Biographies: Creating Connections

My picture book biography of Ansel Adams, “Antsy Ansel”, will be out in 2016. I love how these teachers are using the work of contemporary picture book biographers as mentor texts to teach about biography!

Biographies: Creating Connections.

via Biographies: Creating Connections.


The Story of the Giant Sequoia + a Giveaway

The Story of the Giant Sequoia + a Giveaway.

via The Story of the Giant Sequoia + a Giveaway.

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I am so excited to read this beautiful new book!

After visiting the Merced Grove of Sequoia’s in Yosemite this summer, this book is just the thing I need!

If we’re going to categorize it, it is both informational and lyrical. In my mind, that makes it nonfiction. What does the Library of Congress say? It is poetry, and thus would be catalogued and shelved with the poetry.

How can it be used in the classroom? To teach both informational and narrative text types, and the figurative language of poetry. It could be used to teach research, and how research can be presented in a variety of ways.



Snake Oil — Ads as Mentor Texts

Teaching this week at the San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) Young Writers’ Camp, I used ads as mentor texts to teach 4th and 5th graders about argument/opinion writing. We began the day with a prompt by TA Michele, who had kids write about a time when they had to convince someone else to see things their way, or convince someone to give them something they wanted, or take them someplace they wanted to go.

Then we examined ads as mentor texts. We copied ads from magazines, comic books and the internet and gave one to each pair of students and had them examine the ads to identify audience, what the ad was persuading us to do, how the ad made us feel, and what persuasive techniques the ad author used.

We moved on to the great game Snake Oil In Snake Oil, players divide into one “character” and two or more product inventors/salespeople. “Characters” draw a character card — examples:  vampire, prom queen, cowboy, general, plumber. They become the market for the product the other players will create. Then other players each draw six object cards. From those 6 cards, they choose two cards to combine to make a product the character would want to buy. Then they create a verbal product pitch for that product.   After each player as pitched their product to the character, the character decides which one he/she would like to buy. One character was  a Ninja, and she chose to buy a Pump Ladder, created from the cards pump and ladder, to help her cushion when she climbs and leaps in the dark.

After students played four rounds of Snake Oil, they worked as a group to create a print ad and a product pitch as a group for one product.  Here are some of the results!

After a break, my teaching partner, Laura, had students create ads for a real audience — university students — showing the best way to spend $3 in the campus food court.

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Ten Plants that Shook the World; Seeds of Change

I just came across two amazing books — one brand new, and one very old — and am using them to teach how plants have moved around the globe — particularly potatoes, as that is a focus of our school garden program. Plants can be used as a frame of reference to look at global migration, and the impact that the movement of people and plants has had across the world. IMG_1037 IMG_1038


This is an amazing book, looking at the history of a city and a tree, using the scope of a tree’s life as a frame of reference. Kind of puts things in perspective when you think of how long a tree lives. It would be great to use it as a way to study our own neighborhoods or cities, and as a way of studying plants and trees.



Going North, by Janice Harrington

1050194This beautiful book shares the story of one black family’s move north in 1964, from Alabama to Nebraska. It is a narrative text written in poetic language. It can be used as a mentor text when talking about African American history, as an example of the use of repetition, alliteration and assonance, sensory imagery, personification, and onomatopoeia, as narrative nonfiction, or to show a narrative story arc.

There’s an example from the book, showing Harrington’s poetic use of language:

“Lunchtime, are you hungry?”

Picnic basket and paper plates,

Big Mama’s tea cakes

potato salad and lemonade,

cold chicken and corn bread.

The car smells like chicken.

our fingers taste salty sweet.

We’re riding in a lemonade car,

a yellow station wagon, heading North.

To see the book cover, check out this link!

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Here  is a photo of author, Janice Harrington from