Recently, during my English department meeting, we discussed ways to incorporate more nonfiction writing, especially writing that is research based, in our classrooms. Many of us agree that the 8 week research paper unit in which skills are taught in isolation to the rest of the curriculum is not an effective strategy, and while I've done well with integrating research skills into daily tasks, I know my students are still weak at pulling it all together into a cohesive writing piece.
In the beginning of the school year, I introduced my students to Joseph Campbell's Hero Journey concept and used the short stories read in class as mentor texts for fiction writing. Rather than having my students write an original hero journey story (which would be a novel!), students drew a plot diagram for an original concept of a story and wrote one scene as if ripped from the pages of a book. The students attempted to emulate the writing techniques of Richard Connell, Edgar Allan Poe, and Richard Peck in their original stories. Using the short stories as mentor texts provided my students with models of effective writing techniques and the entire project was a success! You can read some of their stories here, which we published on a website.
The mentor text strategy worked so well for fiction-based writing that I thought, "why not use this same strategy for nonfiction writing?" Students can read nonfiction pieces from acclaimed authors, identify the writing techniques used, and then write a nonfiction piece attempting to use the same techniques. Sounds good, right? Ok, well this is where I need YOUR HELP.
I think using mentor texts is a very viable strategy, but I don't know where to start! There are so many texts to choose from! I started this collaborative Google Doc in the hope that we can crowdsource some ideas for using mentor texts for nonfiction writing. PLEASE, oh PLEASE, click on this link and add your resources, texts, and writing task ideas to this page. You can view the document below.