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 post-apartheid South Africa investigation, students prepare to write the New York Times about which of two presidential candidates the Times should not endorse based on their critique of speeches from the two candidates. To support students' writing without providing an exact model of what they will write, the Mentor Text for this investigation is a letter to the New York Times critiquing a third candidate for President of South Africa in response to his speech (which students do not critique). This Mentor Text has the same audience, purpose, and structure, but leaves the intellectual work of constructing critique of the two presidential candidates that are the focus of the investigation to students.
Mentor Texts can be used to have students identify the components of a Critique (claim, evidence, reasoning) 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 Critique by identifying how the author of the mentor text presents a claim that identifies problems in the argument they critique, introduces and provides Evidence to support the student's claim about the problems, and introduces reasoning that explains how the evidence highlights the problems stated in the claim and issues of reliability. Students can also explore the ways the author of the Mentor Text uses language to accomplish the different goals of writing a Critique (referring to the Useful Language).
Work with Mentor Texts 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) and 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 Critique, Investigation #2