We also enjoyed a Skype session with author Lynne Dorfman. Lynne is one part of the Dorfman/Cappelli mentor text guru duo. Sweet Lynne spoke with us specifically about her book Nonfiction Mentor Texts.
She shared lots of ways to help students brainstorm writing topics as well as activities for writing informational pieces.
One of my favorite activities we tried out was the "Creating a Scene: A Way to Introduce an Information Piece of Writing" lesson (original credit to Fletcher & Portalupi).
Using the book Frogs, Lynne shared how author Ann Heinrichs creates a scene as a lead to her text. She broke down how the author included many true facts, but it was told in an interesting narrative fashion. Then it was our turn.
Lynne gave us a list of facts about hummingbirds from the book Hummingbirds: Tiny But Mighty by Judy Gehman and then had us practice writing a "creating a scene" lead. Bonus: this is a great way to teach students not to plagiarize research materials!
Her handout for the lesson can be accessed here. Lynne also shared other types of leads (with mentor text titles!) she teaches students here. I know many of these went on my wishlist!