What are informational texts?
The Common Core State Standards include the following in their definition of informational texts:
biographies and autobiographies; “books about history, social studies, science, and the arts”; “technical texts, including directions, forms, and information displayed in graphs, charts, or maps”; and “digital sources on a range of topics” (p. 31).
That’s a broad range so what does that really mean? Sources that can inform your work include:
Research and Policy: Informational Texts and the Common Core Standards: What Are We Talking about, Anyway? by Beth Maloch and Randy Bomer
6 Reasons to Use Informational Text in the Primary Grades – Scholastic, Nell Duke
The Case for Informational Text – Educational Leadership, Nell Duke
Where can I find lists of Mentor Texts?
Award winning lists include:
Mentor Texts to Support the Writers’ Workshop (Literature and Informational Texts)
This list supports writers’ workshop. Others are readily available on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers.
What about professional books to help me with Mentor Texts and Informational Writing?
Nonfiction Mentor Texts: Teaching Informational Writing through Children’s Literature K-8 by Lynne Dorfman and Rose Capeli (website)
The Writing Thief: Using Mentor Texts to Teach the Craft of Writing by Ruth Culham (Chapter 3)
Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling and Mentor Texts by Kelly Gallagher (Chapters 3 and 5)
Mentor Authors, Mentor Texts: Short Texts, Craft Notes and Practical Classroom Uses by Ralph Fletcher
Finding the Heart of Nonfiction: Teaching 7 Essential Craft Tools with Mentor Texts by Georgia Heard
and many grade level texts in the separate Units of Study of Writing by Lucy Calkins and friends at TCRWP.
What do I do with the books that I am considering as mentor texts?
Your number one task is to Read informational texts that you also like. And then your second task is to read these books from the lens of a writer. Identify techniques that the author uses very successfully. Third, talk with other teachers about the techniques and goals! To get started consider these helpful blog posts: A brilliantly written blog post on the use of a mentor text during a co-teaching instruction session by Melanie Meehan can be found in this post “Slice of Life Exploring a Fabulous Mentor Text” on the Two Reflective Teachers blog. Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris list “Our Top Eleven Nonfiction Books for Teaching . . . Everything!” here! Clare and Tammy at Teachers for Teachers also have a post titled “Two Great Nonfiction Mentor Texts”. Tara Smith writes routinely about texts. “Mentor Texts” is a recent one. Two Writing Teachers: mentor text archive (You can also search any of the above blogs for additional posts about Mentor Texts!) And three from my blog archives: Reading and Writing Instruction – Paired Mentor Texts #TCRWP Day 3: Information Mentor Texts (based on Alexis Czeterko’s (@AlexisCzeterko ) Closing Workshop “Five Mentor Texts for Information Writing – and Ways to Use Them with Power”) #SOL14: Writing Techniques and Goals