Mentor Text Wednesday: Inspiring Mentor Texts


Mentor Texts:

“Repetition” by Phil Kaye

“In Childhood” by Sarah A. Chavez

Skill: Seeking inspiration from outside sources

Most discussions about writer’s workshop usually center around two components: mini lessons and conferring. They are the favorite children of workshop. But lately Rebekah and I have been turning our attention to mentor texts.

When students leave us in June, mentor texts will remain as the sole source of instruction for students. Not all of them will be lucky enough to enroll in a workshop-style class complete with conferring and mini-lessons the following year. And in college, aside from office hours, they’re on their own. But they will have mentor texts.

With this in mind, we’ve been looking at how to better teach students how to use mentor texts. Recently Rebekah posted a great chart that uses an if-then structure to enable students to utilize mentor texts. The chart notes that students can gain a lot from reading mentor texts, including finding inspiration. I think this an essential piece–helping students seek inspiration from sources other than themselves.

Throughout the year I carefully plan notebook time, bringing in mini mentor texts that may inspire my students to write, as well as offering them prompts that bubble up from these mentor texts. As the year goes on, however, I remove some of this scaffolding and put the responsibility to find the inspiration on my students.

How I Used Them:

We begin by reading (or viewing, in some cases) the mentor texts twice. Then I ask, “What topics, lines, or patterns do you see here that might inspire some of your own writing?”

Students have listened to me present topics, lines, and patterns throughout the year, so they know what I am asking:

  • topics that are present in the mentor text that might inspire some of their own writing

  • lines that might serve as “jumping off points” for their own work

  • sentence patterns they might “try on”

Below you’ll see the two mentor texts I recently used to inspire student writing, as well as the Topics, Lines, and Patterns my students culled from each one.

Mentor Text: “Repetition” by Phil Kaye

Read the transcript here




  • words that hurt me

  • divorce, separation, falling outs

  • family stories

  • routines that become dull unless we “live in a way” that allows us to find joy in them (students made a connection to Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “An Invitation to Ernest Mann”)

  • “My mother taught me this trick”

  • “You watch the sun set too often, it just becomes 6 PM”

  • “Nothing is forever, she said”

  • “___________ is a cage made of mirrors”

  • “Fate is a cruel and efficient tutor”

  • Using the phrase “even now” to show your present perspective

  • Repeating the word “every” and following it with a specific detail before summarizing what these things mean together

Mentor Text: “In Childhood” by Sarah A. Chavez




  • childhood stories

  • poverty stories

  • tricks of the imagination

  • building/making

  • “In childhood, ________ and I…”

  • Last sentence opens with a participial phrase that zooms in on the action, and is followed by a series of four verb phrases that elaborate on the actions

  • Alternating simple and complex sentences

  • Writing a 7 sentence, 8 line poem

When my students leave me, I want them to know how to be a writer, which means, at the most basic of levels, to seek inspiration in everything around you and write into that inspiration.

Which mentor texts inspire writing in your students? Feel free to leave a comment or join us on Twitter @allisonmarchett @rebekahodell1.

– Allison


  1. “seek inspiration in every thing around you…”

    Deep exploration of a subject can sometimes be sparked by a closer examination of even seemingly mundane aspects of life. It’s amazing how the least expected sources can be turned into metaphors for something much deeper.

    1. Thanks for being such a “close examiner” of our blog! We really appreciate the support and thoughtful comments.

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