Driving Development

Collaborating, Inspiring, and Growing as Educators

Stop & Reflect: How does this inspirational quote from the Indianapolis Colts' coach relate to us as teachers?

“You guys were living in vision, and you weren’t living in circumstances . . . You refused to live in circumstances, and you decided consciously, as a team and as a family, to live in a vision . . . That’s why you’re already champions, and well on your way.” - Chuck Pagano

Mining Mentor Texts by Lisa Mazinas

The phrase mentor text is often talked about in the context of a writing minilesson, but mentor texts can be used for much more than that and more often than once. Think about it: a text is an artifact of how we exist in the world. It offers examples not only of how we can write, but of how we might think and behave as well.

Using mentor texts in different contexts helps students develop a stronger appreciation for what literacy can do for them. They see that value can be measured by more than one indicator and at more than one moment in time. (It’s worth noting that this offers an expansive model for how they can view themselves, too.) By identifying some texts as valuable mentors and returning to them throughout the year, teachers and students experience a sense of community identity around specific texts: “We are readers who can find more than one idea worth holding onto in a text.” When we offer students this identity, we encourage them to return and go deeper, to take risks and try new strategies with familiar texts (“Let’s look at theleads that Patricia Polacco uses in her books…”, “Let’s look at the procedure this character follows when she starts a garden at her school,” or “Is there a book you love that might be worth mining for new strategies?”).

When the whole class returns to a mentor text, it isn’t necessary to reread the entire text again. Instead, the teacher can focus only on the specific portion of the book that demonstrates the lesson’s objective. This allows for more efficient use of time, more intentional planning, and more targeted instruction. For example, a teacher might choose to read Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes, in the beginning of the year to celebrate diversity and establish community within the classroom. A few weeks later, she reads it again as an Intentional Read Aloud, with a focus on story elements. In December, during a character study unit, the teacher shares just two pages during reading workshop, to demonstrate Chrysanthemum’s change over time. Then in February, during writing workshop, she highlights two more pages that model the use of dialogue in narrative writing.

Wondering how to get started in your own classroom? The best way to begin is to make a list of the books that you normally read in September, the ones that you return to year after year. Next to the book, jot down your purpose for reading the text. For example, if you are reading a book in September, is there a connection to the procedures or routines of the classroom?

Let’s look at a specific example with Thunder Cake, by Patricia Polacco:

First Chart

Now start thinking about how you might use these texts again for future purposes. Continue down the list, jotting down as many ideas as possible. It’s better to have something written down than nothing at all.

Second Chart

Will every text allow the possibility of being used again? With enough searching, we can connect almost any book to a future objective. But will that be the best choice to teach dialogue, for instance, or foreshadowing? There could indeed be some favorite books that are read aloud only one time. That’s okay too.

Now think about the texts that you read later in the school year (as opposed to in September). Can you read them earlier, possibly as a way to introduce the procedures, culture or physical environment of the classroom? Reading the book sooner will also create more opportunities to teach multiple reading and writing skills to your students using the same text.

Flip through the pages and think about how this text might connect to the beginning of the school year, to introduce a sense of community perhaps. Then make a list of the other reading and writing skills to teach later using that same book.

So you’ve gathered some ideas. What’s next? The last step is to review your list, putting a star next to the books that have the most potential as future mentor texts. Then share the titles with a colleague, or better yet, involve them in the planning process. You can use the sample chart below or create one of your own.

Third Chart

Too often, we teach rereading in the limited context of correcting misunderstandings or the artificial one of achieving fluency for fluency’s sake. When we return to mentor texts, we demonstrate that the tools of learning are precious, not things to throw away as we outgrow them, but something worth holding onto.


Quickwrites are a great activity to improve students' writing fluency and stamina. They also encourage personal reflection and critical thinking. Quickwrites take between 2-10 minutes, so they are a great way to start the school day!

Need some ideas? Visit the following websites:

50 Quickwrites

Cinquain Poems

Scholastic Poems to Inspire Quickwrites

Picture Prompts to Inspire Quickwrites

Growing Readers Book Study Meeting

Tuesday, Jan. 20th, 3:30pm

Lisa Wescott's Classroom

Our second Growing Readers meeting is Tuesday right after school. We will discuss chapters 3 and 4.