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Using Mentor Sentences to Teach Grammar in Middle School



Hey friends,

I recently just finished my first set of Middle School Mentor Sentences. As I've started talking about and posting about Mentor Sentences, I've realized that most teachers fall into the following categories when it comes to implementing mentor sentences:

1. I have no idea what mentor sentences are, but I am intrigued now. 

2. I have seen mentor sentences, but didn't really know where to start. 

3. I have seen mentor sentences, but most ideas seem to be for elementary students, and I want to implement them with my middle school students. 

I was in the third category. I have seen tons of stuff and ideas for mentor sentences for elementary students. Now, to be fair, I have seen some ideas and examples for mentor sentences for middle school, but there was nothing comprehensive for a middle school classroom, and there definitely wasn't anything challenging enough for what I needed for my middle school students. 





I'm a big believer in scaffolded instruction to cover tough concepts like 7th and 8th grade grammar skills (which I have to Google on the daily). 

With these in mind, I realized I really needed to make something that was ready to go for my students every week, much like the resources that I saw for elementary students. 

From what I have seen about mentor sentences, most follow a structure where students make their own noticings about the mentor sentence for the week, on Mondays. After that, the rest of the week is spent focusing on working with the sentence and grammar/language skills for the rest of the week. 

This idea is a true conceptual way for students to build on their knowledge of language and to continue to build their knowledge each week. 

The image below is what a typical week looks like in my middle school ELA classroom: 


In order to prevent students from saying, "I don't notice anything," I created the following Monday Musings sheets for students to reference each Monday. I laminated some for each of my table groups and taped them to a desk. I also made chart papers to make sure they have no excuses for what they need to do. 

Eventually this becomes second nature to students, but in the beginning, it's definitely a necessity. 




As a teacher who has gone from 5th to 6th and then to 7th and 8th grade, I've realized that my needs for my students change each time I move grade levels. So even if I use the same concepts or structures in each of the grades, I often need to make adjustments based on the challenge I need my students to have or the amount of time I have in my class periods. 

Because of that, I created three different options (each one with my three different schools and grade levels in mind) hopefully to meet all your needs too. 

 This first option is great if students have binders or if you want them to turn them in each week. I love that this is set up for them, so there are no questions on what they should do each day. The con would be that they might want to try and do all they work ahead of time (not the end of the world-- but something that could and probably will happen). Also, it does require copies each week. My first school, this would have been no problem, because we had limitless copies. Since then, my last two schools just don't give us much in the way of copies, so this isn't the format I use. 


The following is the option I use in my 7th and 8th grade English classroom. We use A TON of interactive notebooks so by about week two of school, my kids are masters at cutting and gluing. There are 8 sentences per page, so it only take me about 3 copies for each of my classes, and most importantly, it ensures that my students don't copy the sentence down incorrectly because #icanteven. 


I also know how difficult the first years of teaching middle school English are. I lived and breathed for answer keys and examples, so I have possible answers for each week. I have gotten better as I've created these resources so the examples and answers will get better as I continue to make the quarters ;), but it definitely helps to have a start. 


These are some examples of what they might look like in your classroom.




This is the final option I have for you to use (for those of you who have absolutely no copies and/or want something more digital). These are just slides to project. The only issue with these is that students might copy the mentor sentences down incorrectly, but other than that, these are great option as well. 



I had already tried to outline the Tuesday lessons to the assessments that I created for Fridays, but I realized I need to have much more explicit instruction for students to learn the grammar skills. Because of that, I have created simple interactive notebook lessons for students and teachers to use each Tuesday. They are a little overloaded in the beginning, but they slow down as the students learn more skills. 


Here is a lesson that I teach before we even start using the mentor sentences:




Here is an example of lessons based on the mentor sentence for week one. The first week has a few lessons, but it's something that the students will need to notice each week. 






I have also created assessments that students will do each Friday. The assessments are based on the mentor sentences and the pre-selected language skills and lessons that are taught on Tuesdays. Each assessment comes with answer keys. Even if you didn't use the Tuesday lessons, you could still look at the assessments to make sure students have an understanding of the skills that will be assessed on Friday. 





The Mentor Sentences Growing Bundle is posted this summer in case you do want to save money. The first two quarters are already included and then you can just redownload as I upload the other quarters.

I will try to keep you all posted as I learn more and build more resources to help us all implement mentor sentences in a Middle School English classroom. 


25 comments

  1. Looking forward to the growing bundle! Your Bell Ringers and Literature Notebook were really effective this year. I can't wait to use the mentor sentences!

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  2. I am seriously considering using your resources this year in 6th grade. Thanks for posting real examples.

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  3. I have read some of your IG posts and just read this blog post and purchased the bundle. I find one of the areas my students in 6th grade struggled most with last year is grammar and English skills - they just don't get that specific instruction like they used to, and unfortunately it doesn't always work to do it WITHIN their big writing pieces when they don't have a starting or reference point. I have been looking for something to supplement some of that direct grammar instruction and I am thinking this will be great! I wondering if the book you posted on IG about had any data for how this type of instruction improves student writing?

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  10. The lessons are not really lessons. They are just interactive notebook foldables. Am I missing something? I teach 8th-grade students with SLDs and writing out the lesson info is a no go. I'm looking for the details from the lesson in a digital format. Is this available?

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  15. How much time do spend in each class period on mentor sentneces? We are required to get so much in, during each class period, I just want to be sure there will be enough time.

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