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Inspiring Independent Writing Project Mentor Text (Part 3 of 5)

look upIf you’re planning to launch independent writing projects in your class during the final weeks of school, then you’ll most likely have several students who might want to write a book about a topic of expertise.  Therefore, it might be nice to have a few new mentor texts on hand that you didn’t use when you taught all-about book writing earlier in the year.  (Please know that I think revisiting the mentor texts your students are familiar with is important! However, if you’re like me, you probably like sharing fresh mentor texts with students to keep your teaching fresh.)

Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard, written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate, is about a topic I know very little about.  However, I was able to learn so much from this 54-page informational text that taught me about all aspects of bird watching in a FUN way.   This book is jam-packed with information, which would make it a gem to use in a nonfiction reading unit when you are teaching students how to navigate informational texts.  But by this point in the year, you’ve already taught your students how to do that work.  Therefore, I envision using excerpts from Look Up! in strategy lessons if you’re trying to lift the level of your students’ explanatory writing.

This book can be used to teach writers to:

  • choose a topic on which they’re passionate, even if they’re not an expert (Cate reveals she came to bird-watching by way of keeping a nature sketchbook. She’s not a professor of ornithology — just a bird lover!)
  • create a hybrid text: an informational book with a comic book feel
  • write using a conversational tone of voice
  • categorize information around topics
  • develop topics using a variety of details
  • infuse accurate hand-drawn charts and maps into a book
  • select words that are specific to the topic
  • define words in context
  • embed humor into an informational text (A lot of the humor in this book comes from the birds whose say funny things in speech bubbles.)
  • include nonfiction features into an all-about book (e.g., table of contents, headings, maps/charts, bibliography, index)

 Take a look at some page spreads from Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard:

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Click on the image to enlarge.
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Click on the image to enlarge.

LOOK UP!. Copyright © 2013 by Annette LeBlanc Cate. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA.

Giveaway Information:

  • Many thanks to Candlewick Press for sponsoring this giveaway. One lucky commenter will win a copy of Look Up!: Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard written and illustrated by Annette LeBlanc Cate.
  • To enter for a chance to win a copy please leave a comment on this post about independent writing projects, how you’d use this book in your classroom, or am embarrassing story from your childhood that you could share with your students.All comments left on or before Friday, May 31st, 2013 at 11:59 p.m. EDT will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator the following day. I will announce the winners’ names at the bottom of this post no later than Sunday, June 2nd.
    • NOTE: The book can be shipped to anyone who has a U.S.A. mailing address.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Candlewick will ship the book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you only leave it in the e-mail field.)

Comments are now closed on this post.

Thank you to everyone who left a comment about Look Up!.  Bernadette’s commenter number was selected so she will receive a copy of this book.  Here’s what she wrote:

Thank you for this excellent recommendation. I love all the tips you give. I do love returning to my mentor texts, but keeping enthusiasm and Interest high with fresh new texts is so important!
An embarrassing story I share with my students is how I once received an F+ as a grade on a math test.I was unable to properly answer a complicated question in Calculus, (I had NO idea how to even attempt it) so I did my best to use my artistic talents to do a 3-D drawing of the figure from the problem. While I’m not proud of my F, I am proud of my +. I share the story to encourage my student to always try, no matter what, and to emphasize that we are talentedin different ways. I hopeit encourages them to not give up, and to recognize we are all talented in different ways.

Stacey Shubitz View All

Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

32 thoughts on “Inspiring Independent Writing Project Mentor Text (Part 3 of 5) Leave a comment

  1. After reading an article by Stephanie Harvey at the beginning of the school year, I started meeting with a group of 5 boys who were reluctant readers. They kept “wonder books” where they wondered about the world around them. Based on their “wonderings” we conducted non-fiction research on topics such as dinosaurs, rocks and later volcanoes. The presentation of their research came across looking somewhat like the work in this book. I think this book would be great to have as a model text to inspire my students for next year as they wonder about the world and analyze how real writers present information.

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  2. I am in charge of our “Summer Fun” program that begins on June 10th and this book sounds perfect! We are concentrating on writing this summer. In fact, we will be challenging the students to write every single day for 6 weeks and we’ll be doing lots of slices of life….just like we did in March!

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  3. Summer school starts in one week and has a wonderful poetry reading and writing curriculum. However, we use our Outdoor Classroom a lot. We will be filling our many bird feeders and observing. This book would fit our somewhat relaxed summer session for it’s lighthearted humor as well as information. Using it as a model of writing speech balloons is helpful for those reluctant writers.

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  4. What a wonderful book! Thank you so much for the recommendation. My second graders just finished writing feature articles about a topic they were interested in and knew something about. This would have been a great mentor text for that project!

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  5. What an amazing book and great writing idea! I’m in a year round school that doesn’t break until June 28, and this would really help make the time go by quickly.

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  6. Really, I just love the book because I’m a bird watcher and I love seeing ways that authors make birds interesting to kids….but that wasn’t one of the options to write about in the comments, so I will say that this book sounds like it would also be great for helping talk about voice in nonfiction writing with kids. The best way I have found to teach about voice is to show examples of it–the more the better, especially when the voice has a great sense of humor. Encouraging my kids to include their sense of humor in their writing has made a big different to their voice!

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  7. This book looks like it would support so many readers and writers with a variety of ways to show their own ideas when reading and discussing text. Looks like a real winner!

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  8. I had a boy last year that would have loved this book! He was an avid bird watcher in first grade! Maybe I’ll have him come and read it and teach my new firsties:)

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  9. I want this book as both a mom and a teacher! My own kids would love it but I know my students would, too. I would use it as a nf mentor text for teaching text features when we write our nf books.

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  10. I use mentor texts daily with my writing classes. This would be a great addition because there are very few text to model informational writing that capture kids’ attention.

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  11. Thanks for sharing this book! I love it! My students LOVE graphic novels and sometimes that is all they want to read! I would teach students how they could write their own graphic novel to inform their readers about a topic. This would be such a fun variation to the typical informational book with non-fiction text features. I am always looking for fun ways to reach the standards.

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  12. Thank you for this excellent recommendation. I love all the tips you give. I do love returning to my mentor texts, but keeping enthusiasm and Interest high with fresh new texts is so important!
    An embarrassing story I share with my students is how I once received an F+ as a grade on a math test.I was unable to properly answer a complicated question in Calculus, (I had NO idea how to even attempt it) so I did my best to use my artistic talents to do a 3-D drawing of the figure from the problem. While I’m not proud of my F, I am proud of my +. I share the story to encourage my student to always try, no matter what, and to emphasize that we are talentedin different ways. I hopeit encourages them to not give up, and to recognize we are all talented in different ways.

    Like

  13. I teach middle school ESL students who love graphic novels because the illustrations are creative and engage them with the text. This “informational book with a comic book feel” looks as if it will do the trick – teach them while entertaining them, and inspire them to create their own books. We will begin the year reading and discussing this book, look for similar books for comparison, and then create our own illustrated nature guides.

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  14. I’m two seconds from jumping on Amazon to order this title! Thanks for your thoughtful introduction — writing teachers I know will think this is a gold mine of teaching points :).

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  15. I will be teaching Reading for the first time this coming year. I have no mentor texts at all and will be starting from scratch. Thank you for introducing me to this outstanding book and for all the great ideas in which to use it.

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  16. My Life Skills students would live this! We spent November doing high interest reading with comic books, so this would be a great cumulative project!

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  17. I would pair this with some other great bird titles I have. All my titles are at school, but a few of my favorites: a lovely bird journal-Robin Makes a Laughing Sound, For the Birds (Bio of Roger Tory Peterson), The Boy Who Drew Birds (another bio of John Audubon), Hummingbird Nest by K. O’Connell George (one of my favorite poetry books), Kevin Henkes Birds, and of course, for some good old fiction-any of the pigeon books by Mo Willems.

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  18. What about a beginning of the year writing project? We have ended our year, but I am always looking for new ideas for the coming year. My list includes building in more mentor texts. Thanks for introducing me to this book.

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  19. I am so excited for learning about this book-we just finished our writing projects and this would be an amazing book to add to our collection for mentor text. So often I don’t share enough about how writers can turn something simple into an amazing story. Thanks for reminding there are so many details about bird watching.

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  20. I love the format of this book. Main idea with details in the speech bubbles is very clever. I think my students will really enjoy this book.

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  21. This is a great idea. When I was young, my dad built birdhouses in our backyard, and we banded the baby birds to see if they returned the next year. I copied drawings of different species and described them in a stenographer’s notebook. I thought it was great fun.

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