Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Studying Mentor Texts
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Slice of Life: Studying Mentor Texts

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI think what you are describing is a touchstone text not a mentor text. I see mentor texts differently. 

I pause to consider.

A mentor text is something you return to again and again. You truly study a mentor text. It is an additional teacher in the room.

 After having this conversation with Lynne Dorfman I immediately went home and started rereading her book Mentor Texts. Here is a definition I copied and posted on my desk:

“Mentor texts are pieces of literature that we return to again and again as we help our young writers learn how to do what they may not yet be able to do on their own. It offers myriad possibilities for our students and for ourselves as writers. And we, as teachers of writing, will never be alone again if we have mentor texts stored in our classrooms. Writers can imitate the mentor text and continue to find new ways to grow.”

I have been confusing mentor texts and touchstone texts. Do I have a mentor text? What text have I returned to again and again?

 This question continued to nag me. I looked through picture books, short texts, and professional books. Everything was more of a touchstone text. Then I noticed a pattern in some of Lynne Dorfman’s comments to me on my blog – there she was pushing my thinking again! She noticed a pattern to my structure. I pattern I was not even fully aware of:


Then it hit me! I know my mentor text. I know where I studied how to make a connection between life and the work we do as educators.  I think about it all the time. It was a structure I loved from the moment I read it and I think it is just in me.

frankiNow that I finally connected my mentor text with my process the difference between a touchstone and a mentor text has become crystal clear! I knew what I needed and just where to find it! Carrie Gelson – a poem she wrote in February. I had printed this poem as soon as I read it. Poetry was a goal for me during the March Slice of Life Challenge. I realize now that her writing inspired this poem and this narrative.  I love the mood and tone Carrie creates in her writing. It is calming and propelling at the same time. I have been rereading this poem all month, but I didn’t realize it had been a mentor for me.

In April, we are celebrating poetry. Poetry Friday is a part of our celebration. We have not written a lot of poetry – so this is a true stretch for us. Here are the mentor texts we are using in addition to Carrie’s poem:




Mary Lee


We look forward to playing with poetry and reflecting on the process of using mentor texts to

“…slow down the process and help students become
aware of the hows and whys of writing. It provides an
opportunity for students to play or experiment as writers.”

Mentor Texts, Dorfman and Cappelli

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    Posted at 11:20h, 12 April Reply

    Thanks for this, Clare. When Lynne and I were writing Mentor Texts, we really thought about what that meant to us. Some people use the term touchstone texts, but we definitely saw it differently. It helped us clarify our thinking and better understand ourselves and our teaching. Looking forward to more of your poetry! It’s always good to stretch a little.

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    Erika Victor
    Posted at 11:24h, 12 April Reply

    Wow! I love your thinking here and your evolution of thinking and wow, thanks for sharing Carrie’s poem! Oof, I have lots more reading to do now!

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    lynne dorfman
    Posted at 11:26h, 12 April Reply

    I am so glad I read this piece today, and I am truly touched. We find our mentor texts and often connect them with a mentor author and the body of his/her work. You have many talents, Clare, and a true gift for taking stories from your life and connecting them to the work we do as educators. This piece is a great energy boost to me as Rosie and I continue to fashion the second edition of Mentor Texts for a 2017 publication. Thank you, Clare, for this sincere, thoughtful piece on mentor texts and mentors.

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    Posted at 11:28h, 12 April Reply

    LOVE this post, Clare! Always helping me to reflect on my practice. Lynne and Rose’s book is SO valuable. Thanks for bringing this concept back to my attention.

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    Carrie Gelson
    Posted at 13:21h, 12 April Reply

    Clare, I am so honoured. And – I learned so much in this post and your reflections here. Many thanks.

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    Karen Szymusiak
    Posted at 16:13h, 12 April Reply

    Will be thinking about mentor texts and touchstone texts. I can see why those you have chosen impact your writing. Loved Franki’s piece – I always have – it was brilliant. Thanks for sharing Carrie’s poem. Such great writing.

    I always learn from your posts. Thanks so much.

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    Linda Baie
    Posted at 18:10h, 12 April Reply

    I’ve always enjoyed everything you share, Clare, both personally and professionally, wish I had a chance to work with you in your schools, would be a joy. You have much to teach about questioning and learning! I’m honored to have a poem be a mentor text for you, and I do understand those differences between the “mentor text” and the “touchstone text”, although it feels as if a “mentor” can become a “touchstone” depending on time and place. Thanks for your thoughtful ways!

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