Teachers for Teachers | Two Great Nonfiction Mentor Texts
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Two Great Nonfiction Mentor Texts

klf_nonfiction2014_largeThe Long, Long Journey: The Godwit’s Amazing Migration, Sandra Markle and Mia Posada


We love how this nonfiction text tells the story of a bird family’s migration from Alaska to the New Zealand mudflats.   Sandra Markle weaves facts about Godwit birds throughout this text as we read about this bird family’s long journey.  This is a strong mentor text for an informational writing unit of study. Writers can study this text and notice the way Sandra Markle organizes the information chronologically and helps the reader experience the passage of time:

  • “For two days, the chicks stay close to the nest.”
  • “Soon the little godwit and her family…”
  • “For almost a month, the female godwit…”

We also think this text provides opportunities for teaching students about the importance of strong verbs in nonfiction writing.   Writers can see that strong verbs are an important writing craft across genres:

  • The young female prances across the mud…
  • Finally, when dark clouds sweep overhead…
  • The falcon aims straight for the young female…

As writers read and notice the author’s crafts in this text, they will have new techniques to experiment with in their own nonfiction texts.

Looking at Lincoln, Maira Kalman


We love the structure of this personal narrative/biography and we think students will love it too. The text begins as a personal narrative about a girl seeing a man on the street who looked like Abraham Lincoln. This experience inspires her to research and learn more about Abraham Lincoln. As she learns, she shares information about Abraham Lincoln’s life and the book “turns into a biography.”

Writers can study the structure of this text during a personal narrative unit of study and a nonfiction unit of study. Writers can clearly see that Maira Kalman infused voice into this biography text by telling the story of how this young girl became interested in Abraham Lincoln.

Teachers Matter, Kids Count! Tammy and Clare

Teachers Matter, Kids Count!
Tammy and Clare

  • Holly Mueller
    Posted at 12:23h, 10 December Reply

    I love Sandra Markle, and The Long, Long Journey is one of her best, I think! The cover is just gorgeous. I liked Looking at Lincoln, also, and used it for a literary nonfiction unit last year.

    • Tammy and Clare
      Posted at 21:59h, 10 December Reply

      Hi Holly,

      Looking at Lincoln is such a great text for a literary nonfiction unit. We can’t wait to use it during writing workshop as a mentor text. It will be interesting to see what students can learn from it.

      Tammy and Clare

  • Crystal
    Posted at 03:08h, 11 December Reply

    I have enjoyed both of these in the past. I really appreciate your specific pointers for using them as mentor texts!

  • Alyson
    Posted at 06:07h, 11 December Reply

    I appreciate the reminder of how certain books can be used as mentor texts for writing or examples of something such as verbs. Thanks for sharing this post with us.

  • Earl Dizon
    Posted at 05:09h, 13 December Reply

    Maria Kalman’s book really surprised me by how good it was. I loved the narrator’s curiosity and seeking out the answers she wanted!


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