Over the summer, I will be working on our first-grade nonfiction writing unit. One of the requests from teachers was to have some titles of mentor texts with interesting introductions and conclusions. I spent time in the library and with our media specialist collecting some titles with a variety of beginnings and endings.
Tooth and Claw by Jim Arnosky is a book that could me a mentor text in upper grades. It is full of linguistic craft moves--images, figurative language, varied sentence structure, comparisons--but the introduction is an example of an anecdote. Jim Arnosky tells the story of how a tiger let a little boy pass by, giving him luck.
An easier way for students to begin information books, especially when they are writing about animals is with a chronological beginning. Tale of a Tadpole by Karen Wallace is an excellent example of this strategy. Written at a low enough lexile level for many first-graders, this book begins with "The tale of a tadpole begins in the pond." Predictably, it ends when the tadpole becomes a frog.
Frogs: Nature's Friends by Ann Heinrich would be a great pairing with the Tale of a Tadpole, and it begins with a frog noise and a splash into the pond. This is a great mentor text for beginning with a sound hook.
I have to say that even the cover of Snakes by Melissa Stewart could lead to some interesting observations. At first glance, I thought the cover was scary and that the mouth of the snake was wide open, but then I realized that it was a picture of the snake's skin shedding. As a mentor text for interesting beginnings, this book hooks readers with a series of questions written in rhyme.
Owls by Aaron Carr begins with the simple sentence "Meet the owl." It then goes on to talk to readers hypothetically throughout the text, as if they might meet an owl. I could see young information writers being able to emulate this style, developing their voice and sentence structure.
I love prowling low lexile nonfiction texts for examples of unusual beginnings and endings. An earlier post that I wrote when I was working with third-grade teachers is linked here, featuring a collection of books and creative ways to end information books. If you have any favorite mentors for nonfiction beginnings and endings, please share!