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Mentor Sentences – Teach It So They Remember It!


Each year you and your colleagues teach grammar and mechanics, yet they still don’t know how to write complete detailed sentences.

mentor sentences teach grammar skills in the context of writing

Why Should I Use Mentor Sentences?

Research has shown that completing numerous grammar worksheets or editing sentences with mistakes does not transfer to writing. You know this to be true, too. How many times have you said, “I taught it and they STILL don’t do it!”

It’s time for a different approach.

mentor sentences

Students need to see great sentences to be able to write great sentences.

Alison Monk ~

You probably have shelves filled with great sentences within the books your students are reading. All you need to do is identify a sentence that has the kinds of words or skills you want to teach. This is known as a mentor sentence.

How To Prepare Mentor Sentences Lessons

Let me give you an example from Ready Freddy! Snow Day Dare:


“I can’t go to school without my blue shark mitten,” I explained.

My skill focus this week is using quotation marks. In addition, I can weave several other mini-lessons throughout the week in the context of this authentic literature. This mentor sentence includes: contraction, adjective, common nouns, past tense verb, verb, preposition, and using a comma with quotation marks!  Of course, you can’t bombard your students with all that in one lesson.

The idea behind mentor sentences is to provide short daily mini-lessons using the same sentence for a week. Think of it like a mentor text that you reread through different lenses. Each new mini-lesson provides students with the opportunity to dig deeper into what writers do. Instead of looking at sentences filled with mistakes, students are invited to notice an author’s style, craft, and use of grammar. These lessons do not replace writing workshop, but rather support it.

Here is a typical routine I follow:

Day 1Read the Story – We read the story that the sentence will come from. This can be your guided reading book, read-aloud novel, or basal story.

Day 2 –  What Do You Notice? – I show the class the mentor sentences I have selected. The students are asked to write down everything they notice about the words the writer used.  Today is kid-generated, not teacher lead. This is a powerful step because the students are actively processing the information. Plus you will get a great deal of information based on their comments which you can use to guide your future lessons. (10-15 mins)

Day 3Focus on a Skill – This is the time when you point out the convention or grammar focus for the week. It is critical that you are explaining while referring to the mentor sentences. Provide each student with a copy of the mentor sentence that they can mark up. I might have them circle in red all the nouns. Underline the subject in green. Box in the past tense verb. I try to focus on this week’s grammar skills and review previously learned terms. (5-10 mins).

Day 4 – Revise it – Revising and editing are important writing skills. For this mini-lesson I have the students add or change words in the mentor sentences.  Lead a discussion about ways the mentor sentences can be made better. Remind the class that authors try out different ways to say something. Revising and adding details can make a good sentence even better! (5-10 mins)

Day 5 – Imitate – Students will create their own sentence. How can they use the mentor sentences as a model in their own writing? This day allows children to experiment with craft and style while writing an original sentence. It is a time to provide encouragement to be creative, take risks, and try to apply what they’ve learned. (5-10 mins).

Here are a few essential things to keep in mind when choosing a mentor sentence:

First, it is more meaningful when it comes from a story the kids are reading.

Second, each lesson is a mini-lesson. Keep it short and focused. It supports other ELA instruction.

Finally, the more you do it, the more they remember. It works!!!

Want to save time and prep work? I’ve created two ready to go Mentor Sentences resources for you!

In this print and use resource you will have everything you need to get started! Teacher materials, lesson plans, student pages, and answer keys! CLICK HERE to PREVIEW

If you use McGraw Hill’s WONDERS 2017 program, I have good news for you!!

I have created lesson plans and student response pages for every story in the 2nd and 3rd grade textbooks!

Ready to give it a try?  Click on the textbook you use to connect to their Mentor Sentences Resource.

  • Thank you for all you do!

  • Alison Monk

    When I started teaching, I quickly realized that student teaching didn't prepare me for the real challenges of being alone in a classroom full of young children. The learning curve was steep and time was limited. That is why I created the Literacy Garden. My hope is this will be a place for inspiration, mentoring, and connecting.

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  • marcyhowe January 14, 2018 at 10:11 AM

    Thanks, Allison. I love mentor sentences, and each year I promise myself that I’ll use them more. I have yet to do the weekly structure, but I hope to give the whole process a try. Lucky 3rd grade teachers to have you creating mentor sentence work for the text!!

  • triedandtrueteachingtools January 10, 2018 at 12:12 AM

    Thanks for all the great tips, Alison! I love using mentor texts also; they are such wonderful models for our students.

  • Michelle January 8, 2018 at 8:10 PM

    I really like your idea of focusing on a mentor sentence within your mentor text. The students will get a lot more out of focusing on that mentor sentence.

  • […] Mentor Sentences – Teach It So They Remember It By Alison Monk of the Literacy Garden […]

  • socrateslantern January 8, 2018 at 4:07 PM

    I so agree with what you’ve written here. Speaking from a middle school point of view, some kids come into my room with poor writing skills, like they’ve forgotten everything that they’ve learned. With your tips, they will surely remember what they were taught about sentence structure and writing. Thanks for sharing.

  • Tracy January 7, 2018 at 9:21 PM

    Allison! I’ve been around the block a couple hundred times, and I’ve never used mentor sentences. I’m excited about your post ahd how you told “the story” of a way you’ve used them. You’ve inspired me, and I can’t to give them a try. My fifth graders need a grammar and punctuation intervention…STAT!

    • Alison January 8, 2018 at 6:34 PM

      Thanks Tracy! I’ve started using mentor sentences with my 2nd graders this year and I can already see an improvement in their writing. Also, they enjoy doing the activities. They feel like word detectives!

    Leave a Reply

    Hi! I'm Alison

    My #1 passion is all things literacy! I'm a curriculum creator and literacy specialist with over 30 years teaching in elementary classrooms. My goal is to share creative and engaging ways to grow your students and are easy to implement and academically sound. You can expect to find teaching tips to boost your confidence and grow your learners. You don't have to do this alone! I'm the support you've been looking for. I'm so glad you are here!

    About the Literacy Garden

    When I started teaching, I quickly realized that student teaching didn't prepare me for the real challenges of being alone in a classroom full of young children. The learning curve was steep and time was limited. That is why I created the Literacy Garden. My hope is this will be a place for inspiration, mentoring, and connecting.

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