RIP, Mentor Text Dropbox

Early fall here in Virginia.

This is a love story.

In 2012, Allison and I applied for the same job at a local high school. One position. Two of us. We had never met and were not remotely aware of one another’s existence even though we had shared a couple years at the same university. On a Monday, I got a call from the head of school offering me the position. On Tuesday, Allison got a call from the head of school telling her that he just couldn’t reconcile not hiring her too, so he created another English position and wanted her to take it.

The rest is pretty much history.

We both taught English 9. We taught literally next door to one another. And when, one day, we started talking about writing workshop and mentor texts, one of us (probably Allison) casually said, “Why don’t we share good mentor texts when we find them?” and the other (probably me) said, “What if we just drop them in a folder in Google Drive?”

And that was the Mentor Text Dropbox. For about eight years now, you’ve been looking at that Google folder that one of us shared with the other lo many moons ago.

As many of you have noticed, the Mentor Text Dropbox was basically murdered a few weeks ago. It’s a Google Security Update that caused it (God bless Angela Stockman who figured that out!), and, in practical terms, it’s basically impossible to recover.

While we have loved it fiercely, and while I know it will be disappointing news to many, we are saying goodbye to the Mentor Text Dropbox.

It’s Okay to Say Goodbye

Let’s be honest: the mentor texts in the dropbox were old, and we hadn’t updated it in a VERY long time because, you know, life. The dropbox, though beloved, was not an up-to-date resource.

While we have shared the Dropbox as a starting point for teachers new to mentor text work, it was never meant to be anyone’s entire mentor text diet. We’ve always advocated for finding hot-off-the-presses mentor texts that address the particular needs and interests of the students sitting in front of you this year to the greatest degree possible.

We are trying to be all Kathleen Kelly about this — daring to believe that change can be good.

Instead of mourning this loss, we’d rather view it as an opportunity for you, dear readers, to hone your fishing skills and catch some great mentor texts on your own.

You Can Find Mentor Texts

If you’re going out in search of your own mentor texts, there are a few things that make one great:

  • They are engaging + relevant to your students right now.
  • They are accessible for your students — they are the right reading level and/or the right length.
  • They are professionally crafted — the kind of writing that makes you want to grab a highlighter or scribble little hears in the margin.
  • They are inspiring — you can imagine how your students might use them to create pieces of their own.

As you start searching for mentor texts, you’ll develop your own favorite haunts. Here are a few of ours — the go-to places we begin our mentor text hunts:

  • Our own recreational reading lives
  • New York Times
  • NPR (also has a convenient, built-in audio component!)
  • The Ringer
  • AV Club
  • Pitchfork
  • The Writer’s Almanac
  • American Life in Poetry
  • The New Yorker
  • The Atlantic
  • Teen Vogue

But You Can Still Borrow Ours

We’ve never stopped sharing mentor texts. There are still lots of places to find curated mentor texts that we have used and love or plan to use soon:

  • Twitter! We tweet out promising mentor texts fairly regularly. You can follow us on Twitter (@RebekahODell1, @allisonmarchett) or search for the hashtags #mentortext, #writingwithmentors, #beyondliteraryanalysis. Twitter is where we share our most up-to-date mentor text findings
  • This Blog! This fall, I (Rebekah) have been sharing dozens of mini-mentor texts to teach writing in different genres. Jay has his beautiful Mentor Text Wednesday series that regularly gives you a mentor text and a way to teach with it. Indeed, many, if not most, of the posts on this blog feature mentor texts to help kids write. And we have eight years of archives here, too! (For instance, check out one of my all-time favorite oldie-but-goodies with four ideas for tiny writing units.)
  • The Moving Writers Community! Our membership community features a complete writing unit plan each month with mentor texts (and dozens of archived units)! Not only do you get the mentor texts you need, but you’ll get daily plans for using them, teaching with them, and guiding your students through a writing process. This month’s plan was for a unit on prompt-based writing. Next month, members will get a brand new unit on personal essay writing.
  • Our books! All three of our books contain our Mentor Text Greatest Hits — those perennials we always return to that perfectly encapsulate those things we want to teach our writers. Each book contains QR codes and links and references and online resources that add up to maybe a thousand all-time mentor text greats . Our latest, A Teacher’s Guide to Mentor Texts, even gives you a complete unit plan for op-ed writing. (You can find them here, here, and here.)

Build Your Own Mentor Text Sharing Community

While it was wonderful to put the texts we found in the dropbox, they don’t always meet your needs, your students needs, or your curriculum. So, as we say goodbye to our old friend, here’s a challenge for you: start your own mentor text sharing community. Start a Padlet or a Google folder with likeminded teachers and friends. Share the great mentor texts you find. Start your own mentor text hashtag on Twitter so others can follow what you find.

If you are on a teacher island, and don’t have anyone with whom you can share mentor texts, drop your contact info in the comments below + let’s form some mentor text buddies.

We’re sorry to disappoint those of you who have relied on the dropbox for a long time + were counting on it always being there. She had a good run. Let us know in the comments if you have other ideas for sharing the mentor text love or other go-to sources for mentor texts that never let you down!

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