Monday, June 1, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Jen Vincent at Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee Moye and Ricki Ginsburg at Unleashing Readers cohost It's Monday! What are You Reading? weekly on their blogs.  To see what others are reading and recommending each Monday, or to participate, be sure to head over to these blogs.

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!

Happy reading,


  1. I just love nonfiction these days. They are so colorful and the writing is interesting. My students often prefer nonfiction to fiction. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

  2. We love the way you organized this post - It is so helpful to find books that show different ways to begin and end informational writing.

  3. I'm always wary of some of the reader type nonfiction texts. I have some basic criteria: they should have a table of contents, an index and a glossary. If they can't give me that, I don't want them. Have you had a look at the usborne beginner series? These are really fabulous for beginners and ESL learners. Each chunk of text is accompanied by an image. I love them!

  4. I love seeing that shedding snake. I found a shed skin on our trip to Chesapeake Bay & brought it back for our nature collection. It was long and awesome! Thanks for that first book, Melanie, Tooth & Claw. I'll definitely find it!