Teachers for Teachers | Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge – A Powerful Mentor Text for Informational Writing
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Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge – A Powerful Mentor Text for Informational Writing


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Elephants – A Book for Children, David Henry Wilson and Steve Bloom

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We knew we had to order this text after we read Fran McVeigh’s blog post about the workshop she attended at Teachers College titled – “Five Mentor Texts for Information Writing – and Ways to Use Them with Power”. In Fran’s post she raves about the texts Alexis Czeterko shared during this workshop and after reading this book we understand why.

Elephants – A Book for Children is a terrific read aloud and a perfect mentor text for writers to study during an informational writing unit.   Steve Bloom’s photographs are spectacular and the way they are integrated into this text is amazing. Each photograph shows elephants in their natural habitat and the pictures are so close-up it seems like you can almost reach out and touch the elephant’s skin.

As we read and reread this text many writing crafts jump off the pages. The way the facts about elephants are elaborated throughout the book is especially powerful.   Here are a few techniques for elaborating writing that we noticed as we read this text:

  • Comparisons: “If you had teeth that size, you’d never be able to lift your head.” – What a terrific way for students to understand the size of something.   Young writers can study the comparisons in this text to learn how to help their readers envision what they are teaching.
  • Twin Sentences: “Elephants have funny feet. You can’t see their toes. All you can see are their toenails peeping out from a thick cushion of flesh. The cushion helps them walk safely on all kinds of ground…” – Notice the way this paragraph begins with the author’s opinion, then gives general information and finally provides specific details.   Writers can learn how to expand one idea by starting with general information and moving to more specific details.
  • Table of Contents: The table of contents is so clear and young writers can study how David Henry Wilson categorizes information.   He has many subtopics in each section that teach young writers to elaborate in their own work.
  • Facts and Humor– “For most of the day, elephants wander around looking for food and water. When you’re as big as an elephant, you need a lot of food. An adult male eats roughly 700 pounds of food a day.” – We love the way David Henry Wilson weaves facts and explanations throughout his writing. He doesn’t just say how much an elephant eats, he add humor that enhances our understanding of the facts.

 

We can’t wait to use this text during classroom visits and PD sessions throughout the upcoming school year.   Thank you Fran for sharing your learning with all of us who weren’t able to attend this PD session. We are looking forward to reading the other four texts that Alexis Czeterko recommended.

Tammy and Clare

8 Comments
  • Avatar
    Fran
    Posted at 10:34h, 27 August Reply

    Tammy and Clare,
    I’m going to print out your post and put it inside the book to share with friends who “leaf” through the book. The craft in the poem that begins the book is also one of my many, many favorites of the book as well. Thanks for sharing your thinking about this book! It is so gorgeous!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 22:53h, 28 August Reply

      Hi Fran,

      You are so kind. Glad the post was helpful. Thanks for sharing all of your insights from the workshops at Teachers College. We love reading your posts.

      Best
      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Carrie Gelson @There's a Book for That
    Posted at 17:29h, 27 August Reply

    Love this post! What a great mentor text and fantastic examples you have pointed out. Thanks!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 22:54h, 28 August Reply

      Thanks Carrie – Glad it was helpful.

      Best
      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Linda Baie
    Posted at 18:58h, 27 August Reply

    Thanks for sharing such a good book & the ways you will use it. Another for my list!

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 22:54h, 28 August Reply

      Thanks Linda. Let us know what you think of it after you read it. We would love to hear your opinion.

      Best
      Tammy and Clare

  • Avatar
    Myra from GatheringBooks
    Posted at 04:18h, 28 August Reply

    Thank you for including those quotes – it does provide us with an idea of how this lovely book can be used in the classroom. 🙂 Will be on the lookout for this one.

    • Avatar
      Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 22:55h, 28 August Reply

      Hi Myra,

      Glad the quotes were helpful. We will have to do that in future posts too.

      Best
      Tammy and Clare

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