This is your EMWP Summer Institute Book Group blog. You are asked to post at least once a week before and during the Institute. Your group leader will post additional assignments and post topics. Check back often. If you have any questions or concerns contact your leader, Cynthia.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Late to the Party

So I waded through my spam folder and finally found the invitation to join our shared blog about Nonfiction Mentor Texts by Dorfman and Cappelli. I will admit that I haven't read as much as I had planned. In fact, I haven't touched the book in a few weeks. I initially spent some time perusing the table of contents wondering why I hadn't reached for this book sooner. Toward the end of the school year, I did some crisis reading from Chapter 6: Nonfiction Writing in the Real World. The section on Using Interviews to Create Family Histories caught my eye. One of the snippets included in the book was from a 2nd grader named Matthew. He wrote about how he thought his fingers were the best part of himself. I loved this snippet because it matched my thinking about my model lesson on having kids write about their hands.

The best part of me is my fingers. They are made of German skin. My fingers have a little hair on them. They get lots of cuts. My fingers love to hold my pencil and write all day. They love writing the answers to math questions with my pencil. My fingers remember gripping the ball I threw for the first time. After that I felt so good. My fingers wish to be playing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite in front of a huge audience. When I was done they would clap so loud it would hurt my ears. The best part of me is my fingers.  Matthew, Grade 2  (p. 150 from Nonfiction Mentor Texts by Dorfman and Cappelli.)


  1. This is also a similar idea to one that Carol Raub Dobos shared with us last year during the Summer Institute. She did a similar lesson with middle school students. She had us draw around our hands and make a real model of what they looked like; scars, freckles, bones, knuckles, veins, fingernails, and even jewelery. We, then pointed these things out and described any significance that these features may have had in our lives. As a final part of the exercise, we chose one of the features to write about. I wrote about a feature of my hand that reminded me of a family member.

    I was so excited about this lesson, that I also did this with my middle school students. They definitely liked the drawing portion of this exercise. However, I did find that it would take many days to get them to develop a worthwhile writing piece from this. Many of them are "too cool for school." It did get them to think more deeply about what their hands have accomplished and experienced, and how that has affected their lives. I look forward to hearing more about your plan!

    1. Gee, I'm a little worried now. Hope I don't suck. :)

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  3. I just finished the whole chapter and I have several thoughts.
    1) Kids need those mentor texts! It sounds like D&C have quite a collection of books for each project so that the kids can get an idea of how each type of writing is structured. I wonder if the they even bother teaching reading as it's own subject, or if it is completely woven into the writing.
    2) Nowhere in the book are the words "evaluation," rubric," or even "checklist." I wonder if D&C have the kids create their own after examining all those texts, or if they provide one to the students.
    3) There was an interesting focus on the vocabulary of each type of writing. For example there are specific cooking words for recipes. The list of transition words in page 170 also seemed significant.
    4) My personal experience with mentor texts is that reading level can pose a challenge. The years I did the wax museum for biographies, I had a devil of a time finding resources for the students that they could read and understand. Some of them only had a second grade level!

    1. I totally agree with you Julie! As teachers, we need these books at our fingertips. Your comment about reading whether or not they teach reading is interesting to me. I wonder if they weave reader's and writer's workshop together or use the same texts for lessons in both. Your notice about the vocabulary of each type of writing got me thinking also. I was thinking about how on the Smarter Balanced tests, kids have to be able to recognize types of writing and how they differ from one another. I also agree about needing books of varying levels.