Mentor Texts for each investigation offer students examples of disciplinary argument writing. The example in each investigation is a model of the type of writing the investigation calls for, but the topic and focus are different from the investigation's topic and focus. This offers students an opportunity to review and consider the overall structure of the writing, but does not bias them toward any particular claim in their own writing.
For example, in the Reconstruction investigation, students prepare to write the National Museum of African American History and Culture about how to portray the story of Reconstruction (as mostly as success or mostly a failure) within their exhibit on Slavery and Freedom. To support students' writing without providing an exact model of what they will write, the Mentor Text for this investigation is a letter to curators at the same museum about an exhibit that makes an argument for how to portray school desegregation in another part of the museum. This Mentor Text is has a similar audience, purpose, and structure, but leaves the intellectual work of constructing an argument about Reconstruction to students.
Mentor Texts can be used to have students identify the components of a Counterargument (claim, evidence, reasoning, counterargument) and to explore the ways the author of the Mentor Text uses language to create a coherent argument. Mentor Texts are used to focus students on the components of an effective Counterargument by identifying how the author of the Mentor Text presents a claim, evidence, and reasoning in arguing for their interpretation of an issue and sources. In addition, these Mentor Texts demonstrate three important components of Counterargument: recognizing possible counterclaims, identifying counterevidence, and sharing reasoning that critiques, rebuts, or reconciles the challenging ideas and evidence so that writers can re-assert their arguments (as presented in their claim, evidence, and reasoning).
This is typically done as students review the writing assignment in depth on Day 4 (after an initial review on Day 1 to set a purpose for the investigation), before students begin to plan and draft their own arguments. This activity enables students to focus on the overall structure of the texts they will write and models effective ways of stating claims, introducing evidence, and reasoning about evidence.
Sample Mentor Text from Counterargument, Investigation #4