Study of Models

Modeling in Action! »
Kristen Ludwig’s students write product reviews using models and product goals!
  • Models can teach more than form.  They can inspire risk taking as writers learn to craft a piece of poetry or prose.

  • Models used throughout the writing process (not just during prewriting) usually net the best results.

Further Reading:

An excellent resource for using models to teach sentence punctuation and grammar.
Provides an excellent list of sources for models: essays, short stories, poetry, and graphic novels.
An invaluable how-to tutorial for using model texts in the classroom. Shows how to help students generalize the information they observe in one model and apply it to future pieces of writing

Supplemental Materials:

Stinkin Repressed Memories


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For the past three years, I have been using the same essay as a model for my students when introducing the elements found in a snapshot narrative.  It is perfect in the sense that it focuses on a short period of time, it contains figurative language, it incorporates the use of dialogue, has a catchy title and a not-so-overt message for the reader.  The only problem?  It is BORING. Sure, it is an effective tool to use when introducing form, but models need to do more than that. They need to inspire our students to take risks. “Writers need to know what is possible and what is “usual” in order to make choices about following expectations or doing something different, something creative” (155). Consider the way you use model texts in your classroom.  Do they help inspire creativity or do they limit it?

“It’s how models are used that determines whether they will be effective instructional tools” (155). This year, I shared a variety of snapshot narratives  with my students before we began writing.  We then revisited the texts when we were ready to write, experimenting with the various attention-grabbing intros we had observed in the models. The results were worthwhile.

  • What successes have you had when using models in your classroom?
  • What challenges have you found?

“Studying models is supposed to aid students’ writing development by helping them learn about how others use language as a way to build options for their own use, not to have them become slaves to forms or styles that others have created” (152) .

  • How can the “What do you notice?” teaching strategy benefit your students as they deconstruct a model text?
  • What are the challenges this method could pose to you as a teacher?

“I see our classroom as a place to explore—and explorers don’t know where they are going until they get there”  (159).  Analyzing and theorizing are skills students need when looking at a mentor text. While it may seem an intimidating endeavor, establishing a safe classroom which fosters risk taking and exploration is essential.

  • What can you do to foster a trusting environment in which analyzing and theorizing might be most effective?

“In research where students  were simply given a model and told to replicate it, writing didn’t improve (are we surprised?)” 155.

  • How have you used models in the past that represent both effective and ineffective practice? Which of your teaching practices regarding the use of mentor texts were validated in this chapter?
  • How can you improve upon the effective methods you have used, and more importantly, what new practices do you plan on implementing based on the model principle?


Working with one of your own writing rubrics, write a model text for your students to follow.  Better yet, ask your colleagues to do the same and generate multiple examples.