Mentor Sentences with Answers for Grades 3, 4 and 5

Do you use Mentor Sentences with your students?  They are a great way to cover Common Core Language Standards as well as what makes writing effective, as opposed to the traditional sentence correction method used in worksheets that ask students to find the errors.  I find that providing models helps students elevate the quality of their writing in context.   If you're new to the idea of incorporating grammar practice into the craft of writing new, creative sentences you can read my introduction to Mentor Sentences here


Another great feature of Mentor Sentences is the time spent on spiral review.  Those of us who use Mentor Sentences during our English Language Arts block encourage students to notice what works well in sentences they read.  Of course, an invitation to notice language is an open-ended activity; no one answer key will fit all possible responses.  Facilitating a variety of responses during daily class discussions will make the real reason for grammar instruction (learning to communicate more effectively) come to fruition. 


However, after a few years of use, (and the RETELL course emphasizing the importance of sentence frames for English Language Learners) I realized that I was helping my students with similar specific terminology in certain sentences.  Some students benefit from multiple choice options to initiate a discussion.  Because I teach fourth grade, I went to the grade level below to see what concepts they have already learned.  This helped me create a list of terms that I could draw from that they were more likely to be familiar with.  This helped cut down on students writing “I notice the sentence has a period” for every paper every week!  So today I wanted to provide you with the answer options for Mentor Sentences at each grade level:


Third Graders Might Notice These Concepts in Their Mentor Sentences

Some third graders will recall these common core standards concepts from second grade:

1.      I know that _______ is a collective noun.

2.      I know that _______ is a plural noun.

3.      I know that _______ is a reflexive pronoun.

4.      I know that _______ is an irregular past tense verb.

5.      I know that _______ is an adjective that describes _______ .

6.      I know that _______ is an adverb that describes _______ .

7.      I notice this is a simple (or compound) sentence.

8.      I notice that _______ is capitalized because it is a holiday (or product name, or geographic name).

9.      I notice that the apostrophe is used in the contraction (or possessive) _______ .

These sentence frames set a high standard of analysis for your third graders.  For example, some students will recognize a pronoun but not recall the term “reflexive pronoun.”  Some students will write “I notice the sentence starts with a capital end ends with a period” because it’s a safe, correct (if terribly generic) answer.  Obviously as the year goes on, you will want to encourage them to branch out, and these frames will help scaffold that process.


Fourth Graders Might Notice These Concepts in Their Mentor Sentences

Some fourth graders will recall these common core standards concepts from third grade:

1.      I know _______ is a noun (or pronoun, verb, adjective, or adverb) because __________.

2.      I know _______ is an irregular plural noun.

3.      I know _______ is an abstract noun.

4.      I know _______ is an irregular verb.

5.      I know _______ is a simple tense verb.

6.      I know _______ is a pronoun referring to _______ .

7.      I know _______ is a comparative (or superlative adjective).

8.      I know _______ is a comparative (or superlative adverb).

9.      I know _______ is a coordinating (or subordinating) conjunction.

10.  I notice this is a simple (or compound, or complex) sentence.

11.  I notice _______ is capitalized because it’s a title.

12.  I notice a comma is used because it’s in an address.

13.  I notice the comma and quotation marks are used because there is dialogue.

14.  I know _______ is a possessive noun (or adjective).

15.  I know _______ is a base word and _______ is the suffix. 

Again, these set a high standard at the start of the year for your fourth graders.  As they progress through the year, they should also begin to notice concepts covered in the fourth-grade standards you’ve covered early on.  On the other hand, you may find some fourth graders recognizing second grade standards.  They may need support or reteaching of some third-grade standards. 


Fifth Graders Might Notice These Concepts in Their Mentor Sentences

Some fifth-grade students will recall these standards from fourth grade:

1.      I know that _______ is a relative pronoun (or adverb).

2.      I know that _______ is a progressive tense verb.

3.      I know that _______ is a modal auxiliary.

4.      I notice that _______ are correctly ordered adjectives.

5.      I know that _______ is a prepositional phrase.

6.      I notice this is a complete sentence with no fragments or run-ons.

7.      I notice _______ is the correct homograph because it means _______ .

8.      I notice _______ is capitalized because _______ .

9.      I notice commas and quotation marks are used to mark direct speech (or quotations from a text).

10.  I notice a comma is used before _______ because it is a coordinating conjunction in a compound sentence.

11.  I know _______ is a Greek affix (or root).

12.  I know _______ is a Latin affix (or root).

13.  I know _______ is figurative language. 

Here are the fifth-grade standards that your fifth graders should start recognizing concepts from after you’ve taught them:

1.      I know that _______ is a conjunction (or preposition, or interjection) because _______ .

2.      I know _______ is a perfect tense verb.

3.      I know that _______ is a verb that conveys this time (or sequence, state, or condition) _______ .

4.      I notice these verbs _______ and _______ show an appropriate shift in verb tense.

5.      I notice _______ are correlative conjunctions.

6.      I notice _______ are used to separate items in a series.

7.      I notice _______ is an introductory element separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma. 

8.      I notice _______ is a tag that is set off from the rest of the sentence by a comma.

9.      I notice _______ is underlined (or has quotation marks or italics) because it is a title of a work.

10.  I notice I notice _______ is a Greek affix (or root) that means _______ .

11.  I notice _______ is a Latin affix (or root) that means _______ .

12.  I notice _______ is figurative language that means _______ . 

Want to try Mentor Sentence Worksheets?


I hope these sentence frames help you and your students elevate the level of discussion about their Mentor Sentences.  If you are looking for Mentor Sentence Examples you can pick up some free mentor sentence samples, browse isolated grammar concepts for grades 3, 4 and 5 or download complete bundles here

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5 Ways to Teach Place Value and Word Form

Once your students can count past 20, it's a good time to teach them place value.  I'm glad our curriculum in fourth grade starts with place value.  It makes sense that students understand what a number with multiple digits means and how to say it before we ask them to find products with 4 or more digits!   So to start out our year, I want to share with you 5 ways to teach place value and word form.

1.  Money (Hands on Learning)

The biggest hook I have for teaching place value is MONEY.  I ask students what is it about big numbers, like millions, billions, or more, that interests them the most.  Usually we get to money early on in that introductory discussion!  I have students start sorting play money on a place value chart to keep the learning tactile. 

There are several activities you can do with small groups, a place value chart, and money.  Students can build numbers (show me $23, 852).  Vary the number of places according to your objective and their zone of proximal development.  You can repeat this activity later in the year when teaching estimating as well as decimal place value by introducing dimes and pennies as tenths and hundredths.  You can also use these materials to add numbers.  I like to start with multiples of ten, such as "What is $2,000 more than $23,852?"  You can multiply, such as "Show me 3 sets of $42,312."  You can divide, as shown here.  And of course, you can demonstrate regrouping, such as, "I notice when I added I got 12 bills in the thousands place.  I'll trade ten of them in for the place to the right of it, which is ten times as much." 

2.  Be the Number (Interpersonal Learning)
The second place value lesson will always hold a special place in my heart, because it's the reason I was hired at my present school (skip this paragraph to get to the lesson itself, or read on if you'd like my origin story, haha).  I got called in mid September for the fourth grade position when funding came through for the present teacher to take on a different role (so no red flags there in terms of why there was a vacancy).  When I arrived for my interview I had a gut reaction like never before; I felt like this could be home.  My interview went better than usual (I said things like "when I work here," not in an overconfident way, but because I was feeling it).  The panel was leaning toward the more outgoing other candidate, I later learned, but I was the second choice going into round 2, which was to come and teach a lesson.  I was given the option between reading and math (place value).  While the other candidate did a read aloud (and failed to impress) here is the lesson I taught that won over the panel (and the children).
Without seeing any of their curricular materials, I decided direct instruction of place value should point out that there are patterns to numbers.  There are times to say the period (thousand, million, and so on), times to say the word "hundred" in every period, and there are numbers I like to call "buddy numbers," such as "forty-seven" as opposed to "four, seven."  And speaking of the periods, in standard form, their names aren't explicitly written.  No, instead of writing "million," or using a period as in the punctuation mark, we write a comma (go figure?).  So to make all these patterns come alive for students, I created an activity for this group of students that I was meeting for the very first time called "Be the Number." 

After selling them on the idea that we'd be learning how to read big numbers like 247,856,423, I told them I was going to need some volunteers to come up and Be the Number.  Or more to the point, a part of the number.  And they'd hold up a sign.  Then I told them, "I also want to get to know you all a little bit.  I'm sure some of you have a good friend in this class.  Some of you love to be the center of attention.  And some of you don't talk very much but you're hard workers.  However you see yourself, I am going to need your help to build the number.  And if you aren't called to come up to stand in front of the class and hold up a part of the number, I need your help too, because audience participation is going to support the building of this big number, so are you ready?
First, raise your hand if you have a good friend in this class [I'll spare you the part where I asked their names each time so the interview panel saw I was already getting to know the children; there were 2 parents on the panel so I wanted them to see me getting to know their children right away].  Okay you two are the number 23.  Not '2 and 3;' you're going to say your buddy name together, 'twenty three.'  Next, I need someone who loves to be the center of attention.  Okay, Mickey, you come on up.  You are going to say your number, 'Four,' nice and loud.  Now we, the audience, are going to give you that attention you love by answering you with the word, 'hundred.'  Next, I need someone who is a quiet worker.  You're going to hold up this comma, and you don't need to say anything.  And we, the audience, are going to respect your need for quiet work by whispering, 'thousand.'"  

Now I'm hoping you can see where this lesson is going, choosing partners, centers of attention, and calm students, so I'll skip ahead to how the final number sounds:

Kid #11, loudly:  Two
Audience: Hundred
Kids #10 & #9:  Forty-seven
Kid #8 silently holds up comma, Audience whispers:  Million 
Kid #7, loudly:  Eight
Audience: Hundred
Kids #6 & #5:  Fifty-six
Kid #4 silently holds up comma, Audience whispers:  Thousand
Kid #3, loudly:  Four
Audience: Hundred
Kids #2 & #1:  Twenty-three
Round of applause!

The only preparation I needed here were about a dozen pieces of colored card stock (all one color so as not to be distracting in terms of patterns) with a number on each and two with commas.  Of course there was repetition built during the construction of the number as roles were being added in in so we practiced saying 423, then 56,423, then 47,856,423 before getting to the final number.  And I did plenty of pointing at who was meant to be speaking to help prompt the speakers throughout.  The social emotional part of the lesson, in my opinion, was even more important than the place value, but of course it also cements the concept of patterns in math by creating a real world framework.  The anchor chart in this post was designed to anchor students' thinking to the activity throughout the rest of the unit.  
3.  Chips (Hands on Learning)
The chips can be used the same way as the money, as explained above, but it makes the concept slightly more abstract.  The numbers on the chips are especially helpful when you move into decimal place value, since there is no coin representing a thousandth of a cent. 

4.  Number lines (Visual Learning)

If you like to teach math like I usually do, starting with hands on learning and then moving on to visual before ending with the abstract, Number Line Worksheets are a great way to do it.  I feel like there is a lot of buzz about fraction and decimal number lines, which I use as well, but that's just even more reason to start with whole numbers when exploring place value.  Having students look at the increments on these pages get them ready for estimating, as well as thinking flexibly about units in measurement, graphing, and of course, place value.  

5.  Games (Logical)
Finally, a math concept isn't complete for me unless we can make a game out of it.  You may notice that I put games last in my list.  The reason is I find a lot of math games are not playable unless students already understand the concept they are practicing.  That's just going to lead to off task behaviors.  So either save the games for independent practice or make sure you are partnering a motivated student who struggles with a student who enjoys taking on a teaching role (games are wonderful in those partnerships).  I have multiple games that I use for place value practice:

a.  Power of Ten is a card game.  This low-prep game has just 8 cards to cut out for each level (I have a whole number version with 3 levels as well as a decimal version).  Students draw cards to see if they are multiplying their number by 10 or 100 and moving across the place value chart in the process. 

    b.  Codebreaker requires even less preparation!  You can make copies of the Codebreaker gameboard for students to write on, or laminate/stick them in screen protectors.  Each partner writes a number of their choosing at the top, then asks specific questions about their opponent's number, such as, "Is the number in the hundreds place less than 5?"  I have a decimal version as well. 

    c.  If you're moving on from the concept of place value and word form and into the application of place value, such as comparing numbers, Comparing and Ordering Peppers is a fun game similar to the card game War.  I use the Scoville units for measuring the heat of peppers (and researched them so they are factual) because my many of my fourth graders are fascinated with which is the hottest pepper.  You can read more about my Comparing and Ordering Peppers Game here.  

If these activities sound engaging to you, you can find them all here in my Place Value category page.  If they're not exactly what you're looking for, or you have a question about the implementation, leave me a comment on the blog or "Ask a question" on Teacher Pay Teachers.  

Take Care!

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Prepare for New Student Orientation During Back to School Season

In September, we're prepared to welcome a class of new students.  But midyear, hearing, "You're getting a new student this morning" made me break out in a sweat.  I realized I need to be prepared for new student orientation all year.

Here's how to eliminate the stress that goes along with welcoming a new student to your classroom, even when it's sprung on you at the last minute.

Prepare for New Student Orientation in September.

Keep new students in mind while you are in “Back to School Mode.” Here's how to make a new student feel welcome even when his or her arrival is sprung on you unexpectedly.

Set aside at least 3 extras of whatever materials you make for your students (name tags, journals, and so on).  Put them all in the same place, such as a large manila envelope or Ziplock bag so that you have everything together when a new student arrives.  If you have an extra student desk in your room, put 3 stacks of larger items, such as books, notebooks, and folders right inside.
Keep a current supplies list.  If there are items you can't compile in a set space, keep a list on hand.  Update this list at the beginning of the year when you’re in the mindset for creating an organizational system for new student orientation from day one.

Delegate.  At my school, the assistant principal has the key to the textbooks closet.  This is why I’ve separated my “new student checklist” into books/other items.  I give the left half to her so she can get the textbooks and I keep the right half for myself. 
Keep extra “beginning of the year folders” for papers you hand out at the beginning of the year.  For example, many schools have student handbooks, emergency contact forms, surveys designed to get to know their students better, and so on.  Have extras on hand for a new student in one location.

Have "ice breaker activities" on hand.  Look through your back to school ice breakers.  Have materials ready to go, be it "find someone who" worksheets, "getting to know you surveys," or Morning Meeting greetings.  Depending on your class, you could pull out an old favorite or try something you didn't have time for in September.


Keep a New Student Orientation Checklist.

To get you started with your preparation for new students, you can download a free, editable new student orientation checklist

Prepare for Parent's Night.
Being in the mindset of welcoming your new students will also help you get into the mindset of welcoming their parents.  Here is my editable Parents’ Night Packet.

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Pandemic Teaching and Teachers’ Collective Trauma

I hope 2021-2022 was a better year for you than 2020-2021.  I hear the term “collective trauma” thrown around a lot, and it makes perfect sense to me.  An expression that resonated with me was “We were all in the same storm, although we were NOT all in the same boat.”  I’m sure that we all had our own very specific problems that came up between March 2020 and now that are either related to the pandemic or how others handled it.  But right now, at least for me, things feel different today than they did that March. 


In January 2020 some of my students were getting a “weird pneumonia.”  We had heard of COVID spreading in China, but it wasn’t in this country yet (at least, that’s what they tell us).  I started washing my hands a whole lot by February, and I remember telling my husband, “I wonder if this will be the last time we eat out at a restaurant.”  A few days before the state closed all school buildings, we started having meetings about advanced cleaning protocols.  Then we closed for a day.  I immediately prepared some activities kids could do at home and Emailed it to parents.  My gut told me, “This isn’t doing to be over in one day.”  Then we closed for a couple weeks.  Our district wanted to know what we were doing to support kids because they (like everyone else) had no idea how to support kids.


Around this time, I started creating online activities on Google.  This was before I knew how to assign things on Google Classroom, and before we were asked to teach new concepts online (for months we were told to review only, because we didn’t want to penalize any student whose family could not facilitate a homework routine or did not have the resources to print papers or work on a device).   

And within a week I started updating my existing products on Teachers Pay Teachers. 


It was slow going, because I was learning as I went.  There were some teachers who had a head start.  But my priority was never to match them.  It was for those of you who already purchased and enjoyed my products.   

Suddenly you (and I) needed to do ALL our teaching online.  We couldn’t send home folders of papers or bags of manipulatives and task cards.   I was having nightmares about the things I couldn’t do with my students anymore, with all the shame of feeling unprepared.  Like me, I knew you had all these activities to support your standards that weren’t usable.  

So I started updating them.  I was familiar with Google Slides, so I took the ideas behind those pdfs I was selling, created activities that didn’t need to be printed and cut out, and added Google Slide links to those existing products.  That way at least some of your old purchases would still be usable during the time of remote learning.  

I felt like I was making some real headway with the activities that upper elementary students needed the most practice with.


I was getting better at it by April.  Obviously, activities that involve cutting and drawing just don’t translate well to a Google Slide activity.   


But I was getting better at it, and then we had April vacation.  And obviously, we weren’t going away anywhere (I was even getting my groceries delivered, so my dream of not having to drive anywhere was coming true, at least). 


Then Thursday of my vacation, my mom called.  Hysterical.  My sister died.


She was in her 30s.


In the height of the pandemic, we couldn’t hold a funeral.  My mother was terrified of even a small gathering with my brother and I so we couldn’t even grieve together in person.  We worked in shifts to go through my sister’s apartment.  My mother did some sorting, my brother did most of the hauling.  I went through paperwork. 


This same week that I took for bereavement to sort through my sister’s things, our district, with guidance from the state of Massachusetts, clarified some of the remote learning expectations for the rest of the year.  Suddenly I had to learn how to assess student work on a variety of learning platforms.


And then another family member was hospitalized. 


That put an end to my dabbling in Google Slides creation. 


Trauma Informed Teaching is a buzzword I’d heard before the pandemic.  I’d been a good learner and test taker all my life.  I had no fear of technology.  But now I was learning SeeSaw and Google Classroom and Renaissance and Kami and document cameras and Google Meet and a dozen other platforms.  I sat through trainings over Zoom and I could not follow along.  I was in a haze, tearing up because I couldn’t click through and make notes fast enough, getting headaches, not sleeping well, feeling more absent minded, startling easily, and feeling short tempered.  I was experiencing the effects of trauma on my brain. 


I couldn’t blog anymore because I felt like I wasn’t the expert anymore.  I was the one who had a lot to learn, and I wasn’t even doing a great job at that.  At least my administrators and colleagues supported all of us during the wave of educational and protocol changes that kept rolling over us.  But because I wasn’t, well, fully operational, I knew I had to focus all my energy on my own students instead of my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 


But then…that was my creative outlet.  I couldn’t go out for recreation.  I couldn’t go to the gym.  There’s more to life than work and losing my little sister was a reminder that life is short.  So I started yoga and crochet.  These were activities I could handle.  They helped me relax.  Completing a crochet project helped me feel accomplished.  Yoga became a routine to calm my mind when life was feeling chaotic.  And I felt like it was going to make me physically stronger too. 


Then a year after it started, a vaccine was made available.  I could go out places again.  I could see my family.  Things are back to normal…but also not normal.  We’re not housebound, but Covid is still here with its quarantines, (with students and co-workers suddenly needing a week of extra support) part-time mask usage, and of course, illness.  My sister is still gone; that won’t change.  But my other family member is better (so why am I still not sleeping well?).  I’ve started taking some 1 hour PD sessions this summer, and instead of feeling like I’m in a haze, I’m feeling excited about trying new things.  And I’ve started blogging and creating new resources for my Teacher’s Pay Teachers store. 


It's been a long 2 ½ years.  We teachers were (mostly, but not always) praised in the beginning of pandemic teaching.  Then in the middle, well, all of us, parents, teachers, state and local officials, school boards, we all got frustrated and got less praise.  And I wondered, as I walked the halls, "How many of my colleagues are quietly hiding their trauma?" 

I’m starting to find some balance.  I had a rough time learning how to do online learning, and I prefer making activities that students can draw on, cut out, and make a game out of.  But what do you think?  Are you going back to using hands on resources?  Or are your students finding more success with online learning, even when they are back in the classroom? 


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