Making students better writers and independent learners by helping students to discover the crafts and structures within mentor texts that accomplished authors use.

by Lyon Terry

Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12


I believe passionately that kids need to have independent learning skills. I want my students to discover excellent writing and model the features and characteristics of what makes great writing great.

We “unpack” what I call “mentor texts” to discover the strategies, tricks and crafts that good writers use to produce compelling work.  Students can then try out these strategies in their own writing as a way to first imitate and practice good writing technique before moving on to produce their own original work.

One of things I like to do is use charts where students write their favorite lines and then we investigate which of the lines are repeated a lot. We go further and discuss what technique the author was using, for example, a simile or a sensory image.

I like to leave the charts up throughout the year as a reminder of all of the crafts and techniques we’ve discovered so that kids can continuously refer to them when producing their own writing.


What I did well…

In this instructional sequence, I’m effective in intentionally layering the integration of reading, writing, speaking and listening when asking participants to examine visual text and make judgments about what the images are telling us as readers.  Encouraging our students to read with a critical eye is imperative if we want them to be savvy and informed consumers of text, and the demonstration of using linked communication skills to work through an argument is visible in this brief clip.  I also like the way I’ve elicited critical thinking in just a short amount of time.  And finally, I really like presenting images as text—our way of interpreting the world around us is visual, and I like presenting the argument of visuals to students to push their thinking about how we are provided information.

What I would do more of, better, or differently…

In this sequence, I wish I had pushed the thinking of the participants just a bit more in encouraging some pushback on the statements—driving them to argument faster.  There were some opportunities in which I could have pushed the conversation, and given a second chance, I might have encouraged it.  Afforded a bit more time, we might have even recorded all of the participants’ thoughts on chart paper and pushed thinking that way.  

I still want to grow in this practice by…

I want to continue to build text sets that have meaning for my students, and I know one way to ensure that work happens is by encouraging their contributions for both content and materials.  My students respond well to short informative texts, and appreciate the use of audio/images/video as texts within a set.  What power would there be in allowing students to build the body of work into which we do a deep dive at understanding and formulating arguments?!?

About Lyon Terry

Lyon Terry teaches 4th grade for Seattle Public Schools at Lawton Elementary School where he has the role of Master Teacher. 20015-16 is his 18th y...

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