However, this year I am excited because I have a plan that I think will really help my students write better sentences. I am going to try using (what I am calling) “Mentor Sentences”. We are all familiar with using mentor texts to write, and while I love doing that, there are times where I want to look at just one specific sentence and see how we can use it as a model to write our own sentences. I learned about this at Penn State York’s Summer Institute last year. In their keynote session, Stephanie Romano, Dick Hayler, and Jolene Borgese talked about doing a lesson where you hand out a text to each student and have them all read aloud the beginning sentence. The students then pick one that speaks to them and uses it as a model for their own beginning sentence.
As much as I loved that idea, I had forgotten about it until last spring when my first graders and I were beginning our non-fiction animal stories. They were having a hard time coming up with good beginnings and knew that “This is a story about owls,” just wasn’t good enough. So, while my kiddos were exercising away in PE, I pulled out a bunch of my non-fiction animal books. I kept about 7 of them with me, and put the rest at their tables. When the students came back from special, I asked them where they thought we should look for good non-fiction sentences. They eagerly shouted out “Non-fiction books!” So, I read them the beginning sentences from all seven of the books I had, and then invited them to read the beginning sentences from the books at their table with their group members.
This year, during our read alouds, guided reading, and any other time, when we come across a sentence we love, either I or the students will write it down and place it under the correct type of writing: narrative, opinion, informational, as well as under the correct story part: beginning, middle, or end. I have created labels for these, as you can see down below. If you think you would like to try it, feel free to snag this little freebie from my TPT store! This could truly be used at any grade level. Be sure to keep me updated on how it is going in your room, and how your student writers are responding to it!