Mini-Mentors for Literary Analysis(+ a Sneak Peek at a BIG New Project!)

Catch up on the whole mini-mentors series! Mini-Mentors for Review Writing, Prompt-Based Writing, and Revision!

Guess what I’ve been working on? A series of FREE YouTube Mini Moves videos that will teach your students about writing moves and how to incorporate them into their own writing! This first sneak peek video teaches them one of the moves for literary analysis that you’ll find below! We are releasing three more mini-moves videos from the literary analysis series below — one each week of this month! PLEASE like, subscribe, and share widely! We can’ wait to hear what you think!

In the previous iterations of this series, I’ve suggested some ways you might use these mini-mentors in your own classroom: as sentence study warm-ups, as whole-class lessons, in small-group and individual writing conferences. But, you’ll notice something different and special about today’s mini-mentors for literary analysis. They all come from a single mentor text.

Here’s the story:

I was reading around the Internet a few days ago (always looking for mentor texts), and I came across an incredibly brilliant piece of literary analysis by Zadie Smith in the New Yorker. Treat yourself. Take a minute and read it. It’s stunning.

But like so many pieces of incredibly brilliant, stunning writing, it is dense. And complicated. And, to be honest, I don’t even know if I could have used it in its entirety with the IB seniors I taught a few years ago.

It’s amazing. And it’s a lot.

This is a question Allison and I get a lot about using mentor texts to teach writing: What if my kids can’t read at the level of the mentor text?

Part of the answer is simple: if you need to use a whole mentor text and your students won’t be able to comprehend the text you’ve found, you need to find a different text. We can’t ask students to find and use writing moves in a text they can’t understand.


If your students can’t make it through the whole text (because it’s too long, too complicated, not-wholly-appropriate, etc.) , but they can understand smaller chunks, you can teach that text by excerpting mini-mentors.

So, what moves of literary analysis might I teach my students using Zadie Smith’s piece on Toni Morrison?

Make a copy of these mini-mentors HERE!

Look at all students can learn about making claims, using supporting evidence, and writing literary analysis with voice and style from Zadie Smith without getting bogged down in writing that is maybe just too much.

Do you need to use all of these mini-mentors? Absolutely not! You know what your students need and will benefit from most. Use one or two. Consider using some as stations in a gallery walk where students study some mini-mentors and choose the moves they want to bring into their own piece. Or save these for that handful of students who are suddenly “finished” on day two and need a little bit extra to keep them thinking and engaging with their writing.

I’d love to hear how YOU have used the mini-mentors in this series OR mini-mentors that you have found for yourself! Please share in the comments!

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