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November Math Centers for 1st grade and 2nd grade

13 Mentor Texts for Teaching Narrative Writing

Blog Posts, Literacy, Read Alouds, Writing

Written by: Krys Warstillo

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.

anchor chart for teaching the story elements included in narrative writing

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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.

#2 – I Lost My Tooth in Africa

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. 

#3 – When Father Comes Home

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.

#7 – Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story

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. 

#9 – Gustavo the Shy Ghost

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.

#10 – Ricky, the Rock That Couldn’t Roll

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.

#11 – Bubbe’s Belated Bat Mitzvah

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.

narrative writing visual rubric for 2nd grade classrooms

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Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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