I've always read picture books to my class - and we've always discussed them in depth and done literacy activities around them but this year I've made mentor texts part of my Language centers and it has made an amazing difference to my kiddies' comprehension skills.
We do Language centers usually once a week and I set it up so that there is a writing activity (right now we're working flat out on our Storybird stories) a spelling center, a grammar review center and a mentor text center. I monitor the mentor text and I can't believe how helpful it has been to guide my teaching!
Our centers rotate every 15 - 20 minutes so I get a small group of 4 for some focused, quality guided reading and comprehension time. It really helps me see what children need to practice which skills! I've been making up packs for each text we do and I love them.
We have "thinking about the text" activities - reading responses, visualizing, making connections, making predictions, asking questions - vocabulary activities, sequencing, character traits, story mapping and book reviews. Sometimes we look at the writer's craft - how they use onomatopoeia or different fonts. It all depends on the book. :)
These are some examples of activities:
What I really like about the units is that I can differentiate the packs - I can give less sheets to some children so that the work is manageable or I can give one child a visualizing activity and one a making connections activity, depending on what they most need to work on.
The packs double as morning work - everyone can do the vocabulary work independently as well as book reviews and sequencing activities.
It makes a great "what can I do?" activity for my extension children and early finishers.
The pack also provides some concrete evidence of comprehension skills for report writing and for parent conferences.
And finally - it's manageable. Our novel studies are great - and we do a lot of comprehension related to whatever text we're reading - but these longer units are sometimes overwhelming for some of my lower readers. The mentor texts are a good length for them and the kids enjoy them.
I find it takes about 4 weeks to get through a text so we've been doing a monthly Book Nook Nibble and have been enjoying it.
So far we've read "The Pumpkin Runner" and "Thunder Cake" and are about to start "Stellaluna" this week. I think we'll look at "Saturdays and Teacakes" in February and maybe an Irish folktale in March. :) We skipped the month of December because it's just too busy at that time of the year. :)