The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown is hands-down the best writing mentor text to teach young writers how to organize a nonfiction paragraph. It is the perfect picture book to show students how to include a topic sentence, details to describe the main idea, and a closing sentence.
I have used this mentor text for the past 10 years in the primary classroom. I’m currently teaching first grade and it works like a charm. I actually first started using The Important Book when I was teaching third grade and when I transferred to kindergarten I continued using this mentor text with my kinders! And yes, you CAN teach kindergartners how to write a proper paragraph. I’m telling you, you can’t lose with this book. It can be done!
Here is a glimpse of the author’s craft included in The Important Book. Take a look:
As you can see, this mentor text is perf! You will notice that each story in this picture book begins and ends the same and includes details sentences that support the main idea. The stories are simple, short and truly help your students VISUALIZE proper paragraph structure and organization.
Introduce Paragraph Structure and Organization
As you read the story to your students, you will be pleased to see that they will notice the predictability of the author’s craft and will start to chime in to read the closing sentences of each story. This is what makes this picture book a mentor text for paragraph structure. They will just “get it”!
After the initial reading of the book, as a class we pick a writing topic to draft together. We brainstorm nouns and verbs to describe ONE main idea and then draft our writing piece together using transition words and phrases.
As we are writing I then add an “extra” to the lesson: transition words and phrases. As we write our draft, I display posters I created to help my students improve their sentence fluency. I also provide them with desk helpers that they can later take right to their seat to help them with the spelling of those phrases.
Here is a sample writing piece:
The important thing about hot cocoa is that it is sweet. Did you know that it is easy to make? Another interesting fact is that you can use different toppings. For example, you can use whip cream. Also, marshmallows are yummy too. In addition, you can drink it plain. But, the important thing about hot cocoa is that it it is sweet!
After we have drafted our class important story, I then provide my students with a writing prompt. I send them off to their seats to generate their own idea web to help them brainstorm nouns and verbs to describe their topic.
Before you send them off to write, do THIS!
Once they have finished their idea web, I invite them back to the carpet to rehearse their writing piece. Using their idea web they TELL their story to their writing partner. This offers them the chance to rehearse their story out loud before the physical act of writing. As they verbally write their story, they refer to the time order word posters to help them keep their story going. This is SUPER EFFECTIVE in helping my students organize their thoughts before lifting a pencil to write!
Now that my students are ready to write their own important story. Let’s take a look at how I organized the Winter Writing Center.
If you look closely, you will see that I have organized The Winter Writing Center so that my students can find what they need with visual directions, writing samples, posters, desk helpers and writing papers!
I want my students to work as independently as possible during our Writer’s Workshop so that I am free to meet with my students for writing conferences. Providing them with visual supports truly helps me accomplish this.
In the photo above, you will see how I have visual step-by step directions to help my students craft their own Important Book story using the framework and organization of the mentor text. The sample writing piece is also on display in our writing center to help them visualize what their writing should look like when they are finished.
My students especially love the desk helpers that are designed to keep them at their seat focused on their writing. They love to manipulate these writing tools to help them improve their sentence fluency. And they are cute to boot:
I do hope that you have found that The Important Book is a must-have mentor text for teaching nonfiction writing in your classroom. It is a teaching strategy that can be used across grade levels to help your students improve the organization of their writing. You must try it!
Oh! If you would like to learn more about The Winter Writing Center seen in these photographs, you can find them HERE. There are 28 winter and Christmas Writing prompts to keep your students writing all season long!
Or you can pin it for later: