Here’s the thing about narrative writing- for some students it is completely effortless. The words just flow and they can craft these amazing and creative tales without a ton of guidance. However, in every classroom, you’ll find students who are just completely confused and frustrated by writing their own stories. It’s an overwhelming ask for some of our learners. This is where good scaffolding and mentor texts come into play.
What Is A Mentor Text?
Mentor texts offer writers examples of concepts you’re teaching to your students. They are read alouds that show your learners how to apply what they’re learning. Mentor texts are used to model everything from excellent uses of dialogue to the use of sensory detail in narratives.
Teaching Narrative Writing Using Mentor Texts
Narrative writing can go in two big directions for our writers- personal & fictional. Within these two are narrative writing elements that you’ll want to showcase to your students. I like to focus on dialogue, focusing on small moments and experiences, using sensory details, using their imagination, and providing a clear ending. Presenting your students with high-quality examples of all these is a great way to teach them to think like writers. Check out the teaching narrative writing in the primary classroom post if you need some more ideas for instruction.
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Personal Narrative Mentor Texts
These mentor text examples teach students to focus on small personal moments from their own lives to create rich and entertaining stories.
#1 – Jabari Jumps
by Gaia Cornwall
Jabari Jumps is a classic on many mentor text lists for good reason. It tells the story of Jabari as he goes through the emotional rollercoaster of jumping off the diving board at a local pool. It is such a great example of taking a small personal moment and focusing on it to write a narrative.
by Penda Diakite
Similar to Jabari Jumps, this story centers around something your students are sure to be familiar with- losing a tooth. I love that it shows students there are a lot of different ways to experience such a familiar moment.
by Sarah Jung
This book focuses on the significance mandarin tree and a boy’s struggle with a father who can’t be home much. The main character describes his experience with his father’s long absences. You can use this story to talk about personally challenging moments in a student’s life.
Fictional Narrative Mentor Texts
These books will show your students that in addition to being personal narratives can be fantastical and magical.
#4 – Lift
by Mihn Le
I love this story because students connect to it on a few different levels. They will relate to having a sibling and all the frustrations that come with that. Use this mentor text to discuss making something magical out of something normal.
#5 – Looking for Jumbies
by Tracey Baptiste
This is a fun story about a girl named Naya who goes looking for creatures from folklore called jumbies. I like using it to talk about stories they may know and how they can be used as inspiration to create their own narratives.
#6 – Beekle
by Dan Santat
Dan Santat is not only the incredibly talented illustrator of Mihn Le’s Lift mentioned above but he’s also an author in his own right. I love using this story to talk to my students about writing narratives that present something we’re all familiar with- the imaginary friend- and looking at it from a different viewpoint.
Mentor Texts That Use Descriptive Language
The authors of these two books use wonderfully descriptive language to talk about favorite foods. These mentor texts showcase how using sensory words bring narrative writing to life.
by Kevin Noble Maillard
This book tells the story of making delicious fry bread. The author describes the sound, shape, color, and taste as he tells the story of beloved family food. Ask your students to focus on the interest and richness all the descriptions bring to the narrative.
#8 – Paletero Man
by Lucky Diaz
Spending hot summer days chasing down the ice cream man is an experience we can all relate to. Use this book to describe creating a rich setting and building excitement in a narrative.
Mentor Texts With A Nice Sense of Closure
Sometimes when students write their own narratives they can get a little lost in the weeds of the story and forget to wrap things up. These narrative mentor texts provide readers with a satisfying conclusion.
by Flavia Z. Drago
Gustavo is a shy ghost who has difficulty meeting new friends. This story has all the story elements we want to see in student narratives with a happy ending to round it out. The illustrations are colorful and interesting and your students will connect to the shy little ghost.
by Jason I. Miletsky
This is a fantastic book that showcases the importance of friendship and perseverance. It has a wonderful message and a satisfying conclusion. I also really like using it to showcase examples of dialogue and how adding in minor characters to a narrative can add interest.
by Isabel Pinson
The story of Bubbe’s Bat Mitzvah is based on a true story of a girl helping her grandma achieve something she never thought she would. It focuses on one specific event, a Bat Mitzvah, and provides readers with a nice sense of closure. This is a great story for working on sequencing as well.
Mentor Texts About Writing Narratives
If your students are getting stuck right at the beginning you can read the two books below. They’re good ways to begin a narrative writing unit or as a break if students become frustrated.
#12 – Ralph Tells A Story
by Abby Hanlon
This is a great one for reluctant writers. Ralph thinks he has nothing to write about but he couldn’t be further from the truth.
#13 – The Best Story
by Eileen Spinelli
This mentor texts is for those students who struggle with coming up with their own ideas. You know the students who retell other stories as their own? Use this story to discuss using your own voice when writing a narrative.
Narrative Writing, Mentor Texts, & Visual Rubrics
Don’t forget to use these mentor texts to model, model, model. As you read the mentor texts above use them to create visual rubrics for your students to refer to during their own writing. There’s a great visual rubric included in the Writing Bulletin Board.
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Writing Bulletin Board Set