Using Mentor Texts to Teach Reading Skills: a Weekly Routine

I love to use pictures books to teach various reading comprehension skills. I think that students of all ages LOVE to listen to a picture books. They are short and easily digestible, and students are also able to relate to the content or sense of humor that comes with a picture book.

But how do I use picture books in my upper elementary classroom? Well, I start by finding 4-5 books that lend themselves to the reading skills that I am covering for that week. I utilize the I do, we do, you do method to help them master the reading skill.

Mentor Text with Graphic Organizer with text "Theme"

Monday: Introduce the Reading Skill

Each Monday, I introduce a reading skill, typically with a PowerPoint, anchor chart, and graphic organizer. This day is all about ME! I model exactly what I’m thinking, and I choose a book that will allow me to do exactly that. For the first ten reading skills that I teach, I have a blog post with the books that I use to model introducing the reading skill
When I’m reading aloud, I stop and fill in the graphic organizer. I write the things that I’m thinking or the details that might help me make a visualization, draw a conclusion, or provide text evidence. This component will always vary depending on the reading skill that I’m covering. I might call on my students occasionally to ensure that they are following me, but overall, I am modeling the reading, thinking, and writing. 
Three Mentor Texts with Graphic Organizer with Text "Theme"

Tuesday & Wednesday: Guided Practice with the Reading Skill

Remember how I said you would need 4-5 picture books or mentor texts to follow this framework? For Tuesday and Wednesday, you’ll need two more. With this part of the routine, I think my kids need the opportunity to have guided practice. This time, they have the graphic organizer and we work together to read the text and complete our graphic organizer. It gives them the opportunity to practice in a safe space. They aren’t being graded or pressured to read the text on their own–just practice. 

Thursday: Practice the Reading Skill

By Thursday, they are usually tired of that graphic organizer. I also use the same graphic organizer during our Guided Reading Groups. But that also means, they are getting pretty good at understanding how to use it and what I am expecting. So, I turn them lose. I read the text. I take it slow, but I keep my mouth zipped! We aren’t sharing thoughts, answers, or ideas initially. We are just reading and recording. 
After they’ve completed their graphic organizer and have had plenty of time to gather their thoughts, I show my graphic organizer. Often times, I complete this as my students are doing their graphic organizers, I just don’t put it under the document camera. Then, I share it once we are finished. I try to stress that my graphic organizer is not the only possible answer. If we are working on drawing conclusions, there isn’t always ONE right answer. There are some that might be better than others. There are some that have better text evidence, but those are the conversations that we have together. 
Student at table with mentor text and graphic organizer with text "Theme"

Friday: Show Me the Reading Skill

On Friday, in lieu of doing a traditional reading test, I usually give my students the same graphic organizer and we read a picture book together. Choosing a book that is easy enough for your students to complete independently and also really demonstrates the skill you are targeting is key. I also try to find a PDF version of the book online or use the school’s scanner to give the students a copy of the book. This allows them to go back in the text when they are working on their own. 
This is the only time in the week that they are graded on doing this skill independently. 
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