Teachers for Teachers | Slice of Life: Creating Connections Between Units of Study with Mentor Texts #SOL17
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Slice of Life: Creating Connections Between Units of Study with Mentor Texts #SOL17


We have been spending time planning curriculum units with grade level teams of teachers.  We are thinking a lot about mentor texts and how we can use certain texts or crafts to create bridges between the units of study throughout the year.  We don’t want our students to think one type of writing ends and another begins.  We want them to notice what is similar and different about each type of writing.  We also want to create some flexibility in the curriculum maps in case we need more time in one unit or in case we have six snow days!  When we think about the connections between the units it creates space for us to navigate a journey that is meaningful and responsive.

One team is currently studying informational text with their students.  They are spending some extra time in this unit because they are integrating it with their science standards.  Their next unit of study is poetry and, given the snow days, we are a bit concerned about time.  Rather than thinking about how we can squeeze it all in… we look to mentor texts.

There are many poets who write informational poems – poems that have facts and teach you about a topic.  What if we ended the information unit by having students study informational poetry and invite them to write “All About” books or informational poems?  This would give the teachers the time they need to uncover the content in science and let students connect what they are learning to the genre of poetry.

Here are some books of informational poems we found to use as mentor texts:

Douglas Florian

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David M Schwartz

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As we looked through these books we saw many connections for craft moves between poetry and informational writing– strong images, descriptive words, comparisons, and bold words.  This is a win win!  Students will get the opportunity to not only choose a topic to write about, they can choose what they want to do with their idea – an all-about book or a poem.   We love it when books help us work smarter not harder… and the kids get choice and have fun at the same time!


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    Diane Dougherty
    Posted at 10:51h, 21 March Reply

    What a treasure trove of poetry out there with informational topics! It has always stuck in my craw that (in PA at least) we “test” writing in three modes: informational, narrative, and persuasive (opinion, now). Writing does overlap. One can write a narrative the purpose of which is to inform or even to develop an argument. Much writing is multi genre, and we do our students a disservice to suggest otherwise. Thanks for this important reminder. Great post.

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    Rose Cappelli
    Posted at 12:01h, 21 March Reply

    Great resources, Clare! I have also found lots of mentor poems for informational writing in Joyce Sidman’s work.

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    Lynne Dorfman
    Posted at 16:32h, 21 March Reply

    I loved reading this piece and using mentor texts to bridge units. I like the idea that teachers can spend more time here or there by using mentor texts to integrate writing across the content areas. I want to echo Rosie’s comment about the work of Joyce Sidman, a poet who often pairs poems with a piece of nonfiction. Ubiquitous, Winter Bees, Butterfly Eyes, Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature. Great post, Clare. Thank you, dear friend!

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    Jennifer Laffin
    Posted at 17:47h, 21 March Reply

    I think it is that bridge between two units that is so important and so often lacking. Kids tend to compartmentalize unless we are explicit in making the connections clear and explore those connections. I have also found that to be true of pull out intervention — What my students learn with the interventionist is not applied to their classroom learning. We are missing those bridges.

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    Posted at 21:49h, 21 March Reply

    This is wonderful – sharing it!!!

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    Melanie Meehan
    Posted at 23:54h, 21 March Reply

    I love this. I think you could also teach into the poetic language that exists in informational texts that are really memorable. I love some of Nicola Davies’ work for that, as well as Jean Craighead George. I think it was Finding the Heart of Nonfiction by Georgia Heard that first got me talking to teachers about it, and the concepts have made our district’s nonfiction writing SO MUCH BETTER. While I don’t always love the poems, it’s fun to point out to students that even some of the National Geographic books begin with a poem. Some of our teachers point out that it’s another way to hook readers. Great post, Clare.

  • the space between #sol17 | readingteachsu
    Posted at 09:23h, 22 March Reply

    […] Thank you to Clare Landrigan for being a tremendous catalyst for change.  Read her posts here. […]

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