Using Mentor Texts to Integrate Teaching Goals
Mentor Texts That Multitask: A Less-Is-More Approach to Integrated Literacy Instruction
By Pamela Koutrakos
(Corwin Literacy, 2022 – Learn more)
Reviewed by Sherry Liptak
I support about 20 classes of students ranging from kindergarten to grade 5. I am technically accountable for the English growth (and hopefully home language connections!) of about 65 multilingual learners.
In truth, I support any student who needs it in the classes of the multilingual learners I am accountable to. I generally support each class for a block of 30-45 minutes, only once each week.
I am constantly thinking about and experimenting with ways to best support language growth, so I am excited to dig into a variety of professional books. Mentor Texts That Multitask got my attention because I believe that learning must be multidimensional to really stick. I wanted to dig into this book with the hope that I could have a more lasting effect in classrooms that I parachute into and out of.
Making the most of read alouds
I had barely scratched the surface of Mentor Texts That Multitask when I realized I have been massively underusing my read alouds! I could do so MUCH MORE than targeting a single skill (context clues, predicting, etc.) and offering some intriguing vocabulary.
Pam Koutrakos reminds us early in her book that “A mentor text is any text that is used in writing instruction to help writers uncover, appreciate, and attempt to replicate the ‘moves’ an author uses.” A MULTITASKING mentor text , she goes on to explain, integrates reading, writing, word study, vocabulary, grammar, and conversation.
I even think multitasking mentor texts would fit well not only in language arts but in different content areas to help students talk and write like mathematicians, or musicians, or historians, etc.
Texts and fully developed lesson sets
As I am not a classroom teacher per se, I appreciate that Mentor Texts That Multitask is loaded with specific texts and lesson sets to get me started. The lesson sets include content connections, language levers, extensions, text pairings, etc. Each one is very adaptable so I can tweak it for whichever class (grade level) I will be going into.
I also appreciate that Mentor Texts That Multitask is chunked into chapters for wordless texts & images, graphic texts, realistic fiction, creative nonfiction, informational texts, and poetry. I’m already wondering if mathematical word problems could be considered realistic fiction or creative nonfiction?
Creating your own lessons
The final chapter is dedicated to the process of creating your own multitasking lesson sets. The process starts with determining instructional priorities. Priorities are based on your students, what they need, what you have, and what you will need to have.
The next part of the process is to curate a core set of multitasking mentor texts. The core set should include texts that are of high-quality and varied (varied topics and varied sources!) and are able to connect with a wide variety of skills, topics, units, etc.
The final part of the process is to merge instructional priorities and multitasking mentor texts to plan integrated literacy lessons. We must be very intentional here – planning for our current students – not necessarily our favorite books.
This book is a great fit for my professional bookshelf – though I think it will spend more time in my hands! Mentor Texts That Multitask is already helping me to get more out of a few really good resources. Most of all, it’s helping me to really put my students and their needs at the forefront of every decision I make.
Sherry Liptak (@SherryTeacher on Twitter) has been an ELL/ESD Specialist teacher of multilingual learners in Chilliwack, BC, Canada since 2011. She is tenacious in the pursuit of self-directed professional development so she can be a great teacher of, and advocate for, multilingual students.