12th ELA

Deconstructing Mentor Texts for Our Own Writing: Research-Based Informational Writing In the Wild

My seniors have completed their research on their self-selected topics related to the Future of Work (see blog for previous posts); we have gone deep with our inquiry work as we have worked on this for the most part of the first nine weeks of the semester while sprinkling in some other writing studies and work before we shift gears to literature study at the end of the month.  Last Friday, I organized students into eight “Think Tanks” and gave them the following materials in a folder:

  • An informational article (I pulled from a variety of sources); you can message me if you’d like a copy of the text set.
  • A copy of Kelly Gallagher’s chart of purposes for writing
  • A sample of a kernel essay with the markups from Gretchen Bernabei’s Text Structures from the Masters.
  • A handout outlining effective leads for expository essays from Essay Writing Made Easy.

Inspired by Writing with Mentors How to Reach Every Writer in the Room Using Current, Engaging Mentor Texts by Rebekah O’Dell and Allison Marchetti, various posts over at their Moving Writers blog, and some personal Tweets from Rebekah, I gathered a series of eight mentor texts that I felt were good examples of research based informational writing “in the wild” or from the real world.  I wanted my students to have some models of how we might break out of the traditional five paragraph essay structure to compose and share their research findings.  Deconstructing and completing “noticings” about mentor texts is still a relatively new experience for my seniors, so I provided some scaffolding to help them organize their thinking and to create a poster to share out with the class:

We reviewed the instructions and some options for how groups or “think tanks” could go about their collaborative inquiry work.  Then I turned the groups loose to begin their deconstruction of the informational texts.  I walked about the room observing, answering questions, and supporting anyone who seemed to be struggling.  We worked roughly 35-40 minutes before it the class period ended, so we continued our work taking about 45 minutes to finish our endeavor.

We then reviewed procedures for sharing our posters as well as ways to show love and support as listeners.  Students also received a graphic organizer to take notes or capture “take away” ideas from each group poster session (see Gallery Walk Poster Share Notetaking Sheet 12th ELA for Deconstructing Informational Essays October 2017 ).  As each group presented, I reflected back what I heard and asked clarifying questions as needed; students could also ask the presenters for clarification or to repeat anything they needed to hear again.  The period flew by, and all groups finished but one, so our final group will start us off on Friday.  Once we finish, students will then complete a self-assessment of themselves and their group (see Poster Presentation Self Assessment Informational Text in the Wild Noticings) before beginning to develop a writing plan.  We’ll collaborate as we begin to draft the pieces of our essay, so stay tuned for more on that approach to our writing process!

It was interesting to see how each group worked together in terms of how they attacked the activity as well as the interaction (or challenges with working together).  Groups that communicated clearly and did the annotating/marking up “a la Gretchen Bernabei” style were the ones whose posters were the strongest finish product in terms of content depth and completeness.  Overall, I am very happy with the design of the learning experience and how my students handled this because it was definitely a challenging learning activity.  They have demonstrated growth since the beginning of August and took on this challenge in a way that they could not have done only nine weeks ago.  I am also excited that their work can now serve as anchor work to showcase in the classroom.

How do you support students in engaging in noticings about mentor texts?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Inquiring into the Future of Work with a Reading Frenzy and Speed Dating Share Time

Essential Questions:
• What trends and technology are shaping the future of work?

• How might the future of work impact the decisions we make today?

Writer’s Notebook #3  

Standards for Learning/AKS:

Reading Informational Text
LA12.B.19: read and comprehend literary nonfiction in the grades 11–CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range, by the end of grade 12 (I)


  • LA12.C.28 draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research (I)
  • LA12.C.29: write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences (I)

Speaking and Listening
LA12.D.30: initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (e.g., one-on- one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 11–12 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively (I)

Learning Activities
• After composing in our writer’s notebook on a chart/list-based prompt about the qualities employers desired in 2015 and in the future 2020 for work, we did a lightning round share out; anyone who volunteered to read something from his/her entry today will receive bonus points on the daily work assignment for today (our reading frenzy graphic organizer).
• Each table group received a folder of articles related to the future work; each table group also had access to the Google Drive folder of all articles via a QR code. Students received a graphic organizer and were asked to try and read four articles; as students read, they recorded publication info, important ideas, reactions, significant facts, unfamiliar terms, and questions. Most students were able to complete 2-3 articles.

• We then moved into “speed dating” interview in the hallways. We divided into two groups face to face and students shared 3 ideas/pieces of information from their favorite article with a partner. We rotated through 3 partners with 2 minute segments for sharing.

• We returned to the room and brainstormed a list of important topics/themes/concepts we got from the articles; this article is housed in our shared Google Drive folder with the articles from today.


• We did a preliminary four corners activity to get an idea of areas of interest for further inquiry and research. Students will continue browsing and reading the articles online through our shared Google folder between now and the beginning of class. We’ll take a second pass at forming birds of feather groups Friday morning.


• Observation of student work throughout the entire class period.
• Students will turn in their reading notes graphic organizers on Friday; they took them home in case they wanted to review them or add anything to them before class Friday.