The BEST Mentor Texts for "Small Moments"


It’s really important to have a few strong mentor texts at your fingertips as you get ready to launch your “Small Moments” writing unit.  It's challenging for young writers to focus in on one small moment in time and many of them tend to write the same way they tell stories … they can go on and on, and are often distracted by unrelated tangents. 

Been there?? 😂 

👉Pro Tip: One of my favorite ways to show the small-moment non-example and help prevent “Bed to Bed” stories is to verbally share one of my own where I go on and on about everything I did from the moment I got up until the moment I went back to bed.  At first, they think it’s pretty silly, but then they start to get bored (and a little annoyed) which is exactly the feeling I want them to have. 

Want to make an even bigger impact?  Model writing your bed-to-bed story on chart paper in front of them.  It’ll be super long and you’ll get confused and your hand will get sooo tired (be dramatic here). This can be very effective. 😉   

Here are my favorite mentor texts for SMALL MOMENTS:

#1:  Salt Hands by Jane Chelsea Aragon

This is hands-down my favorite book for teaching children how to write about small moments.  It’s perfect because

• it focuses on ONE small moment in time
• it's written in the first person
• the author uses descriptive language

In this story, a little girl hears something rustling outside her window and discovers it's a deer. The author does a really great job slowing down this moment between the girl and the deer and tells about how she quietly tiptoes toward it with a handful of salt. Once the deer licks the salt from her hands, he turns and heads back out of her yard. And ... the end. Yep, that's it. It's perfect. And I promise you'll be able to use this text to model so many other qualities of good writing such as details, transitions, strong verbs, emotions, setting descriptions, leads & endings, and pace. 

👉Pro Tip: If you teach K-1 children, I recommend choosing a book written in the first person so they have a model that sounds like the kind of writing you’ll want them to do.  Being developmentally self-centered at this age, it’s natural for young kids to use the pronoun “I” in their stories, so texts that are written in third person can be counterintuitive and confusing.

#2: The Big Big Sea by Martin Waddell

This book is a close second to Salt Hands. Again, the author uses the pronouns "I" and "we" throughout the text to tell the story of a little girl and her mother sharing a tender moment by the sea beneath the moonlight. Near the end of the story, the little girl gets cold, so her Mama carries her back home where they snuggle by the fire and fall asleep. 

#3: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen 

#4: Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe

#5: Shortcut by Donald Crews

#6: Rollercoaster by Marla Frazee

#7: Blackout by John Rocco

#8: The Underbed by Cathryn Clinton Hoellwarth 

All of these titles are great examples of small moments, but not all are written in the first person and some are longer than others. Preview each one before making your decisions. I think the age and attention span of your students are important things to consider as you choose the best mentor texts for your unit. 

Happy Teaching! :)

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