How to improve your teaching practices with Mentor Texts

How to improve your teaching practices with Mentor Texts

Teaching practices can be developed through using the right Mentor Texts and undergoing frequent observation and reflection in the classroom.

On Episode 78 of The Teacher’s Toolkit for Literacy, literacy expert Sharon Callen was joined by Mount Barker South Primary School’s Robert Kennedy, Kate Tucker and Ra Te Whare.

Together, they discussed how teachers can better integrate units of work and evolve their lessons based on what they notice in the classroom.

How to find Mentor Texts

All good literacy teaching practices are supported by strong Mentor Texts. Kate provided insights into how to best search for these texts, what to look for, where to find them, and how to find good recommendations.

“We started by creating our learning map, working out what genres we’re going to do, and then I went and sourced the Mentor Texts. So there was a range of ways I did that. Obviously I used the curriculum document, but I then contacted a few different book companies to get some ideas. Booktopia were fantastic – they were really supportive of me when I gave them a genre, and they’d give a few ideas, especially with persuasive texts and things like that. Then from there, I just basically spent time literally googling good persuasive texts for five to six year olds.And it would just come up with a massive list. So then I just spent time reading reviews and analysing what the book is,” Kate said.

“So the aim is that we go on a two year cycle at our school, so that the texts we’ve got for this year will come back out in two years time. So they get put away in the library, and we like to keep them as new and exciting texts for the students, not so much something that they read on a day-to-day basis.”

Providing options with Mentor Texts

Kate advised that when providing teachers with Mentor Texts, there would be a variety of options to suit both the educator and the classroom needs.

“So with each unit, it’s not just one Mentor Text for teachers to look at. There are options, so if you’re not familiar with one, there might be one in there that you’re already familiar with. This is so supportive for teachers, giving options and then providing that choice. To not just be given a text and saying, okay this is the one you’re using,” Kate said.

“But it’s also about this whole idea of using the mentor text to also generate and drive thinking about planning and crafting ideas with that pre-planning that we do with those texts.”

Noticing and reflecting in the classroom

Mentor Texts aren’t the only resources teachers need to invest in. Investing in deliberate weekly planning, instead of monthly, will allow teachers to adjust and improve their practices based on observations and classroom roving.

“First we meet as teams weekly and we have scheduled time in for that. And I think prior to that, we got really caught up in trying to plan a five week unit or trying to plan the term. Whereas now that we have these weekly meetings, we are planning weekly and everything that we talk about at our meeting is what we’ve noticed from the prior week,” Kate said.

“So if we have been doing paragraph structures, we could go in and assume they know how to do this and they know the strategies. Then once we actually teach, we can reflect on that week. So what we’re doing in our planning is being responsive. The noticings are enabling us to be more responsive to what the group of students need [such as a workshop or mini lesson]. And those changes directly come out of what they were doing and experimenting with and questions students had.”

Find out more on Episode 78 of The Teacher’s Tool Kit for Literacy below and subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotify or Google Podcasts.

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