In the classroom, I found that mentor sentences and mentor texts provided opportunities for student writers to amaze themselves and tackle many forms of writing with confidence. Now, as an author, I analyze mentor texts for my own learning. Thank you, Annette Whipple for this post for educators on using your nonfiction series in the classroom as mentor texts!
GIVEAWAY! Annette is offering one lucky winner the choice of one of her books in THE TRUTH ABOUT… series! Leave a comment below for a chance to win!
Nonfiction Mentor Texts for the Classroom by Annette Whipple
When I was a teacher, my students (and I) relied heavily on other writing to better understand how to structure and craft their writing. These models to study are often called mentor texts. In the classroom, mentor texts come from teachers, curriculum, other students, as well as published books, articles, and poems.
Often writers use mentor texts without even knowing the term. I studied the book Roar! by Heather and David Kopp which inspired my book The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide as well as its structure.
And it was by studying tons of current kidlit nonfiction that I successfully made major revisions to what would become Whooo Knew? The Truth About Owls which was published in 2020 with Reycraft Books. Since then three more books (Woof, Scurry, and Ribbit) have been published. Meow! The Truth About Cats will arrive on bookshelves later this year. And I’ve signed contracts for two more books in the series: sharks and lizards. (See all of Annette’s books here.)
And now teachers and students are studying The Truth About series as a mentor text.
The question-and-answer format for The Truth About series makes it easy for student writers to study and imitate the structure.
Each page spread begins with a question. Then the main text answers the question. The answers often include specific examples to showcase the answer to the question and highlight the differences among the species of animals.
In addition to the main text and bold photographs, an art-illustrated animal gives readers more information—and often with a bit of humor.
Using The Truth About Series As Mentor Texts
I’ve heard great responses to using The Truth About animal series as mentor texts in classrooms. It may serve as an animal-focused mentor text, but it can go beyond animals and STEM. Think about historical people, places, and events, too.
The age of students will determine if the class will cover one general topic.
A first or second grade class might create a class book for one topic with pairs of students researching and writing one page to address one question and answer.
This isn’t just for primary and intermediate students. Older students could do this, too. And it’s not just for ELA. Imagine a book written by the class exploring the Revolutionary War, early Mesopotamia, or early colonial life. Consider an eighth-grade class writing a book about the water cycle or the Earth’s systems. By limiting the text to a few paragraphs (or sentences), the students must carefully choose what they say and focus on facts and not fluff.
Creating one book is just an option. If enough time allows, all students might each create their own book on a topic of their choosing. Or they might work together in pairs or small groups.
Teachers and students might take note of the back matter in each of The Truth About books and provide their readers with additional information. The back matter is also a great place for young writers to take pride in themselves and let the reader “Meet the Author.”
A Real-Life Example
One first grade class shared their book Peep! The Truth About Chicks with me. They used my books as inspiration and as mentor texts. The teachers shared with me how motivated the students were to research and write because the students knew they would show me their book during our planned author visit.
They truly created an informative and well-thought out book. Each page showcased something new about chicks. I’m grateful to have been part of this class’s writing journey through my books and time with the students.
The format of The Truth About series helps students because the question-and-answer format
- helps students find focus and limit the research.ncourages students to write in bite-sized chunks.
- encourages students to write in bite-sized chunks.
If you use The Truth About series as a mentor text in your classroom, I’d love to hear about it!
Don’t forget to leave a comment below to be entered in the drawing for one of Annette’s books in THE TRUTH ABOUT… series! (US addresses, please. Winner announced 8/19/22)
And…when you enjoy a book, please take a moment to support authors and illustrators by leaving a review with online booksellers.
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder while exciting readers about science and history. She’s the author of many fact-filled children’s books including The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press, 2020), Ribbit! The Truth About Frogs (Reycraft Books, 2022) in The Truth About series, and Wild Wonders: Animal Devotions for Kids (Tyndale, 2024). When Annette’s not reading or writing, you might find her baking for her family in Pennsylvania. Get to know her and explore her resources for teachers and writers at www.AnnetteWhipple.com.