‘Mentor sentence’ classroom activities build skills, improve test scores
The National Commision on Writing said this: “Experiments over the last 50 years have shown negligible improvements in the quality of student writing, as a result of grammar instruction.” The students of Corry Area Intermediate School could do grammar worksheets and answer questions on a test, but couldn’t apply it to their writing. As a way to address this, students in one fifth-grade classroom began using mentor sentences. Mentor sentences are well-written, published sentences that show the structure of the sentence and assist the students to become writers. These sentences show the author’s craft and are chosen based on style, language and conventions.
Each day, students complete an activity with the mentor sentence, from noticing patterns to imitating the sentence structure to revising the piece using their own author’s voice.
Through the use of mentor sentences, student scores on the Study Island Benchmarks and the scores on the Language portion of the PSSA improved. ELA teachers, as well as administration, have noticed a difference in the student’s performance.