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Mentor Sentences…The What, Why and How?

Have you heard of mentor sentences?  Do you know how they can be used to support student learning?  Maybe you’ve heard of mentor sentences but have no idea how they work in the classroom. In this post I am going to answer those questions AND share 5 steps for using mentor sentences

What is a Mentor Sentence?

A “Mentor Sentence” is a properly written sentence from a text that is used to help students to learn and practice correct grammar and sentence structure. For our young learners, mentor sentences provide a structure that gives them confidence in expressing themselves both orally and in written form.

How Do Mentor Sentences Help Students?

Let’s face it, our young children love hearing and reading stories over and over again. Mentor sentences create an opportunity to take that love and use it to build student confidence, develop an understanding of sentence structure, and improve speaking, writing and reading skills.  With teacher support, students can use mentor sentences as a scaffold when changing elements in a sentence to create new sentences and new learning. 

As you can see, mentor sentences are a power tool for student learning! But I know what you’re thinking…How Do I Use Mentor Sentences In My Classroom?

5 Steps For Using Mentor Sentences

When working with my students in the classroom, I choose a text that focuses on a skill that we are learning or working on. In Pre-K and Kindergarten, much of the focus is on letter naming and letter sounds. 

For the purpose of this post, I will be using the storybook, 5 Red Apples and Mentor Sentence for Letter A to show you how to implement mentor sentences.

Day 1: READ & SELECT

The teacher selects a sentence for the text to focus on a skill such as:

  • Vocabulary
  • Naming words (nouns)
  • Action words (verbs)
  • Describing words (adjectives)
  • Sentence pattern

In the story 5 Red Apples the mentor sentence is: Anna wants an apple.

The skill is: Naming Words (noun / who?)

Before reading the story, invite students to take a picture walk through the book.

  • Talk about the cover image and have students guess what the story will be about.
  • Look at the pages of the book and describe the illustrations.

Next, read the story and engage the students when the mentor sentence comes up in the story with something as simple as changing your tone of voice when reading the sentence… “Anna wants an apple.” Let students know that they will work with this special sentence all week and do lots of fun learning with it.

Finally, display the mentor sentence strip in a pocket chart, on the board, or write it on chart paper.  Choral read the sentence together as you point to each word.

Day 2: COPY

Now it’s time for students to get some practice with that mentor sentence. Students choral read the sentence and copy it using the Sentence Cut and Paste page. You might think, “Didn’t we read the sentence already?”  Each time children read the sentence you are providing opportunities to practice skills such as:

  • Word matching
  • Word spacing
  • Word recognition
  • Word order

Day 3: LINK

Shared writing time is a great time to discuss the mentor sentence. Students can share ideas of how the sentence can be changed. Make a list of the ideas. For example, in the 5 Red Apples storybook for Letter A, students change the name in the mentor sentence. Of course, students will often suggest their own name. Oh how they love seeing their own name in print!

Shared writing is a fun time for children to see their sentence ideas in print and have the opportunity to meaningfully contribute to the class discussion.

Day 4: IMITATE

At this point, children have had many opportunities to listen to the sentence, recognize the words, and build the sentence. Now, it’s time for the teacher to guide students to make new changes to the mentor sentence as students make connections between text and self.

In the 5 Red Apples storybook, students get to cut and paste the mentor sentence, fill in a word of their choice and then illustrate the sentence. My favorite part of this activity is collecting all papers and creating a Class Book to be included in our Classroom’s library for students to read on their own or with a friend. 

Day 5: RETELL

Picture cards are great to have in your literacy center or in a pocket chart so students can arrange the cards in order and retell the story to a friend. To further encourage my students to retell the story, I give each of them a copy of the small black and white printable storybook so they can take it home to read to a family member. My students also love to put a copy in their book box so they can read it over and over.

As you can see, mentor sentences are great learning tools and now you know how easy they are to implement in your classroom. You and your students are going to love learning with mentor sentences.

 

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