What Comes After Mentor Texts? Student-Created Mentor Text Rubrics

I’ve been on a journey this fall to think about ways to move students toward increasing writing independence. We know mentor texts benefit writers of all ages. We know that isolating the moves writers make helps newer, less-experienced writers demystify the writing process and take their own work to new heights. But we also want to know that all of this mentor text study has made a permanent impact on the writer, not just the writing. We want to know that the writer will be able to recall writing moves, internalizing them, putting them together in new ways. We want to know what comes AFTER mentor texts, and how can we help writers get there.

So, here are some strategies I’ve devised + tried with students so far this year:

Today, I have one more strategy for you: having students create their own mentor text rubrics.

As students become more fluent in mentor text work and more independent in the ways they are applying writing moves across genres and between pieces of writing, we come to a place where it’s helpful for them to receive formal feedback on this work — what’s going well? Where is that move not quite working for them yet?

So, how do we help students do this?

  1. Lead students to identify some writing moves they will try in their current piece of writing.

This is where some of the tools we’ve previously created might come in handy! Students could refer to the class craft glossary or to their own personal writing style decks to select the moves that they will use in their current piece of writing.

You might set a goal number: try to use at least four moves we’ve seen professional writers use this year in your current piece of writing.

Remember: we are trying to get students to use writing moves from previous units and previous mentor texts and transfer them to new writing situations! So, if a student wants to try a technique for adding details that came from a narrative writing unit in an argument writing unit — great! That’s exactly the idea. We want students to become increasingly aware that good writing is good writing across genres and purposes.

2. Guide students to record these moves and commit to them as they write — not at the end.

We do this thinking BEFORE we turn in the writing. This is not a case of “What writing moves accidentally showed up in your work?” This is “What moves are you intentionally using as you’re in the writing process?”

I do this by giving students a blank mentor text rubric. They copy + paste the rubric chart at the bottom of their draft — this way, they can add the different writing moves they are using as they crop up.

You can grab a copy of this rubric here: http://bit.ly/mentortextrubric. Go to File > Make a Copy.

In lieu of a separate rubric, you could also add a few blank lines to your pre-existing rubric for students to fill in with the writing moves they want you to notice and assess in their work. It might look like this (this is one of my rubrics from a personal essay unit) :

Again, even when students are adding onto my rubric, I want them to do this as they write as a way of setting an intention toward using professional writers’ moves not stumbling into it.

Here’s why I think this is a powerful tool: ultimately this is reflection — the process of making meaning of our learning and our intentions. By telling the teacher which moves they are using and which moves the teacher should be able to see, student writers are making a shift. They’re moving from experimentation and into a conversation about effectiveness. Not just “I’m doing this” but “I’m trying to do this well and to strong effect.”


Reflecting on the moves they are trying is just one way writers can reflect in way that is meaningful and pushes their work forward. What are some other activities + exercises we can present to our students to help them reflect as readers AND as writers? On individual assignments? At the end of a term? And how can we use these reflections to help them set goals that will propel them forward?

I am launching an on-demand course at the end of the month that will walk teachers through myriad reflection + goal-setting protocols that they use throughout the year — in the middle of a unit, at the end of a book or a piece of writing — and as larger wrap-ups at the end of terms. We’ll then learn ways to use these reflections to help students create meaningful goals that will actually help them in their future work. An optional course pack will equip you with reproducibles you can take to your students immediately! To learn more + register, head here.

How do you use rubrics to help students reflect and set intentions? How do you encourage students to co-create rubrics alongside you? Leave us a comment to join the conversation or find me on Twitter @RebekahODell1.

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