NF10for10 2016: Nonfiction Books as Mentor Texts for Writing

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This is the first time I’m doing a 10 for 10 post as a librarian instead of a classroom teacher. There are a few differences in this: 1) I’m in a position now where people are asking for book recommendations on a daily basis, and 2) I am in a position where I’m reading the same book multiple times. If I choose to read a book to third grade, it has to be a book I love enough to read aloud and hook them and absorb ME for seven readings.

NF10for102016

The books that I chose for this year’s list are books are all nonfiction that completely absorbed me. They are delightful as read alouds and they are stellar examples of nonfiction writing.

For each book, I’ve highlighted writing craft that I particularly like.

Most of these books are strong in specific word choice, which I refer to as “specificity.” For me, this means that the author uses domain-specific language. One of the treasures of these books is that none of these books use the words like vocabulary words, but they use words that true to the world they are writing about.

I'm trying to love spiders

I’m Trying to Love Spiders

Written and Illustrated by Bethany Barton

Viking, 2015

* Voice

* Specificity in word choice

* Tone

the spider

The Spider

Written and illustrated by Elise Gravel

Tundra Books, 2015

* Voice

* Specificity

* Tone

I also recommend reading both of these spider books and having a discussion about how two authors chose to write about the same topic.

finding winnie

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear

By Lindsay Mattock

Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Little, Brown, 2015

* Word choice

* Dual Narrative

* Lyrical language

I also read this book alongside Winnie by Sally M. Walker. Students discussed how two authors took the same topic and wrote about it. They especially noted how they started the stories in different places.

how to swallow a pig

How to Swallow a Pig: Step by Step Advice from the Animal Kingdom

By Steve Jenkins and Robin Page

Houghton Mifflin, 2015

* Point of view

* Organization (How-To Text)

* Alliteration

* World Play

* Specificity in word choice

tiny creatures

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes

By Nicola Davies

Illustrated by Emily Sutton

Candlewick, 2014

* Specificity in word choice

* Imagery

* Sentence variety

leaflets three let it be

Leaflets Three, Let it Be! The Story of Poison Ivy

By Anita Sanchez

Illustrated by Robin Brickman

Boyds Mills Press, 2014

* Vivid Verbs

* Specificity in word choice

* Adjectives

swan

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

By Laurel Snyder

Illustrated by Julie Morstad

Chronicle, 2015

* Lyrical language

* Alliteration

* Vivid Verbs

* Rhythm

water is water

Water is Water: A Book about the Water Cycle

By Miranda Paul

Illustrated by Jason Chin

Neil Porter: Roaring Brook, 2015

* Vivid verbs

* Word Play

* Specificity in word choice

* Rhythm

mesmerized

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France

By Mara Rockliff

Illustrated by Iacopo Bruno

Candlewick, 2015

* Specificity in word choice

* Vivid Verbs

* Voice

* Tone

trombone shorty

Trombone Shorty

By Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2015

* Voice

* Specificity in word choice

* Refrain (repetition)

* Personal narrative

The 10for10 posts are happening all over the web today. Click here to join the Google+ Community where post links are being shared. 

Previous 10for10 Posts

Poetic Nonfiction Picture Books

Fiction Picture Books for Word Choice

Nonfiction Picture Books about Virginia History

Monstories: How to Use Monster Books to Write Your Own Monster Story

There are some really great monster books out there. One of my newest favorites is MONSTORE by Tara Lazar, which I featured during Picture Book Month. 

I use MOSTLY MONSTERLY by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Scott Magoon, and I NEED MY MONSTER by Amanda Noll, illustrated by Howard McWilliam, to help students come up with their own monster.

mostly monsterly

MOSTLY MONSTERLY uses a lot of vivid verbs to talk about what the monsters do.

i need my monster

I NEED MY MONSTER uses a lot of unique word choice to describe the monsters that are tried out.

monster poster picture

 

The first thing I do is read both of these books. As I’m reading we make a list of vivid verbs used to describe the monsters and unique word choice used to describe the monsters.

Then students create their own monster by drawing and describing it using vivid verbs and other unique word choice. They can use the sample posters we created to do this.

Using the planning sheets, students can create their own monster and monster story. This is a great way to use a mentor text as a writing prompt or story idea generator.

screenshot of printable

Click on the image to download the printable

 

I’ve been using storyboarding a lot as a planning tool for my students. It seems to be easier for them to plan by doing simple drawings than actually making lists or plunging in to the writing. Then after they storyboard, they can work on a rough draft of their monster story.

Other Favorite Monster Books

JEREMY DRAWS A MONSTER by Peter McCarty

MONSTORE by Tara Lazar, illustrated by James Burks

 

Nonfiction Picture Books about Virginia History as Writing Mentor Texts

We all know that students need to become more comfortable reading and writing non-fiction. Last fall, I did a post on 10 of my favorite fiction picture book writing mentor texts. For this post, I’m focusing on some non-fiction mentor texts–with a bent toward history, specifically American history, as it relates to Virginia history.

Why? I teach 4th grade in Virginia. And while I’m not the person on my team who teaches Virginia history, I think it’s really important for me to know as much of it as I can. My daughter is also studying Virginia history this year, so she and I have been taking trips and reading a lot about Virginia history.

If you don’t live in Virginia, must our U.S. History has roots in Virginia, so much of this will apply to U.S. History as well. And remember, my focus here is using these non-fiction texts to teach WRITING. It’s a bonus that it will also piggyback on the history standards. It’s what I call “double-dipping.” Teaching the content you need to teach while also exposing students to stellar texts that can be used as models for good writing.

For more information about definitions of the different writing skills I cover here, refer to the Glossary of Mentor Text Terms.

worst of friends

 

WORST OF FRIENDS:

THOMAS JEFFERSON, JOHN ADAMS, AND THE TRUE STORY OF AN AMERICAN FEUD

by Suzanne Tripp Jermain

Illustrated by Larry Day

Dutton, 2011

 

Writing Skills:

* Figurative Language

* Sentence Variety

* Specificity

* Adjectives

* Tone


Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library

THOMAS JEFFERSON BUILDS A LIBRARY

By Barb Rosenstock

Illustrated by John O’Brien

Calkins Creek, 2013

 

Writing Skills:

* Organization of the text

* Specificity of language

* Rhythm

* Sentence Variety

 


John paul george ben

JOHN, PAUL, GEORGE & BEN

By Lane Smith

Hyperion, 2006

Writing Skills:

* Tone

* Voice

* Character descriptions

* Fact vs. Fiction

 


George did it

 

 

GEORGE DID IT

By Suzanne Tripp Jurmain

Illustrated by Larry Day

Dutton, 2006

Writing Skills:

* Figurative Language (Similes)

* Sensory Words

* Adjectives

* Use of a refrain


TJ life liberty pursuit of everyting

THOMAS JEFFERSON: LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF EVERYTHING

by Maira Kalman

Nancy Paulsen/Penguin, 2014

Writing Skills

* Voice

* Tone

* Organization of the text

* Specificity


revolutionary friends

 REVOLUTIONARY FRIENDS: GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON AND THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE

by Selene Castrovilla

illustrated by Drazen Kozjan

Calkins Creek, 2013

Writing Skills

* Tone

* Sensory Words

* Adjectives

* Imagery

* Specificity

 

 

Other Mentor Text Resources:

Mentor Text Resource Page

Mentor Text Spreadsheet

Picture Book Month Archive (30 Posts using Picture Books as Writing Mentor Texts)

10 for 10: Favorite Pictures Books for Teaching Word Choice


 

What are your favorite picture books for teaching Virginia or US History? Leave me a note in the comments below.

Writing Wednesday: Using MARTIN AND MAHALIA as a Writing Mentor Text

martin and mahalia

MARTIN AND MAHALIA: HIS WORDS, HER SONG

By Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Little, Brown 2013

 

This book moves me to tears every time I read it. The beauty of the words and the illustrations feel like a song and celebration. The Pinkneys have woven two important people with amazing gifts together in this nonfiction piece about Martin Luther King Jr’s and Mahalia Jackson’s impacts on the Civil Rights Movement. It is the perfect book to read to celebrate Martin Luther King day, but it’s also the perfect book to study as a nonfiction writing mentor text.

 

Writing Skills:

* Leads (beginning lines)

* Vivid Verbs

* Metaphor

* Adjectives

* Sensory Words

* Rhythm

* Use of poetic language in a nonfiction text

* Use of a refrain in a nonfiction text

More Mentor Text Resources

A few weeks ago, I introduced my teacher useletter. I will feature writing tips and mentor text tips in this free useletter for teachers. Also, if you sign up, you get a FREE 50 page MENTOR TEXT TIPS printable e-book. Sign up on the sidebar to the right.

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Mentor Text Spreadsheet: Picture Book Month in Review

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Collage of all books

 

Picture Book Month is officially over. But I have created one last thing to share with you on mentor texts. Each day, I shared a mentor text post with you featuring different ways that each of these books could be used to teach writing skills to young writers.

Picture Book Month Mentor Text Posts

I’m now introducing a spreadsheet that summarizes all of the texts I referenced in November. The spreadsheet includes a list of all of the texts, links to their posts, and the skills for each text. Then I broke the spreadsheet workbook into various pages–one page for EACH skill. So if you are looking for all of the books that teach Onomatopoeia that I mentioned in November, then you can access them all on one page. This is the list of skills that have their own pages:

* Adjectives

* Alliteration

* Description

* Figurative Language

* Imagery

* Onomatopoeia

* Organization

* Personal Narrative

* Persuasive Texts

* Point of View

* Sensory Words

* Sentence Variety

* Specificity

* Tone/Mood

* Voice

* Vivid Verbs

* Word Choice

* Word Play

Because there are so many different skills, you can’t see them all at once. You might see this button on the bottom right hand side of the spreadsheet.

Arrow Screenshot for spreadsheet

Use the arrows to scroll right and left to access all of the pages. They are listed from left to right in alphabetical order.

Mentor Text Spreadsheet 

Picture Book Month Day 30: Picture Books as Writing Mentor Texts featuring A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS

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a troop is a group of monkeys

A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS

by Julie Hedlund

Illustrated by Pamela Baron

Summary:

This app is now a print book that includes collective nouns that describe animals.

Mentor Text Writing Skills:

* Specificity

* Vivid Verbs

* Adjectives

* Alliteration

* Word Choice

A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS is also featured as an app.  A SHIVER OF SHARKS, another book in the same series, is also featured as an app.


12-x-12-new-badge

Interested in writing picture books?? Julie Hedlund, author of A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, is the mother of 12×12 picture book challenge.  Check out her website for more details.

I’m also very excited to watch Julie’s hybrid publishing venture of MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN. It’s a crowdfunded picture book that already has an illustrator and a publisher. I’ve backed it on Kickstarter because I want to support her on this venture (and because I want this book for my kids). If you are interested, check out her Kickstarter campaign page. 


 

For more information about mentor texts, check out these links:

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Glossary of Mentor Text Terms

List of all Picture Book Month Posts

Picture Book Month Day #27: Picture Books as Writing Mentor Texts featuring GHOST IN THE HOUSE

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ghost in the house

 

GHOST IN THE HOUSE

by Ammi-Joan Paquette

Illustrated by Adam Record

Candlewick, 2013

Summary:

When a ghost, a mummy, a skeleton, and a witch all go sneaking through the house, they are most startled by a little human boy.

Mentor Text Writing Skills:

* Adjectives

* Onomatopoeia

* Vivid Verbs

* Alliteration

 


 

For more information about mentor texts, check out these links:

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Glossary of Mentor Text Terms

List of all Picture Book Month Posts

Picture Book Month Day 24: Picture Books as Writing Mentor Texts featuring DAVE THE POTTER

PBMBADGE-AMBASSADOR

 


dave the potter

DAVE THE POTTER

by Laban Carrick Hill

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Little, Brown, 2010

Summary:

Dave was a slave who created beautiful pottery and even wrote poetry on the pots. This is a lyrical story that mostly focuses on the creation of the pots themselves. Historical information is detailed in the back matter.

Mentor Text Writing Skills:

* Word Choice

* Adjectives

* Specificity

* Figurative Language


 

For more information about mentor texts, check out these links:

Mentor Text Resources

Mentor Text Lesson Plans

Mentor Text Tips

Glossary of Mentor Text Terms

List of all Picture Book Month Posts