According to Iowa Reading and Research Center, “Mentor texts are written pieces that serve as an example of good writing for student writers. The texts are read for the purpose of studying the author’s craft, or the way the author uses words and structures the writing. The goal is to provide students a model they could emulate in crafting their own piece.” Mentor texts are samples of writing for students to model and emulate for their own writing. As a teacher, I am always reading and collecting mentor texts that I can utilize in my classroom for teaching all types of reading moves from sentence structure, vocabulary, voice, and even punctuation. An effective mentor text is one that we can read and reread to unearth the beauty in the writing.
Who is to say that a podcast can’t be a mentor text. My students are currently writing original mystery stories and when I came across Lethal Lit: A Tig Torres Mystery, I was enamored with this engaging mystery that blends Serial Podcast content with Riverdale teen drama. In the podcast series, teen detective Tig Torres returns to her small hometown of Hollow Falls, where her aunt was framed as a serial killer ten years earlier. With help from her new friends, Tig investigates the twisted mystery. But as she gets closer to the truth, the killings, each based on murder scenes from classic literature, begin all over again…with her as the final target. The podcast is six episodes, each episode under 30 minutes.
I introduced the podcast series to my students during a mini-lesson on Mood and Tone when we listened to the first episode together to understand the mood and tone in the show’s exposition. Students constructed interpretations about the setting of Hollow Falls and the people who inhabit it. I provided students with a listening guide to help catalogue the murders, clues, and suspects throughout the entire series.
Listening to the podcast the dialogue is riddled with pop culture allusions that can be another mini-lesson and the voice of the protagonist, Tig Torres is worth re-listening as students create their own characters with distinct and unique voices. In using this podcast as a mentor text, I want to “help students to take risks and be different writers tomorrow than they are today. It helps them to try out new strategies and formats.” (the National Writing Project).
Students will complete a choice project based on their listening of the entire series too.
A mentor text does not just have to be a piece of writing, it can be a visual text like a movie or image, it might be a song or poem, and even a podcast. Mentor texts can be ones that students can read independently as well as with teacher support. Think about the texts that you use as mentor texts for your students, what are the lessons that can grow out of these texts and how they might inspire our students to be stronger and more effective writers.