Elementary Teachers Attend Mentor Sentence Workshop
Fourth-grade English and Composition teacher Leah Pizzalato said she has seen a drastic improvement in her students’ grammar skills since she started using Mentor Sentences in her classroom. She recently shared this technique with colleagues at a Mentor Sentence Workshop held in her courtyard classroom July 31.
“A mentor sentence,” Mrs. Pizzalato explained, “is a well-crafted sentence that can be found in any text. Mentor sentences serve as examples of what good writing is all about. They are a great source for identifying different elements of writing, including grammar, structure, and style. It gives students a chance to see great writing up close.”
In class, Mrs. Pizzalato and her students read a story and identify a well written sentence in the text. “We discuss elements we see in the sentence and the students label each part of speech for every word. Then, we modify the sentence a little, letting students change a few words. Finally, students write their own sentence, using the structure of the mentor sentence as a model. It shows them a basic format and a good example of a well-written sentence, thus encouraging better writing.”
Here’s an example mentor sentence from the book Enemy Pie that Mrs. Pizzalato used in teacher her workshop: “Dad dished up three plates, side by side, with large slices of pie and giant scoops of ice cream.” Mrs. Pizzalato said that she typically looks at a mentor sentence to see which grammar skill it covers best. In this case, she used it to teach adjectives: “We replace the three adjectives with more descriptive ones. Then, we write a new sentence that is similar to this one but students create it on their own modeling the structure and grammar on the mentor sentence. A replacement sentence could include ‘Mom served us dinner, one by one, with huge slabs of steak and enormous helpings of mashed potatoes.’ The goal is to have the children use the mentor sentences from the text to write their own sentence following the same format.”
It’s interesting, it helps spiral up students’ grammar skills, and it’s fun.