What Is a Mentor Text?

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A mentor text is a written piece used in education as an example of quality writing by a student who is studying the writing process. Typically, mentor texts are used by individuals.

What Mentor Texts Are Used For

  • With young students, a mentor text is a foundation from which students learn the writing form. For example, the first story the students are taught will be a story to which they compare all future stories. With more advanced students, a mentor text can teach lessons regarding craft, structure, symbolism, theme, imagery and tone to help the students become better readers and better writers.

Why Mentor Texts Are Useful

  • Repeated reading of a mentor text results in an increasingly intimate familiarity with the work. The reader will better understand how the text works and, in attempting to imitate it, will learn how to create similar effects as a writer, thus learning how to write by actually writing.

Qualities of Mentor Texts

  • A mentor text worthy of study tends to contain some aspect of writing that is considered to be of exemplary quality. Thus, many classic works have the potential to be effective as mentor texts for students or a class. For an aspiring writer, a worthy mentor text could be one that the writer connects with and sees as an example of quality to emulate. With young students, picture books can be effective early mentor texts because of the number of times they can be reread in a given school year.

Types of Mentor Texts

  • A mentor text can be any piece of writing: a novel, poem, short story or essay that is relevant to what the student needs to learn. A poetry student, for example, can mentor under the works of Emily Dickinson, while a student of creative writing may want to study the short stories of O. Henry.

Effects of Using Mentor Texts

  • Using a mentor text teaches a student to read with a writer’s eye, noticing how a writer employs such elements as sentence structure and word choice to create meaning. In imitating the mentor text, a student and aspiring writer may write in ways that are outside his comfort zone in his normal writing and thus learn new ways of expressing what he wants to convey.

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