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Thursday, September 26, 2013

September Swap and Share: Ideas by Jivey's Mentor Sentences

I am so excited to participate in September Swap & Share!  I swapped with my BBB and the super talented teacher and blogger, Jivey, at Ideas by Jivey!  We swapped a product from our TpT stores and tested them out with our classes.
Jivey is a fellow 4th grade teacher, so it was a perfect match!
I already knew that I would be implementing her mentor sentences with my 4th grade ELA classes this year so it was an easy choice for the swap.  I could barely wait to get back in the swing of school to try it out for the first time!  
Here is the preview of her First 10 weeks of Mentor Sentences:
 They are on sale right now at 20% off from 9/26-9/29 in her TpT store!!
I printed the unit out and placed it in its own binder.  
Here is the Table of Contents.  I still want to add dividers for each week.
Last spring I was wondering what these "Mentor Sentences" were all about.  I wasn't really sure.  So, I purchased two books recommended by Jivey.  
They are Everyday Editing and Mechanically Inclined by Jeff Anderson.  I highly recommend these books to anyone considering using mentor sentences in their classroom.  It just opened my eyes to a new world of how to teach grammar and developing good habits as writers.  As stated in Everyday Editing, here is a quote by Francine Prose in Reading Like a Writer (2006) that really hit home for me:  "One essential and telling difference between learning from a style manual and learning from literature is that any how-to book will, almost by definition, tell you how not to write...a pedagogy that involves warnings about what might be broken and directions on how to fix it--as opposed to learning from literature, which teaches by positive model."

Jivey's Mentor Sentences product adheres to this philosophy outlined in Jeff Anderson's books by teaching writing and grammar using example mentor sentences from carefully selected texts.  Each week there is a new text that the "mentor sentence" was taken from.  
I officially began using mentor sentences last week with my 4th grade ELA classes (three of them since we are departmentalized).  Last week was my second full week of school.  The mentor text was First Day Jitters which I had already read to my classes on the first day of school.  Although I was nervous to get started and wasn't sure how it would all work out since this was a brand new way to approach grammar for me, Jivey's directions in her pack couldn't have been more clear.  She clearly lays out all the directions, answer keys, and the layout is so user friendly!  

This is a picture of a student's work for that first week of mentor sentences.  As you can see from my labels, each day there is a new "invitation" for students.  
Using Mentor Sentences to teach grammar
As Jeff Anderson states in Everyday Editing, "Yes, we deal with whole texts--but zooming in on a whole sentence can be very effective.  By zooming in, kids can more easily discover the patterns we want them to identify and use...It's far more inviting for students to concentrate on what works in a sentence than to rip one to shreds.  After all, writing is an art."

So, that first day, I passed out the mentor sentence, students glued it in their journal, we read it together and I asked them what they "noticed" about the sentence.  Me: "Is there anything you notice or observations you can make about this sentence?"  You could have heard a pin drop!  Even my top students were puzzled.  So, I gave them some ideas without focusing on parts of speech.  I asked, what do you know about Sarah?  Then, hands shot up!  
Student: "I know Sarah is nervous."  
Me: "How do you know?"  
Student: "It's the first day of school."
Me: "Do you know that from this sentence?"
Student: "Yes, because it says her hands are cold and clammy."

Bingo!  Do you see the value here?  TEXT BASED EVIDENCE!!  Time spent each day on Mentor Sentences (10-15 minutes) is not simply teaching grammar as an isolated skill.  It is teaching the students to notice the vocabulary and word usage of a sentence to determine its meaning.  They are learning how to use the sentence or text to make inferences. At the same time, they are also noticing examples of good writing and applying those examples to their own work!  Genius!!  

My students' favorite day was probably Thursday where they were given the "Invitation to Imitate".  Everyone was so proud to share their sentence with the class and then I chose two examples from each section to post on my "OWL"standing sentences pocket chart.  They were able to write with a marker (ooo la la!) on a colored sentence strip for all the 4th grade to see.  I focused on choosing sentences that made sense and used vivid adjectives (many students love using the adjectives bad, good, big, and fat!).  I keep telling myself that it was only week one. :)
Since I have three ELA classes, I decided to write the sentence using Notebook software to display on my SMART Board each day.  I forgot to take a screen shot of day one where we brainstormed what we noticed but you can see from the student example above, we only recorded a couple things.  I didn't want to overwhelm them this first day and took their lead.  We added to the file on Tuesday by labeling the parts of speech, on Wednesday we wrote a revised sentence, and I typed a student example in for Thursday's invitation to imitate.  Everyone had their own example written in their notebook.

The grammar topic that we discussed in more detail during week one was subject/predicate and possessive nouns.  You can see part of our notes from the mini lesson in the student's notebook picture.   I am using pages from our reading series (Treasures) grammar book component for notes and some practice with the skill.  The students cut out the definition from the handout to glue in their journal.  Then, when the students refer back to it later, all of them can actually read it!  
Note:  Fourth graders are not the best notetakers and many of them can't read notes later. :)

Here is a picture of the chart paper displayed in the classroom with the table of contents for grammar.  The front of our journal will be used for work on writing and responding to texts while the back of our journals (starting on the last page and working backward) will be used for grammar mini lessons with notes and mentor sentences.  I used the notebooks in a similar way last year but this is my first time trying to use a table of contents for both sections.  We'll see how that works and what tweaks I will make for next year. :)
Jivey also made this Interactive Language Arts Notebook Companion to First Ten Weeks: Mentor Sentences!  This pack includes an interactive notebook element for a grammar skill each week.   
This is an amazing addition to mentor sentences!!  Only the First Ten Weeks Companion is available right now but Jivey has assured me that she is working on companions for the other two units and the second one is well on its way to being finished! :)  I used the possessive nouns foldable for week one:  

Here is the mentor sentence for week two from Enemy Pie displayed on my SMART Board.  Remember how I could hear a pin drop when I asked them what they noticed in week one?  Already by the second week, this had improved!  This time, I had them write down a couple things they noticed independently and then we shared.  
Many of them stated what they knew about Dad since last week we wrote that we knew Sarah was nervous.  One student said, "Dad is happy."  Here was a teachable moment!!  

Student: "I know Dad is happy."
Me:  "How do you know he is happy from this sentence?"
Student: "He has pie and ice cream."
Me: "Yes, he is dishing up pie and ice cream and maybe serving himself too."
Student: "Yep."
Me:  "Is it possible that someone could be dishing up pie and ice cream and NOT be happy?"
Class:  "Yes."  (Many students are nodding too!)
Me: "So, we cannot say for sure that Dad is happy based on just the clues from this one sentence."

I LOVE it!!  This is what students struggle with.  When they are asked to give text based evidence to support their responses, they have a difficult time finding where those clues are exactly.  So, just in this couple minutes of class discussion, we were practicing another essential skill for reading and writing.

Here is what we brainstormed in one class.  In every section, someone pointed out that "big" and "giant" are adjectives.  Wahoo!!  Not one student pointed out that in week one "cold" and "clammy" were adjectives!  I couldn't be more excited to see how using mentor sentences in the classroom will affect my students' reading and writing!

I already own First Day Jitters and Enemy Pie, but I asked to borrow the other books from our school library.  They are always great about letting me borrow anything I need for any amount of time (well, I have to return them within a couple months!).  Our librarian also said that maybe for next year she could order the couple she had to borrow on interlibrary loan so that we have a copy in our school! Yay!  Here are the next few weeks all checked out of the library (free!) and waiting for us. :)
Are you still not sure if you want to take the plunge and try Mentor Sentences?
 Download this freebie Mentor Sentence example from Jivey's store and try it out!

You can also purchase Set One, Set Two, or Set Three for 20% off from now until Sunday!!

Still not sure?  Watch this video of mentor sentences in action that Jivey has created in her classroom!

I also wanted to announce the winner of my Pin It To Win It contest Danielson Pack real quick:
Joan, please email me at lillycharlie2915@gmail.com and I will send you the pack! 
I don't have your email as you are a "no reply blogger".  

Now, check out these other September Swap and Share posts! :)


  1. Yes! You totally made my day! My email is JWtchr@comcast.net I am so excited to have this resource as I begin my evidence binder this year. Loved your post on mentor sentences. I'm trying the freebie to see how it works with my 3rd graders. Thanks for the link to the video, too!

  2. OMG!! This post about mentor sentences could NOT have been written at a better time. I talked to my 4th grade teaching partner about trying mentor sentences yesterday, and today we made the decision to buy the packets that Jivey made. We're super excited about the prospect of getting some real results from the kids, and teaching them writing style. I'm sure it will payoff in spades on the state 4th grade writing test.

    Thanks for posting about your experience! (this one post covers "everything you ever wanted to know about mentor sentences"). I'm sending this to my partner so she can see what this is all about.

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  3. Yeah, so I bought the first 10 weeks and your post reminded me that I'm gonna need the next units, so I just went & bought 'em both :)