mentor text

Upper Grades Mentor Text Lesson: Text-based Evidence 4.RL1 5.RL.1 6.RL.1

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text-based evidence with mentor text
Essential Question: Who is the stranger?
Common Core Standard: 4.RL.1, 5.RL.1, 6.RL.1 Text-based Evidence


  • Text-based Evidence Sentence starters (I used the interactive notebook version from these interactive notebook mini-lessons)
  • The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg (Check your library!)
  • Projector
  • Student supplies (pencil, notebook, glue, and scissors for interactive notebook)
Interactive Notebooking Supplies

1. Read for enjoyment.
I’m not in any way a Kindergarten teacher, but a couple of years ago I started implementing “story time” with my 5th graders. They really didn’t like reading, and I needed a way to get them engaged. Adding the bean bag chairs and the rug really helped get the students excited about our reading area, and I also started using the bean bag chairs as reward for excellent behavior. Make an area in your classroom where students can relax while you read to them. It takes me 10-15 minutes to read the mentor text for the week, and the rest of the week they’re actively engaged when I use that text to model writing & reading concepts (I often use the same mentor text for both subjects!).

2. Brainstorm ideas about the essential question.
I use an essential question to guide the students into discovering what I want them to learn. For this lesson, I asked the students, “Who is the stranger?” My students brainstormed ideas about him in groups. I heard everything from far-fetched alien ideas to someone who controls the season (pretty close!).

3. Reread and highlight evidence.
This is where students really look deeply at the text and zone in on the actual answer. I project each page of the book on the board, and have students read the text chorally. I then ask them to highlight sentences that give clues as to who the stranger is. I have a Mimeo board and a Mimeo Teach in my classroom, but you can do this with a range of different smart boards or other technology. Back when I had very limited technology in my classroom, I would project the image to my whiteboard and have students use whiteboard markers to circle or underline.

We used text-based evidence sentence starters to correctly cite the important sentences from the text.
Printables can be found by grade level here.

4. Answer the essential question.
After we highlighted the evidence on each page of The Stranger, most of my students were pretty sure they knew who the stranger was. We discussed the different ideas they originally came up with, and came to the conclusion that the evidence supported the idea that the stranger controlled the seasons. My students thought it may be Jack Frost (from Rise of the Guardians, they said), which is what most people believe Chris Van Allsburg intended.

5. Write your answer, then support it with text-based evidence.
This is the step where students actually use the text-based evidence they gathered to correctly answer the question. They write a paragraph including the answer in their own words, and supporting evidence from the book. I love the in-depth responses I received! Throughout the year, I encourage these types of responses when I ask questions like “What themes did you notice in this chapter?” and “What character traits can be used to describe the main character?”

Printables can be found by grade level here.
You can do this lesson for free without purchasing anything, but you have the option of downloading these templates (with directions and mentor text) to save valuable prep time!

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Written by
April Smith