Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Slice of Life- Exploring a fabulous mentor text

Thanks to Stacey, Dana, Tara, Betsy, Anna, and Beth, the amazing writers and thinkers who host the Slice of Life community every Tuesday. Everyone is welcome to join with posts or comments at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com!

Our fourth-graders are getting ready to start their information writing unit. Instead of a classic writing workshop lesson, I co-taught a lesson today where their teacher read them one of my favorite mentor texts, It's All About Me-ow by Hudson Talbott, and I wrote down what I noticed that the author did as an information writer.

As the classroom teacher read, I jotted down what I noticed about the book, but I purposely stayed just behind the teacher as he read. That way, some of the students felt like they "noticed" first, while some of them "noticed" because I did. Either way, every student was engaged and they all have a list of craft moves  in their writer's notebooks that they are excited to try in their own information books.

I did not expect to notice over twenty-five craft moves, or I might have written smaller:

That being said, I think that it's really important that we don't obsess with having perfect charts. I loved the fact that the entire left-hand column is added because of what the students noticed and I missed. They were so proud of themselves!

I highly recommend Hudson Talbott's book as a mentor text for information writing because he does such an amazing job of including information with humor, voice, figurative language, and text features. The students loved the story and the craft moves--I can't wait to see what they write!

As new units begin, I also recommend having this sort of inquiry with any unit at any grade level. Read an appropriate level mentor text, especially one that the class has already read. Talk about the craft moves, the impact, the reasons that the writing piece works.  This chart, admittedly messy but created together, will serve the students well throughout their unit as a source of inspiration for their own information pieces.

Happy Slicing!


  1. Love this book! Also love that your charts are messy -- mine are always messy!! Love the process -- more important than the product. Happy New Year -- looking forward to another year of learning from you.


  2. Isn't it amazing how much you can find in just one book? I'm a big believer in having less mentor texts that can teach more things. Why have 10 books when you can have 3 that do the trick (and that the kids can know really well) for a UoS.

    And I hear ya about the less-than-perfect charts. Nothing wrong with that!

  3. Now I have to get this book, Melanie! Messy charts, to me, are the best evidence of a totally engaged class. Their thinking...as opposed to just our thinking.

  4. This is great, Melanie! What a wonderful way to use co-teaching - such a great demonstration for the students! I think your chart is perfection. :)

  5. It is so hard for students to find their voice in informational text. Thank your so much for the recommendation ( have never seen this!) and how you team taught. And that is the way charts should look in my opinion - made by the thinkers involved (all of them)>

  6. LOVE this! Evidence have ordered 2 copies and have printed off your blog post to put inside both copies as I share one with a frequent collaborator. Excellent demonstration of:
    co - teaching behaviors
    reading with "writer's ear"
    writing craft examples
    teacher response
    student response
    . . . . . .
    Absolutely Fabulous!!! Thanks, Melanie!

  7. I am so glad to get a peek at your teaching style. I don't make enough charts. I should be more proactive in doing so and not worry about looks. I also love using the question, "What did you notice?" It leaves the floor wide open for discussion. Thanks for this post.

  8. This is terrific, Melanie! I just ordered this book, and can't wait to share it with the kids. Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Oops! Meant to type "aren't"...

    Such a good reminder to me that our charts aren't suppose to be perfect!

  11. Melanie- Using a mentor text was a fabulous way to kick off the unit. I wish I saw this practice in more classrooms. I will be using your approach as an example. Just look at how much instruction was packed into one lesson! Thanks for sharing.