At TpT, we believe in the collective wisdom of teachers. As part of our work to elevate the expertise of our community, we want to shine a spotlight whenever we can on Teacher-Author experts and highlight what we already know to be true: that the resources created by them are effective.
One of these teacher-experts, Jessica Ivey of Ideas by Jivey, conducted a 30-week study during the 2016-17 school year to evaluate the effectiveness of her Mentor Sentences curriculum. The research team at TpT was interested in understanding the impact of the Mentor Sentence curriculum and undertook an evaluation of her study. After analyzing the results, TpT found that using Mentor Sentences Unit Volume 1 by Ideas by Jivey led to a statistically significant improvement in the writing styles of 3rd-5th graders, with promising results for grammar and mechanics.
Let’s dive into what mentor sentences are, TpT’s findings on their effectiveness, and how you can get started with mentor sentences (whether you’re in the classroom or teaching remotely).
What are mentor sentences?
A mentor sentence is an exemplary sentence taken from books or passages that students are already working with in the classroom (Anderson, 2006). Through discussion, analysis, and imitation, students can learn how to apply the style, grammar, and mechanics that are presented within a mentor sentence in their own writing.
Mentor sentences provide many opportunities for learning. With a single sentence, you can expose your students to a variety of essential skills from grammar to literary devices (Anderson, 2006). For instance, if you’re going over punctuation and want to teach your students how they might use a semicolon correctly, you could use a mentor sentence to show them what the correct usage of it looks like (NCTE, 2016). Similarly, if you’re teaching students about figurative language, you can use mentor sentences to demonstrate examples of what it looks like in practice.
The effectiveness of the Mentor Sentences curriculum
After analyzing the results, TpT found that using Mentor Sentences Unit Volume 1 by Ideas by Jivey led to a statistically significant improvement in the writing styles of 3rd-5th graders, with promising results for grammar and mechanics. In addition, preliminary evidence from TpT’s evaluation suggests that using mentor sentences as a supplemental instructional routine is an effective way to improve students’ writing overall. Download our report to read more key findings from the case study.
Getting started with mentor sentences
The Mentor Sentences curriculum by Ideas by Jivey establishes a 15-minute routine in which each week a teacher uses a sentence from a text that students have already read and then each subsequent day follows an established routine of teacher instructions for each day. This routine was adapted from the concepts presented by Jeff Anderson, the author of Mechanically Inclined.
Teaching mentor sentences remotely
As teaching has shifted to a digital classroom setting, so has the way that instruction is being delivered. Here are step-by-step instructions from Ideas by Jivey on how you can adapt the mentor sentences routine for virtual learning.
Of course, not everyone has access to video chat platforms. And not every student will be able to join live sessions. In those instances, Ideas by Jivey recommends that you set up your phone in selfie mode, use your webcam, or even screen-record your desktop to record and talk through each day.
Can’t video anything? Write out the work just like you would on the board in the classroom and snap a picture! This could even be sent as a text message or email to parents if students don’t have access to a computer.