A while back, I compiled a list of narrative, opinion/persuasive, and informational mentor texts for primary students. A bit of time has passed, so I’ve decided to update that list and include additional awesome books that I’ve found!
In today’s post, I’ll share a list of outstanding mentor texts, grouped by genre. I’ll also share five important tips for using mentor texts to teach writing in the primary grades, so be sure to read to the end of the post!
Photo credit: Tiplyashina Evgeniya, Shutterstock
The books listed below are best for use with Kindergarten, first, or second grade. The ones that are most appropriate for Kindergarten are *starred* (not to say that any of the books would be inappropriate for Kindergarten, but having taught this grade, I know that some books are a little too long for the little ones!).
Within the lists, I’ve linked to these books on Amazon, so you can quickly and easily add them to your cart or wishlist!
Narrative or Personal Narrative Writing Mentor Texts:
Salt Hands (Picture Puffins) (Jane Chelsea Aragon) – personal narrative
*Fireflies (Julie Brinckloe) – personal narrative
Oliver Button Is a Sissy (Tomie dePaola)
Roller Coaster (Maria Frazee) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective
*Kitten’s First Full Moon (Kevin Henkes) – fiction
*Amazing Grace (Mary Hoffman) – narrative
*The Leaving Morning (Angela Johnson) – personal narrative
*Peter’s Chair (Picture Puffins) (Ezra Jack Keats) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective
The Snowy Day (Ezra Jack Keats) – can be used to teach personal narratives, but not told from 1st person perspective
*Whistle for Willie (Ezra Jack Keats) – narrative
*Kitchen Dance (Maurie J. Manning) – personal narrative
One Morning in Maine (Picture Puffins) (Robert McCloskey) – narrative
Mirette on the High Wire (Emily Arnold McCully) – narrative
My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother (Patricia Polacco) – personal narrative
Thank You, Mr. Falker (Patricia Polacco) – narrative / personal narrative
Thunder Cake (Patricia Polacco) – personal narrative
The Relatives Came (Cynthia Rylant) – personal narrative
When I Was Young in the Mountains (Cynthia Rylant) – personal narrative
Too Many Tamales (Gary Soto) – narrative
*Can I Play Too? (An Elephant and Piggie Book) (Mo Willems) – fiction
*Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale (Mo Willems) – realistic fiction
*A Chair for My Mother (Vera Williams) – personal narrative
*Owl Moon (Jane Yolen) – personal narrative; great for teaching descriptive details
Opinion or Persuasive Writing Mentor Texts:
*One Word from Sophia (Jim Averbeck)
*Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (Doreen Cronin) – can also be used to teach letter writing
Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School (Mark Teague) – can also be used to teach letter writing
Hey, Little Ant (Phillip Hoose)
Should We Have Pets?: A Persuasive Text (Sylvia Lollis)
I Wanna Iguana (Karen Kaufman Orloff) – can also be used to teach letter writing
I Wanna New Room (Karen Kaufman Orloff) – can also be used to teach letter writing
The Perfect Pet (Margie Palatini)
Earrings (Judith Viorst)
*Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! (Mo Willems)
*Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! (Mo Willems)
Informational / How-To / Nonfiction / Expository Writing Mentor Texts:
*All About Sharks (Jim Arnosky)
*Surprising Sharks (Nicola Davies)
Solids, Liquids, And Gases (Rookie Read-About Science) (Ginger Garrett)
*How a House Is Built (Gail Gibbons) – how-to book
The Bicycle Book (Gail Gibbons)
*The Pumpkin Book (Gail Gibbons) – one page has a how-to
*Make a Valentine (Book shop) (Dale Gordon) – how-to book
All Kinds of Habitats (It’s Science!) (Sally Hewitt)
Chameleons Are Cool (Martin Jenkins)
The Abcs of Habitats (Abcs of the Natural World) (Bobbie Kalman)
Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs! (Kathleen Kudlinski)
*What Is Weather? (Ellen Lawrence)
*How to Make Salsa (Jamie Lucero) – how-to book
What Is the World Made Of? All About Solids, Liquids, and Gases (Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld)
All of these texts can be used with my Kindergarten, first, or second grade writing units or writing bundles, which you can find here:
Five Tips for Using Mentor Texts
Now that I’ve shared some of my favorite mentor texts, let’s talk about how to use them effectively in the classroom! Here are five things that I do when working with writing mentor texts:
1. Before utilizing a book as a mentor text, I read it aloud to students for purposes of enjoyment and comprehension. Students need an opportunity to understand, enjoy, and discuss a text before they are asked to think about it as writers. I always read aloud the mentor text a day or two before I use it in a writing lesson.
2. I use modeling and clear, explicit language to teach students how to “read as writers.” I explain that people read books for many purposes – for pleasure, to learn, and to grow as writers. I like to read a familiar book aloud to students and think aloud as I “read it as a writer.” I comment on what I notice about character development, how the author introduces a problem, the author’s word choice, the author’s use of punctuation marks, how the illustrations complement the words, and so on.
3. I use the same mentor text for multiple writing lessons. While it’s helpful to expose students to many different mentor texts, you can also use a single text for multiple minilessons. In my second grade writing workshop curriculum, for example, I use the book Amazing Grace (Mary Hoffman) to teach students how to include a problem in a story, write a strong ending, and incorporate dialogue. This saves us time, because students are already familiar with the text so we can dive right into the teaching point of the minilesson.
4. I use mentor texts to guide my own planning. When I sit down to plan a writing unit, I sometimes struggle to determine what, exactly, I want my students to be able to do as writers of the genre we’re working on. When this happens, I spend some time carefully examining mentor texts on my own. For example, if I’m planning a nonfiction unit, I take out a couple of children’s nonfiction books and pay attention to how the authors convey information. Are examples given? Does the author provide definitions of important works? Is the information organized into categories – and if so, how? These are all strategies that I can teach students to use as they learn nonfiction writing.
5. I teach students to learn about writing from the books they read independently. I show students that, as they read, they can also grow as writers. You might have students keep a list of interesting words they find in books, and then encourage them to share these words with the class and try them out in their own writing.
Do you have any favorite mentor texts or tips for using them? Please comment below – I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Disclosure: Amazon affiliate links are included in this post.