Mentor Texts and Mini Lessons for Writing



Hi friends! It’s Kristen from Where the First Graders Are. I am so excited to team up with Jen from Sparkling in Second and share with you three of my favorite picture books for teaching writing. I have to say that I love teaching writing more than any other subject. I love it because there is never a perfect paper, you simply try to inspire each student to write and illustrate better than they did the time before. I think there is something really special about that. Let's get started, shall we?

How to Extend a Story


I was introduced to a new book this year called Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter. In fair warning, this is a pretty long book. However, it serves as a great mentor text. Each page could be used as a different Writer’s Workshop mini-lesson on how to extend a story. The main storyline is about a young girl who is trying to write a story, but can’t think of anything to write about. As she sits on the steps of her house, she observes different people in her neighborhood who try to help her with her problem. Here are some examples:

Mr. Sims, a retired actor, tells the narrator “The whole word’s a stage. Observe. And don’t forget the details.”

Mrs. Martinez, a chef, tells the narrator “Add a little action. Like soup. A little this. A little that. And don’t forget the spice.”

Alexis Leora, a ballerina, tells the narrator “If your story doesn’t go the way you want it to, you can always STRETCH the truth!”


Illustrating and Sequencing


Patches Lost and Found by Steven Kroll is an adorable book about a girl named Jenny that loves to draw but she does not like to write. When Jenny’s teacher gives her a writing assignment, her mother encourages her to make a story with pictures first, then she can go back and write the story.

This book serves as a great reminder to me as a teacher that some students (and adults) really do struggle to come up with a good storyline. After reading this book, I now give my students an allotted amount of time to write and illustrate their story. Some start with words and some start with pictures. I tell my kids that it is up to them what they do first, as long as the story is finished (or close to finished) in a certain period of time. I’d be lying though if I didn’t admit that about half way through the “allotted amount of time” I encourage my students to start writing if they had not already done so.

This book and method is also really great if your students are struggling to write stories with a true beginning, middle and end. In first grade, it still seems like a difficult concept for students to write a story where more than one event happens. Patches Lost and Found is a great mentor text for teaching sequencing and introducing/using those transition words.


The Bad Guys series by Aaron Blabey was an instant success in my classroom. This series follows your typical story characters who are normally catergorized as bad guys: Mr. Wolf, Shark, Snake and Piranha. Mr. Wolf convinces his friends to join the "Good Guys Club" with the intentions of doing good deeds and turning their reputation around, but something always goes wrong. 

Not only is this book super engaging for students, but it serves as a great mentor text for bringing characters/settings to life and using sound words. The book is written as a graphic novel which mimics a comic book so there is constantly action bursting from the pages, tons of dialogue and it is loaded with sound words. 



There are so many great books out there for teaching non-fiction text features. My favorite go-to books are any of the National Geographic books. Each book format offers a variety of features, here's a list of features that I like to target: 
  • Titles/Headings
  • Captions
  • Labels
  • Close Ups
  • Diagrams
  • Maps
  • Table of Contents
  • Index
  • Glossary



Cynthia Rylant is another favorite author of mine. We love to read her Henry and Mudge series as well as Poppleton and all of her other great books. When you do an author study on Cynthia Rylant, you find that she often uses patterns of three in her writing. 

Here's an example from Henry and Mudge The First Book: 
"But first they looked at their house with no brothers and sisters.
Then they looked at their street with no children.
Then they looked at Henry's face". 

Check this out--->




I was introduced to The Night of the Veggie Monster by George McClements a few years ago and I've been in love with it ever since. This book is about a little boy who does not want to eat his vegetables at dinner time.

This book is so good at illustrating a small moment and really building excitement of the readers. I really like using it as a mentor text because it shows writers how to keep their reader interested and leave them wanting more!

Writing Letters

Need mentor texts and mini lessons specific to writing letters? Check this out--->

Want To Get Started? 

Are you new to writer's workshop and your're not sure where to start? 

Check this out--->


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