Last week, we started our informational writing unit. This is one of my favorite units because we allow the students to research whatever topic they want. My students have become very adept at using Google Docs and Slides, so I can’t wait to turn them loose and see what types of text features they incorporate into their informational pieces.
I believe in beginning with the end in mind and using mentor texts as a means for students to visualize their own final product. That’s why I began this unit with a couple of lessons on noticing text features.
To start this unit, I first loaded my mentor text bin with a wide variety of quality informational books.
I then selected a mentor text to begin the unit. I read portions of Mysterious You Zzzz (The most interesting book you’ll every read about sleep) to the class. While I was reading, I discussed and recorded a variety of features I noticed. I did not read the entire book. Instead, I selected several pages with quality features. I recorded the book title and text features on the form below.
I went through three books (Zzz, Hurricane Disaster, and Sea Otters) so I could model what I noticed from a variety of topics and styles of writing. The picture below shows books I selected and one of the pages I showed the class.
At the end of the lesson, my form looked like this.
Next, during workshop time, I turned the students loose to browse a variety of books I had spread out throughout the room. Each student had a form like the one I used on their clipboards. They went around the room recording book titles and the features they noticed.
The next step was to let students work together to figure out how to incorporate some of these features in their writing. Over the next several days, I had mini lessons on how and why to make a chart, graph, diagram, and text box using Google. After each mini-lesson, students were to work on short informational writings to try and incorporate the feature we focused on. Most of my students preferred to use Google slides because the features were easier to manipulate. I showed them how to change the page settings to 8.5 X 11, so they can complete their reports on Slides instead of Docs.
We are now preparing to complete our big research project. These early lessons have proven helpful as students are gathering sources and taking notes. They have a better idea of how they want to organize their own writing and what type of information they will need in order to do it.
If you’d like to download a copy of the form I described in this post, click on the pink button below.
Do you have a favorite mentor text for informational writing? I am always looking for new ones, so I would love to hear your ideas!