Standard Lesson

Using Snowflake Bentley as a Framing Text for Multigenre Writing

3 - 5
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Six 50-minute sessions
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Snowflake Bentley, a Caldecott Medal-winning book about Wilson Bentley, is an example of a multigenre picture book. Along with the biographical text are large, colorful woodcuts and sidebars describing Bentley's experiments with microphotography and other biographical data. In this lesson, students examine and sort multiple texts about snow, discuss the multiple genres represented in the Snowflake Bentley text, and develop a working definition of the term multigenre. Using that definition, they then work in pairs or small groups to create their own multigenre piece about winter using the Multigenre Mapper interactive and related resources for guidance.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

These days, when students read and write, often it is not only in one genre. Instead, the types and kinds of reading and writing intertwine and blend together. Their work becomes multigenre. Tom Romano describes how multigenre texts work: "Multigenre allows us to 'meld fact, interpretation, and imagination,' into a series of self-contained pieces called crots that appear in forms that include poetry, prose, drama, and exposition" (109). In this lesson, students will be melding together folklore, fiction, nonfiction, and art to discuss the cross-curricular topic of weather. Teaching multigenre in the classroom is a natural way to incorporate reading, writing, and research into the content areas and other disciplines.

Further Reading

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).



This site includes a story by Professor of Physics Kenneth Libbrecht on how “Snowflake” Bentley’s photographs transformed public perception and then became cultural icons.

Included on this site are copyright free Snowflake Bentley photographs available in high resolution available on the Smithsonian Flickr Commons.

Here, teachers and students can find free craft templates for snowflakes made using Bentley's photographs.


Student Objectives

Students will

  • brainstorm words, feelings, and books associated with winter.

  • categorize text by genre.

  • explore, read, and record books about winter.

  • create a working definition of multigenre.

  • create a project incorporating several genres.

  • assess their own work.

Session One

  1. Invite the students to share their thoughts, feelings, and any facts they know about snow. As students share details, record the information on the board or on chart paper.

  2. Ask students to name any books they know that talk about snow. List the titles on the board or chart paper as well.

  3. When the students have completed their brainstorming, have them categorize the books into fiction and nonfiction. If you want to take the book sorting activity further, the students can also categorize the books by genre.

  4. Spend the rest of the session browsing through books about snow. Ask students to record their readings using the reading log.

  5. As homework, encourage students to find more titles of books about snow.

Session Two

  1. Begin this session by having students share any additional book titles they found as homework. Record the titles on the board or chart paper, as in the previous session.

  2. Read the story Snowflake Bentley to the class. Try not to provide them too much information before reading the story. Instead, wait and have a discussion after the story has been read.

  3. To start the discussion about the book, explain to the students that Snowflake Bentley is a Caldecott book. Invite the students to share what they know about the Caldecott Medal.

    • If desired, visit the American Library Association Website, and read more about the Randolph Caldecott and the Caldecott Medal.

    • You can also share with the students that there are three other Caldecott books about snow—White Snow, The Big Snow, Bright Snow, and The Snowy Day. If there is time, read aloud from these books, or highlight their illustrations.
  4. Next, ask the students what genre they think Snowflake Bentley belongs to. This should lead to a lively conversation, debating whether the book is fiction or nonfiction. Ask the students to justify their answers. For example, "I think that this book is fiction because it tells more of a story instead of presenting facts."

  5. After the students share their thoughts about genres, ask them where they think they would find this book at the library. Would it be with the picture books such as Snowy Day? Or would it be with the information books?

  6. Explain to students that Snowflake Bentley is categorized as a nonfiction book. Ask them to identify characteristics from the book that make it a nonfiction book.

  7. Read the story again, locating and discussing the nonfiction information.

  8. After this reading, explain to students that Snowflake Bentley is also a multigenre book.

  9. On chart paper or the board, divide the word multigenre into its two parts: multi and genre. Ask students to talk about the meaning of the parts of the word and then to hypothesize and brainstorm about the meaning of the whole word.

  10. Using the students' brainstormed ideas, create a working definition of the term.

  11. Next, ask students to compare their definition to a provide them with a definition of multigenre:
    As described by Katie Wood Ray in Wondrous Words, "These texts are structured in sections written in different genres. In a single text, writers may combine sections written as letters, journal entries, interview transcripts, memoirs, phone conversations, transcripts, homework assignments, encyclopedia entries, newspaper articles, refrigerator notes, poems, short stories, etc., etc. These texts read like a menagerie of writing, but together the various genres tell a single story or build a single idea." (158)
  12. Encourage the students to revisit their class definition and refine or revise it.

  13. Once a working version is agreed on, post it on the board or chart paper.

  14. Discuss the steps or processes an author might have to go through in order to write a multigenre text (e.g., choosing genres, matching genres to the topic, deciding how to connect different genres).

  15. If there is time, provide other multigenre books for the students to explore.

Session Three

  1. Together, read the book Snowflake Bentley again. This time, look for the different genres presented. If desired, you can note the genres on the board or chart paper as you move through the book.

  2. Once you've completed the reading, invite students to brainstorm other genres that the author might have used in the book. For example, there could be a copy of the advertisement for the camera with the microscope that Willie's parents bought him.

  3. Share with the students that they will be writing their own multigenre text on a selected winter topic with a partner or in a group.

  4. Brainstorm all of the different genres that could be part of their multigenre piece. In particular, remind students to include any genres that the class has covered prior to this lesson. If desired, share the Possible Genres handout.

  5. When the groups/pairs are set, ask the students to select a winter topic.

  6. Share the Multigenre Map Example and discuss the different genres included.

  7. If possible, demonstrate the Multigenre Mapper, discussing the available space for writing and connecting to the Multigenre Map Example. Alternately, you can use an overhead transparency of the Multigenre Mapper Layout to discuss the three writing spaces and the drawing space available in the interactive.

  8. As you discuss the interactive, be sure to talk about the available space for students' writing: the shortest piece should go in the space A and the longest piece in space C.

  9. Pass out copies of the Multigenre Mapper Planning Sheet, which students can use to think through their ideas before moving to the computer to publish their work.

  10. Be sure to indicate to students whether they will have black ink or color ink printers available so that they will know which choice to make when using the Multigenre Mapper.

  11. Divide students into groups of two or three each and ask them to select the three genres to include in their multigenre piece. Encourage students to think of these selections as guidelines rather than final choices. If a better choice becomes clear later, explain that it is acceptable to choose another option.

  12. After the genres are selected, the students should begin researching and writing their texts.

Sessions Four and Five: Work Sessions

  1. Allow students time to work on their writing and research in class.

  2. Provide a variety of resource materials, such as picture books, trade books, nonfiction books, the Internet, magazines, and journals that students can use as they work.

  3. Ask students to think through their texts and titles, using the Multigenre Mapper Planning Sheet.

  4. Before they move to the computer, ask students to make some decisions about what drawing they will include with their texts. Encourage students to sketch and try out options to make their work online smoother.

Session Six: Publishing

  1. When the students have completed their research and writing, they should then begin to publish their pieces using the Multigenre Mapper.

  2. Demonstrate the Multigenre Mapper to remind students how the tool works.

  3. As you discuss the interactive, be sure to talk about the available space for students' writing: the shortest piece should go in the space A and the longest piece in space C.

  4. Draw connections between the Multigenre Mapper Planning Sheet and the spaces where students publish their work in the interactive.

  5. Before they move to the computer, remind students whether they will have black ink or color ink printers available so that they will know which choice to make when using the Multigenre Mapper.

  6. As students work, provide feedback and support. Be prepared to help students revise as necessary to fit their text in the spaces in the Multigenre Mapper.

  7. Allow time in class for students to share their published pieces.


  • Invite students to learn more about Randolph Caldecott and the Caldecott Medal. To share their knowledge, they could create a Timeline or a Graphic Map.

Student Assessment / Reflections

This project requires a variety of informal and formal assessments.


  • Informally, make certain students are on track by:

    • listening to the answers they volunteer during class discussions.

    • observing their level of participation in discussions, group work and research.

    • using anecdotal note taking or kidwatching to track students’ cognitive skills as they complete the research process.

    • interviewing/questioning students throughout the process.
  • Formal evaluation may include:

    • the completed, illustrated multigenre piece.

    • reflection on what students have learned using the Research Self-Assessment.

    • responding to the content and quality of students’ thoughts in their final reflections on the project.


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