Teach Mentor Sentences!
Teach Mentor Sentences
Why do I love using mentor sentences? There are so many reasons why using mentor sentences are great for students. I love using mentor sentences in my classroom because they give students the chance to observe quality writing up close. How to teach mentor sentences by allowing students to breakdown a sentence down and see how the author created it in order to create a meaningful sentence for readers. There is a lot of flexibility with how to teach mentor sentences: scavenger hunts and other games, or good ole’ fashion close reading, with colored pencils and a partner. I will stick to the basics on how to use mentor sentences and give examples of mentor authors that I use.
While I am reading a novel I plan to teach, I always write down the sentences that are amazing! This way I do not have to go through books trying to piece together some sentences. I find the best quality sentences and it doesn’t waste or take up extra time. A great practice is to also use the first sentence in novels if it is a dynamic one. Some of the best, most progressive authors who write sentences that include figurative language are: Jason Reynolds, Kwame Alexander, Jacqueline Woodson, Dashka slater, Jewell Parker Rhodes, and more.
The first question is, what are mentor sentences? A mentor sentence is a superbly written sentence. Instead of finding what is wrong with a sentence, students imitate what is right about the sentences grammar, structure, and style. Students will:
1. Observe the sentence
2. Identify the components
3. Analyze their impact
4.Write their own version.
In my mentor sentences product, I use multiple mentor sentences for an opening paragraph, I use popular author’s and best-sellers today that students can relate to. An example by Walter Dean Myers in the book called “Monster” opens with the following sentence: “The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help.” Right away Walter Dean Myers captures the bone-chilling environment of what it is like to be a young man or teen in prison. Students obviously will not relate to what it is like in a prison environment, but they can write about when the best time to cry is. They have also seen movies and prison comes with a natural fear. Students will then mimic the structure of the sentence and create their own. Another mentor sentence similar to this one is by Alan Gratz in “Refugee “when the SS troops break down the front door to take the family to their death, “CRACK! BANG! Josef Landau shot straight up in bed, his heart racing-that sound—it was like someone had kicked the front door in.”
In addition to establishing the setting for the novel, mentor sentences will convey mood. The following is a mentor sentence by Kwame Alexander in “The Crossover“: MOVING AND GROOVING, POPping and ROCKING”. This sentence shows that “The Crossover” has a fun, upbeat mood. Another quote from the same book is as follows: “Gameplay-on the pitch, lightning fast, dribble, take, then make a dash” Note, there are no periods in this poem, in “Booked” by, Kwame Alexander.
The book is also about basketball and this sentence is the main character on the court. The structure is easily visible in that Kwame Alexander doesn’t follow a specific structure and he doesn’t follow the conventional rules of grammar. This engages the atypical reader who struggles with reading. POPping is written in this format to look like the word is actually popping up.
Mentor sentences also set the time period for the setting. The following is a quote from “Rebound” by Kwame Alexander, which is set in the 90’s. You can also hear the nostalgia for simpler times in the author’s voice: “It was the summer when Now and Laters, cost a nickel and The Fantastic Four, a buck. ” Instead of simply stating that it was the time period of the 90’s, he explains popular items and uses the lower cost of items to identify the time period. Later in the book he alludes to Michael Jordan, The Harlem Globetrotters and more.
Jason Reynolds also crafts sentences that are relatable to students. Here is a sentence that uses figurative language, “Dear Diary, because your back, because I brought you back (after spiraling your backbone back into place)-backity back back back.” in Sunny by Jason Reynolds. Students may not relate to the habit of writing in a diary but they can certainly relate to using a notebook in school until the binding or metal comes apart. They may also relate what it’s like to put it back together. For this reason they can create a sentence of their own in relation to Reynolds.
Jason Reynolds references culture and siblings often in his track series, “Patina” in particular: “TO DO: Everything (including forgetting about the race and doing my sister’s hair)”. “Patina” is an African American-as is her younger sister Maddy and Patina has to struggle to comb her sisters hair on a daily basis. Several students can relate to helping take care of a younger sibling, or having an older sibling take care of them. If they do not have a sibling I come up with a different topic such as a pet, or their chores, grandparent, sick parent, etc. We can always find something for them to write about.
Another reason Jason Reynolds appeals to students is because like Kwame Alexander, he does not follow the conventional rules of grammar, and students enjoy mimicking his sentences. For example from his book “Lu” he crafts the following sentence:
The one. The only.”
This is a fun structure, and students enjoy writing about why they are “the man” or “the woman”. When they share with classmates they also learn something about each other that they may not have previously known. It helps to create a safe-collaborative environment for the class.
In this blog post I shared why I love using mentor sentences. This is how I teach mentor sentences. Share how you use them in the comments below!
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