Slice of Life: Saved by a Mentor Text

I love gathering ideas. Writing long about things I’m thinking about. I could go on forever with that work. And, it’s not surprising that I’m exceedingly comfortable with my students in this phase of the writing process.

But there’s a time to break out of the gathering process and come out of the notebook. Choose one that you are willing to share with the world. One that means the most to you. One that you have the most to say about.

This part of writing and teaching writers is scary. For me. And, for my students.  Some are ready to jump. Fearless writers. Those who feel at ease in their writing selves. The words flow, and the pages fill.

Today I gathered my kiddos on the rug.  In my hands, yellow legal paper.

Most had their plans made. Ready and willing to take the risk.

But I knew some kiddos weren’t.

This is the do or die moment. All must come to terms with what to write. All must reach a decision. This urgency makes for some of the best conferences.

Students start to go off to write. And I tell them, if you are unsure, stay. We’ll figure it out.


The group that remains, mostly boys, gathers around and one by one we talk through the process and their idea.

Some needed nudges to commit to an idea.

Some needed a confidence boost.

Some needed to be reminded that this isn’t the final product.


And some needed another mentor text. One that could give them a simple structure to launch their journey of thought. Lucky for us, my colleague, Cathy Skubik, handed me a golden text last night. It was late in the game, but who knows? Why not share it.

I’m not sure where this text came from, but it provided a structure that made sense to the unsure and uneasy writers on the rug. We read it; talked about its replicable structure. One by one, ideas were translated.  Light bulbs went on and off they went with a stack of yellow legal paper.

Today we drafted our journeys of thought. Our true essays.

Today, many young writers were saved by the power of a mentor text.

Thank you, Katherine Bomer, for writing this book.

Thank you, Beth Shoshan for being a mentor.

And, thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

7 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Saved by a Mentor Text

  1. I love how you let them stay on the rug and talk — that send an important message about process over product. Talking is writing and you honored that in how you scaffolded them on the rug. Thank you for sharing — we love Katherine’s book as well!

  2. Your patience with your students shows them you trust that the writing will happen, Julieanne. And that despite all that’s come before, you have one more idea that can help. All writers get stuck, and that you helped them over that is terrific.

  3. This came at just the right time for me — tomorrow my students need to commit to an idea for a personal narrative. I know some of them are ready to go and others are unsure. I love the idea of sitting on the floor and talking it through. Thank you!

  4. Love how this post moves from gathering ideas to gathering kiddos to drafting journeys of thought – all in the hands of a skilled professional who knows just how to nudge and inspire. I wish I could be a writer in your classroom! I wanted to read the mentor text, but couldn’t. What am I doing wrong?

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