Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Mastering Mentor Sentences- Part 1 {how you can implement them in your classroom}

Hey there!

A while back I posted about how I use mentor sentences in my classroom as a bridge between grammar and writing.  If you missed that post, you can click HERE to read it.  I will move forward from here assuming you know my background and have read the post, that way I'm not repeating myself to those that have already read it.  :O)

*We have created  a starter pack if you are interested in trying these mentor sentences in your classroom. Click here to go to our store.

Jessica (from Ideas by Jivey), Stacia, and I all taught at the same school for several years, 3rd and 4th grades.  Jessica jumped ship last year (it's fine...I'm not bitter) and went to a different school (we love her and miss her!!).  Well, about three or four summers ago we all attended a summer staff development together.  We learned about using mentor sentences and mentor texts in the classroom and all decided to implement it in our classrooms.

Since we all use mentor sentences, we thought we'd link up and share how we use them, that way you can see it twice, especially if you are interested in using them.  So without further adieu, welcome to:

Today I am here to share with you how my class does mentor sentences the first two days of the week (Monday and Tuesday).

Each week, I choose a sentence from a book that we have already read that is an excellent sentence, but also has some quality that I am looking for (compound sentence, figurative language, etc.).  For the last few weeks, I opened it up to my students to choose a sentence.  I told them that if they found a sentence that they thought is a mentor sentence, they could write it on a sticky note and give it to me.  Then, I could look through and pick one that suited my needs.  I did this because I want them to realize there are great sentences everywhere and now they will look for them. If I didn't get a great sentence from a student, I would just pick one (but that hasn't happened yet).

So, we have been reading this book:

We are using it as an extended text and the whole class is reading it.  So, last week one of my students chose this sentence from the book:

As the four boys sat huddled together, the oarsmen dressed in tattered blue and buff uniforms used their long poles to push off the ice.

I asked her why she chose this sentence and she said because of the comma and the adjectives.  We had been discussing the use of commas (compound sentences and with quotation marks), so that's one reason it stood out for her.  She also liked the word buff (even though she didn't know what it meant).

I went ahead with this sentence, even though it's hard, I am fine with pushing the students' thinking a bit.  I would never pick a sentence like this for the beginning of the year...there's too much going on.

On Mondays, they paste the sentence into their journal and we notice everything that we can about the sentence.  They like to guess where the sentence came from and they know that I am looking for something specific as to why I like this sentence and they all want to be the one that guesses it.   We notice together.  I try to keep these lessons to about 10 minutes, max (but sometimes it does go over).

Here's what they noticed with this sentence on Monday:

They have gotten it in their heads that they want to make it to the third piece of chart paper because it makes them feel smart to do so...whatever motivates them, is good with me!!!  (you can see we just barely made it to the third page and then they basically said, ok, we're done!  haha!)

Here's a student's journal:

Tuesdays have changed a little for me over the year.  Now, on Tuesdays, we are basically diagramming the sentence.  This is definitely not my favorite thing (mainly because I get very nervous since I'm not always confident in what I know about grammar) and because I hated diagramming sentences when I was younger and I don't want the kids to hate it.

So, "for fun", we developed the code that you see in the next picture.  I was hoping it would help them take ownership of it and make it a little more fun!  Of course, they think this is fun, so I guess it just makes it fun for me!

Again, this was a tough sentence and my kids are OCD about having EVERYTHING labeled.  The only thing I left off was that as is a relative pronoun because I had planned to teach it last week and I wanted to see if they'd catch it.  I have them paste a new sentence into their journal that is spaced more than the first (I can't trust my students to copy from the board quickly and accurately and since it's a mentor sentence, I want it to be correct).  Here is a student example:

So, this is the first two days of mentor sentences!  Hopefully I made it somewhat clear as to how I do it!?!  If you have any questions, please let me know!!  Also, go over to Jessica's post here so you can see how she does mentor sentences in her classroom.

Here is our starter pack:


We are also linking this post up to the wonderful Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper for :

and we hope that maybe you'll try this in your classroom one day!  Go check out her other posts and see what everyone else is trying!!

Let us know what you think about mentor sentences!  We'll be back Thursday with the rest of the series!!  :O)


  1. I am in love with this!! I have read a lot of professional books about writing and grammar, but have not come across this idea! I think that when kids see something over and over like this, it sticks! They need to see grammar applied and more than just in a grammar book. I think this would be great to incorporate into my Work on Writing or even Word Work time. Love George Washington's Socks. I'm part of the Teaching American History Grant in my county and Elvira has spoken to our group several times. She is very funny and sweet!
    Beach Sand and Lesson Plans

  2. So happy you guys are writing more about this. I definitely will be trying this! :)
    Pinkadots Elementary

  3. Wow! This is an amazing way to teach so many concepts and skills. And, it helps encourage students to look closer at their own writing. I absolutely love it and plan on sharing this with the ELA teachers in my grade! Amazing!

    Fun in Room 4B

  4. Okay so I was really paying attention to your post and was looking at the picture of the code but noticed the books on the shelf - your class metaphor books and simile books and now I want to see those!

    Looking From Third to Fourth

  5. I have never thought of doing this! Thanks for sharing! And I totally agree with Looking From Third to Fourth. Will you please share your simile and metaphor books?!?

    Learning's a Hoot

  6. I love these posts. I cannot wait to hear more! Already planning for how I'm going to change things up when I'm teaching ELA next year!

    Teaching Tales Along the Yellow Brick Road

  7. I just read Jivey's post about mentor sentences too and I love the idea. My students will definitely benefit from this. Thanks for sharing.

    Teacher of Scholars

  8. Thanks so much for sharing your strategies. I will be using this idea next year!

    Polka Dot Lesson Plans

  9. Ohh I love the way you spend just a few minutes diagramming sentences- that seems like a great no-stress way to do it. I have a grammar comic strip ebook that I've been trying to fit in a few times a week but it invariably takes us almost half the period to finish just one comic!

    Everyone deServes to Learn

  10. I did my first mentor sentence lesson! I wish I would've seen your posts this morning before school-so detailed! I think I have a better understanding of it and can't wait to keep continuing with these sentences! Thank you for sharing!!!!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

  11. I am adding this book to my summer reading list! I have to use these next year. I am with you about diagramming sentences...linking verb or helping verb? It makes me nervous!! I also read your other post and was relieved that it only takes 10 minutes a day. Thank you so much for linking up! Love you girls:)
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  12. Love your blog!!! I really love that you two collaborate for it! That has been one issue at our school this year...just finding the time to collaborate with our colleagues! I am moving to Japan this summer, so I am not sure what grade level I will teach (if I teach at all) next year, but I am definitely adding your blog to my favorites!

  13. Love this! Shared it over at my Five on the Fifth post! I love mentor sentences but wasn't sure what framework would work best. Thanks for making it so much clearer!


    I Teach. What's Your Super Power?

  14. its great ideas and i love those books collection and write my paper available for students. We help in quality writing.

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  16. The superb highly informative blog I’m about to share this with all my contacts. Coming on site piknu to discover nice photos and videos of instagram


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