Friday, June 3, 2016

Mentor Sentences

This will be long, but it will be worth your time. I PROMISE!

Mentor Sentences are all the rage now. They are used to show your students what their writing should look like, opposed to how it was when we were in school where we had to fix the incorrect sentence. It is required at many schools for teachers to implement these into their lessons. Ideas By Jivey is a huge role model for me in the classroom. Last year I signed up for her Mentor Sentence Workshop and I was blown away by everything I learned. 

First off: I am NOT a pro at this. I can only speak from experience and I promise I will be 100% completely honest with this post. 

Secondly: I teach third grade at a Title 1 school. Many of my students come to me working at a level that is two or three below where they should be. I have used all of the excuses before that my kids couldn't do this, but I can now say they CAN DO IT!

Lastly: I'm not being paid for this post. It's not an ad. This post is completely made of my thoughts from the experiences I have had the past three years. 

So here are my thoughts: 

During my first year of teaching I bought unit 1 from Jivey. I didn't know how to implement this into my classroom and I nearly fell apart trying to teach this. I watched the video that she posted showing how she used mentor sentences in her classroom. I immediately thought 'this is not possible' and 'my students come to me so low that we can't label parts of speech like that' and 'how in the world do I only spend 10-15 minutes on this daily?' So I gave up. [bad idea]

But I'm here to tell you that YOU CAN DO IT! I did mentor sentences almost every week this past school year and I saw how much it helped my students' writing progress. If I skipped a week it was because of testing and my kids would always ask why we weren't doing them. I saw a student who at the beginning of the year couldn't write a complete sentence correctly and by the end of the year he was writing three paragraph papers. ON. HIS. OWN. Friends this is real life. 

At Jivey's mentor sentence workshop, SIGN UP if you haven't already, she takes you step by step on how to implement her mentor sentences into your classroom. My biggest take aways from her workshop were: 

  2. You have to let the kids do it. (I will explain later)
  3. Consistency is key! Consistency is key! Say it again: Consistency is key!

Below are examples of how I implemented this into my schedule. I used mentor sentences during my grammar/word study block. That was when I had my ESOL support push in and I thought this would be a great time for that extra support. 

This block in my day was from 12:35-1:15. Mentor Sentences were taught for the first 15 minutes, NO LONGER. Mondays and Tuesdays took us longer (hence why we used the whole 15 minutes, versus the 10ish on other days).

Part of the bundle package, which you can buy on TpT or at her workshop, she has examples of what she does and a schedule. We called the schedule "The Mentor Sentence Menu"  This was glued into the back of their word study notebook so that they could always flip back to it if they needed. *see below* (also each week has a teacher answer key....hallelujah)

"The Mentor Sentence Menu" as we called it

On Mondays I had the kids glue the sentence into their notebook. They read the sentence silently, then I read the sentence, then they whisper read it with a partner. According to the "menu" you are suppose to write everything you notice about the sentence. Here is that 100% honesty I promised you: At the beginning of the year they were noticing things like: there is a period at the end and a capital letter at the beginning. This made my little teacher heart sad. I wanted to help them and give them clues about what else they were seeing, but I knew I couldn't. By the end of the year they were noticing things like: declarative sentence, third person point of view, past tense, simple sentence, italics shows emphasis and many more. This is what you want. You want them to be able to grow on their sentences and become better writers. 

Tuesdays were a bit harder for them. They labeled parts of speech. This was a very difficult task at first. Earlier I mentioned that one of the things I learned at her workshop was --Let them do it. I NEVER gave them answers. They labeled what they could do, then we did it whole group and that was that. If they missed that cat is a noun, then we moved on. At the beginning of the year they struggled and almost begged me to give them clues, but as the year went on they were able to label more words and it made them feel so happy! [proud teacher moment].

Wednesdays were for revising. I sometimes would just tell them different things I wanted them to revise based on what was our grammar focus for the week; nouns, verbs, change the subject, change the point of view, etc. Later in the year they revised it how they wanted. [Again these are just my thoughts and what worked and didn't work for me and my kiddos]

[At some point in the middle of the week I would surprise read our mentor sentence book to the class. When they heard the mentor sentence in the story they were overjoyed. "Did you hear that? That's our sentence!!!" "Guys stop and listen, she said our sentence!"]

Thursdays were their FAVORITE days. After math I would say, "Alright mentor sentence time. Today is Thursday and we..... " and before I could finish my sentence you would hear "YEAHHH!!! IT'S THURSDAY!!!!!" They loved it. As you can see below in the pictures, Thursday really allowed them to be creative. Another incentive was I walked around and picked three or four of my favorite imitations and they would get to write it with markers on computer paper and it would be placed on the outside of our door. [*see below*]

On Fridays they did an Invitation to Edit that is in the bundle from Jivey. This was used to review the sentence and grammar lessons from that week. Some weeks I skipped over this, and other weeks I used it as an assessment grade or as a classwork grade. [I wasn't skipping the Friday task because something was wrong with it, I mainly skipped because of there being a time crunch; schedule changes, school programs and events, etc]

First Mentor Sentence of the year
The image to the left and directly below are from the same student. Take a look at the progress that was made from the first mentor sentence to the last that we completed!

Would you look at that imitation on Thursday? 
This student won me over when she integrated our science content into her Thursday imitation sentence!
As you can see some weeks they weren't able to label every word on Tuesday. And that is okay!

How awesome is this!

If you still aren't sure about buying the mentor sentence package then take a look at her freebies. Owl Moon or The Widow's Broom  or The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. How about Diary of a Worm or When Lightning Comes in a Jar. My kids loved: Come On, Rain! and Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon and The Wretched Stone.

Mentor Sentences have changed my teaching and changed my students' writing for the better! Try them!

1 comment:

  1. I am so so SO glad that you had a great year with mentor sentences! I am so thankful for this amazing testimony, too. Thank you, Lizzie!! <3