Learning from the Best

The important thing about writing is. . . having a strong model to emulate! I love reading well-written picture books to my class, as we learn the language of writing from authors. A favorite book to use as a mentor text  comes from the series, Discover America State by State by Sleeping Bear Press. Each book focuses on a different state, with a simple rhyme for each letter, as well as informative text in the sidebar.  G is for California: A California Alphabet by David Domeniconi is a fact-filled, beautifully illustrated book. My class loved it so much that they wanted to write their own version!
In this alphabet book, each page is set up with an upper case & lower case letter, a sidebar with facts about the topic, a 4-line rhyming poem to introduce the topic, with a large illustration. 

Together we brainstormed for what we had learned about California during the year, then sorted the topics into alphabetical categories. After selecting which topic they wanted to write about, my kids got busy! It was a bit challenging to write a 4-line rhyming verse about the topic they selected, but with peer suggestions, they did an amazing job!! And since (of course) I had more than 26 (letters) students, we added digraphs as pages: ch, th, sh, wh, wr and kn. 
After writing the poem, students began to organize and write their informative rough drafts. We went through A LOT of revision, especially to form writing into coherent paragraphs! Typing their final copies took a while. . . we formatted the width to fit into the sidebar. Since my kids wanted to make this unique and special, their idea was to draw then watercolor the illustrations. . . this was not as easy as they had anticipated!! But the effect was still beautiful! Lastly, I got scrapbooking stickers to use for the capital and lower-case letters on each page. Voila!! A memorable class book!! 
What books do you use as Mentor Texts for writing? I'd love to hear from you!

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