5 Ways to Use Brave Irene by William Steig as a Mentor Text in Upper Elementary

5 Ways to Use Brave Irene by William Steig as a Mentor Text in Upper Elementary titile image

One of my favorite winter read alouds is Brave Irene by William Steig. It’s is a timeless classic, and it’s the perfect mentor text for so many skills. In this post, I’ll be sharing teaching ideas you can use to make the most of this great title.

introducing brave irene by william steig to your class:

Storytime Online is such a wonderful Youtube channel, and we are lucky that they included Brave Irene as one of their featured books. Al Gore reads the story, and he does a great job modeling fluency and expression.

Brave Irene by William Steig is one of the most popular books in Steig’s collection. It’s about a young girl who helps deliver a special

Before reading, you might do a picture walk and talk about the challenges of winter or brave moments. The writing component is focused on bravery, so you can tie in these ideas later. You’ll talk through the vocabulary words preselected for the story including:

  • howling
  • snatched
  • stumbled
  • trudged
  • Duchess
  • cherished
5 Ways to Use Brave Irene as a mentor text in Upper Elementary introduction

Teaching points for Brave Irene by William Steig

When reading Brave Irene to a class, it’s good for the teacher to stop at strategic points for discussing themes, check comprehension, and to reflect on lessons. Here are suggested stopping points along with potential discussion topics:

  1. Introduction:
    • Stop after introducing Irene and her seamstress mother. Discuss the setting and Irene’s role in helping her mother.
  2. Character Traits:
    • Pause to discuss Irene’s character traits. What makes her brave? How does she show determination and courage? You can use the graphic organizer in my unit to record character change as you read.
  3. Setting the Scene:
    • Stop when Irene’s mother becomes ill. Discuss the importance of delivering the dress and the challenges Irene may face.
  4. Problem-Solving:
    • Pause when Irene faces challenges such as the storm and challenges in the snow. Discuss how Irene solves these problems and perseveres.
  5. Emotional Resilience:
    • Stop at moments where Irene shows emotional resilience, such as when she’s faced with setbacks or the challenges become overwhelming. Discuss how she copes with her emotions.
  6. Descriptive Language:
    • Pause to appreciate and discuss the descriptive language used by Steig. Draw attention to specific words or phrases that create vivid images in the readers’ minds.
  7. Illustrations:
    • Stop to discuss the illustrations. Explore how the illustrations enhance the story and convey the emotions and challenges faced by Irene.
  8. Climax:
    • Pause before the climax of the story, where Irene is struggling in the storm. Discuss the suspense and the emotions evoked by this part of the narrative.
  9. Resolution:
    • Stop at the resolution of the story. Discuss how Irene’s efforts are rewarded and how the story concludes.
  10. Theme of Perseverance:
    • Pause to discuss the theme of perseverance. How does Irene’s determination and bravery contribute to the overall message of the story?
  11. Reflection:
    • After completing the story, pause for reflection. Ask students to share their thoughts on the story’s themes and lessons.
  12. Connections:
    • Encourage students to connect the story to their own experiences. Have a discussion about times when they faced challenges and how they demonstrated bravery.

By stopping at these specific points, teachers can guide discussions that focus on character development, themes, and literary elements. This approach enhances comprehension and allows for deeper exploration of the narrative in Brave Irene.

Using Brave Irene by William Steig as a mentor text for comprehension

If you’d like to have printables and digital pages to go with Brave Irene, check out what’s included in my unit below. The unit has 35 PDF pages as well as a Google Slides version of the same activities.

  • Making predictions organizer
  • Vocabulary Building Organizer and Word Cards
  • Analyzing story elements
  • Author’s craft visualizing and impressions
  • Analyzing writing features
  • Question Task Cards and Response Sheet
  • Related writing prompt to plan, compose, revise and publish a descriptive story
5 Ways to Use Brave Irene as a mentor text in Upper Elementary comprehension activities

work on Descriptive writing with Brave Irene:

5 Ways to Use Brave Irene as a mentor text in Upper Elementary writing lesson

Finally, using Brave Irene provides an opportunity for introducing descriptive writing about brave moments. In this unit, you get a writing prompt and a four square planner, step by step writing pages for drafting, and final draft pages.

In addition to the descriptive writing assignment, writing is emphasized throughout the resource with extended responses and graphic organizers.

grab your Brave Irene resource:

other winter mentor text posts you might like:

Here on my site, you’ll find other snow stories you might like too. Here are just a few mentor text posts to check out.

Winter is a great time to work on descriptive writing, and Brave Irene is filled with description. I hope you find these ideas helpful as you use Brave Irene with your class. If you have any questions, feel free to message me.


Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.