The purpose of this study was to fill gaps in the research to determine if picture books in the high school classroom can enhance student writing especially with word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. Previous research has not fully considered employing picture books as mentor texts to examine writing traits in the high school Language Arts classroom. The population was 12 participants from two low track English 10 Reading classes. Six participants were identified from each class as low, medium, or high-performing students based on an informal narrative writing activity. This study employed an action research methodology (Sagor, 2000). Students were taught from an inquiry-based approach as the teacher read aloud each book, and asked students what they noticed. Students reviewed the picture books to guide them as they were challenged to improve their writing. Findings from the study illustrate that picture books as mentor texts can help secondary students of all ability levels improve their word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions in narrative writing as measured by a writing trait rubric created by Vicki Spandel and adapted by Jim Burke. Picture books were tools that helped students think and act like writers. Conclusions also highlighted the lack of word choice and sentence fluency instruction in the students' formative years. This study shed light on the abstract nature of sentence fluency, and an effective way to mitigate this problem. This study provided a new angle with which to teach the writing traits through narrative composition instruction, and teacher modeling. Further, this study adds to the literature of effective high school instruction as picture books as mentor texts are less common in the high school English Language Arts classroom.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Teacher Education



Date Submitted


Document Type





picture books, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, mentor texts, narrative writing