Thursday / May 23

Upgrade Mentor Texts: Integrate Literacy With Short Stacks of Multitasking Texts

Mentor texts are a fabulous source of inspiration for writers. They provide clear models for how to organize and develop ideas. For years, teachers have leaned on mentor texts, using them as teaching tools during writing instruction. However, a strong mentor text also holds plenty of value beyond the writing block. I like to call these power-packed tools multitasking mentor texts. The work of readers, writers, conversationalists, and word/language explorers is so closely connected. We achieve much more when we take on a more holistic view of literacy. Multitasking mentor texts enable us to contextualize all facets of literacy and intertwine different elements of classroom instruction. Simply stated, they help teachers integrate learning. This recent blog shares details about how to decide if a text has the power and fuel to become a multitasking mentor text.

While there is great power in one carefully chosen text, there is a wondrous synergistic impact that results when we curate and layer a few of these texts. A “short stack” of multitasking mentor texts are three to five(ish) texts that are connected in some meaningful way. Together, they streamline planning processes for teachers and create connections between learning for students. There is so much to be discovered, explored, and discussed in the pages of a text. These tiny yet mighty text sets prepare teachers for contextualized reading, writing, vocabulary, spelling, and grammar instruction. One short stack can be strategically revisited and reused for one to two months!  Here are a few examples of short stacks of multitasking mentor texts:

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Short stacks prepare teachers to easily integrate different facets of literacy. 

Short stacks of texts can…

  • be multimodal
  • include plenty of relevant, current, and new titles
  • honor the different interests, passions, and languages present in the classroom
  • highlight formally and informally published texts
  • consistently include poetry and/or lyrical texts

Building short stacks is imaginative, creative, and fun. I start by choosing ONE featured text that aligns well with the work currently happening in reading and/or writing. I then begin to critically contemplate “text pairings” to support and extend the instructional possibilities within that featured text. I try not to feel limited by genre or format. In fact, I find that there is great value in varying the type of texts highlighted in teaching. By doing so, we widen bridges to learning and promote engagement for a larger set of students. By selecting thoughtfully-chosen text pairings, we enhance and upgrade text sets. Layering texts enables teachers to increase the number of contextualized and joyful teaching and learning opportunities. Elevate your selection of texts. For instance, as you curate short stacks, you might also layer in some of these types of texts:

  • photographs, artifacts, images, and infographics
  • first chapters of longer texts
  • articles, blogs, websites, songs, videos, and podcasts
  • teacher & student storytelling, performances, and writing

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While picture books make fabulous mentor texts across ALL grades and settings, we liven up instruction when we vary the genres, formats, and types of texts we feature.

This year, make the smart decision to stop the “silo teaching.” We don’t need a new text for each concept we teach. Upgrade literacy instruction by curating multipurpose text sets. This  prepares us for student-centered learning experiences across the literacy block. Short stacks of multitasking mentor texts remind us that a “less is more” approach to teaching IS possible!

Written by

Pam Koutrakos is an experienced educator who has worked as a teacher, literacy coach, instructional coach, and consultant. She is the author of Word Study That Sticks: Best Practices K-6, The Word Study That Sticks Companion: Classroom-Ready Tools for Teachers and Students, K-6, and Mentor Texts That Multitask: A Less-Is-More Approach to Integrated Literacy Instruction, K-8. Pam has blogged for ILA, NCTE, CCIRA, Two Writing Teachers, Learning Without Tears, MiddleWeb, Gravity Goldberg LLC, and Corwin Connect. She regularly presents at conferences and events across the country. Connect with Pam on Twitter (@PamKou), Instagram (@Pam.Kou), and on LinkedIn.

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