My colleagues and I have been busy teaching and revising informational writing units of study. We’ve been concerned, though, about having enough good mentor texts for our Kindergarten through second grade students to emulate. A traditional five-paragraph essay is NOT our goal, yet an organizational structure is needed so they don’t write pages and pages of random facts. This week I found two informational texts with unique structures that will be inspiring mentor texts for young writers.
Why Do Birds Sing? (Penguin Young Readers, 2004) by Joan Holub and illustrated by Anna DiVito is a question-and-answer book. Holub anticipates any question kids might have about birds, then responds with brief, informative answers. DiVito’s cartoon-like illustrations are paired with color photos that provide close up views of many familiar species.
This book is a terrific mentor text. Children have many questions about subjects they’re interested in, and this question-and-answer structure is a perfect way for them to organize their research findings. Text features in Why Do Birds Sing? are limited to photographs and labels, but the photos have been thoughtfully chosen to illustrate and/or support the information being presented.
Holub and DiVito have also teamed up to create Why Do Dogs Bark?, Why Do Cats Meow?, and others that answer these urgent questions that all kids ask.
Caterpillars, by Marilyn Singer (EarlyLight Books, 2011) is a fact-filled book lavishly illustrated with close-up color photographs of both familiar and unfamiliar caterpillars. What I really love about this book, though, is its unique structure. Poet Singer (who was recently awarded the National Council of Teachers of English Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children) begins the book with a poem introducing caterpillars. Here is the first stanza:
Munching in a giant bunch,
The poem is followed by a page devoted to elaborating each line, providing young readers with all sorts of interesting facts. Each page is also filled with gorgeous color photographs showing examples of the species or behavior described in the text. There is also a quiz, a matching game (caterpillar-to-moth/butterfly), glossary, resource list, index, and more.
Caterpillars, which was named a National Science Teachers Association Outstanding Trade Book for Science in 2012, is listed by the publisher as being appropriate for K-2 students. But I think older students would also enjoy Singer’s informative, accessible writing style and have fun creating their own poem to organize their informational writing.
Both of these books are excellent mentors for a whole class book on a single topic, or for individuals writing about a topic of their choice. Best of all, they are engaging nonfiction texts that can be enjoyed as read-alouds or as independent reading by all elementary age students.