when the main character finds out that her brother carried her all of the way home after she passed out on the merry-go-round”
    • Yes! Did you notice the narrator flashes from one setting to another” 
  • “I notice that at the end, the writer shows that there was a lesson learned by the main character - ‘That’s why you have to be very careful what you wish for … it may just come true.’"

Now, partner students (or use digital breakout rooms) and ask them to notice other things that the writer does to tell about the characters in the story. Have them highlight what they notice and be ready to share. Check in with students to see what they are finding. Bring students back to meet about what they noticed. 

Class Brainstorming Chart – “What do you notice..?

Prompt your students to consider specific characters: "Now think just about the older brother in the story. How does Patricia Pollacco specifically introduce us to him?"

  • In a classroom this could be a conversation with student responses recorded on chart paper or whiteboard.
  • Virtually, this could again be recorded using a digital whiteboard. 

Now ask the students to reflect upon how they might be able to use some of Patricia Pollacco’s methods to tell about the characters in their own story. Ask students to open a new draft and save a new copy to work on. Or… turn to a new page in their notebook and try to tell about a character (s) using the writing methods that Patricia Pollacco used. Look back at your copy of the text for examples. 

Provide time for students to share how the incorporation of Patricia Pollacco’s writing method(s) changed their own writing (This could be done with 1:1 partner shares, as small groups, or by selecting several students to share aloud with the whole class).