Building Writers with Mentor Text

One of my favorite ways to help my students see all the ways that writers work is to use mentor text in my mini-lessons. Many years ago, I attended a series of professional development sessions presented by Katie Wood Ray. So much of what she said, stuck with me. I loved how she uses the workshop model to show young writers that they can stand on the shoulders of authors they love, to learn about writing. Katie believed that writers have to read like a writer in order to write like a writer. She taught me, as a teacher, to share my love of books with my students not only with a reader's eye, but also with a writer's eye! One of my favorite children's authors, Cynthia Rylant, was asked in an interview: if you could give one piece of advice to young writers what would it be? and her response was, "I learned how to write from writers. I didn't know any personally, but I read a lot of books." That is one of the first quotes I post when we begin writing workshop in the beginning of the school year!

I have teamed up with The Reading Crew this weekend to share one of my favorite mentor texts that I like to use when I teach opinion writing and point of view!

The Mentor Text

I chose Hey Little Ant by Phillip M. Hoose because we have been learning about point of view and having opinions about various topics during our language arts lessons. I love how this book enables the reader to see things from two different perspectives: through the eyes of the boy and through the eyes of the ant. Hey Little Ant is a story that was originally written as a song by the author and his daughter. It is full of rhyme and rhythm which makes it fun to read with your students.

The main characters are a boy and an ant. The boy is getting ready to stomp on an ant and squish it but the ant yells out and begins talking to the boy, and explains why he should not be stepped on. The boy shares his reasons why he thinks he should step on the ant. The ant gives very persuasive reasons why his life should be spared! At the end of the story, the author asks the question: What do you think the kid should do? I LOVE how the author leaves the ending up to the reader!

Opinion Writing

I was happy when opinion writing became a "thing" for elementary age students because I believe it is a real world skill for everyday life. Our students need to understand that your opinion is how you think or feel about something and that it is ok for people to have different opinions. They also need to understand that writers can share their opinions by writing about them!! Sometimes we write opinion pieces about factual stuff or our favorite things which means that students also need to understand the difference between facts and opinions.

Writers at Work

We began our writing about the author's question to the reader by planning. We used a graphic organizer that I created so that our thinking could be organized using an opinion writing process.
After planning, students drafted out their piece on notebook paper. They used our anchor charts about how to add transition words to opinion pieces and met with their accountability partners when their draft was complete. While meeting with their partners, they used red pens for editing and green pens for revising.
Once they shared their edits and revisions with their accountability partners, I conferred with each student and helped them do a final edit. Then they got started writing their final copy.
My second graders really enjoyed writing this piece. Many of them did additional research on their own about ants. They read non-fiction text during independent reading time and some of them used those facts in their reasons for saving the ant! Our class was split in half with their opinions so it was fun to share in the author's chair once all the writing was complete!!

Grab the Freebie

If you like the resources I used for this writing piece, click HERE to grab the freebie.

Book Give Away

As part of the link up this weekend, I am giving away a copy of the book, Hey Little Ant so that one lucky winner can also use it as a mentor text. Complete the raffle below to enter to win.
Thank you for stopping by. Leave a comment and tell me about your favorite mentor text for teaching opinion writing. For more fun writing lessons using mentor texts, check out the links below!

Inlinkz Link Party


  1. I sure enjoyed your post! Thanks for the resource!

    1. Thank you, I am glad you enjoyed it! I hope you find the resource useful!

    2. You are welcome!! I am happy to know you enjoyed my post!

  2. I love this book! Thanks for the great ideas and free resources! :)