My students have been working SO hard on these books for about 8 weeks now and I am proud to say that they are finished and fantastic! Take a look (sorry for the flash - I use my iPhone)
Here's how we did it:
When this first started, I let the students know that they would be completing a research project and publishing their very own book to show what they have learned. Oh, the excitement! They were so thrilled and could not wait to start.
I introduced a variety of "exciting" animals and went to the public library to check out 50 books (the maximum, they would allow). I chose bears, snakes, sharks, owls, whales, and tigers. On the first day I let the students take a book-walk around the room so they could get take a look an decide which animals they may want to research. Then they got to vote for their top 3 choices. Soon after I chose 2-3 students per animal and they started their projects!
We spent a lot of time first trimester distinguishing between fiction and non-fiction books, so my students were already familiar with non-fiction text features. Once we started the process I spent each writing block going through a different page of the book we were creating. I used Gail Gibbon's non-fiction book about frogs for my modeling throughout the whole unit. The students compiled a folder of "sloppy copies" then they would have to schedule a meeting with their editor (me!) before they could publish their pages.
It certainly took a long time, but the students LOVED going through the research process and the publishing process. They loved getting to meet with the editor and then publish their own book. We will be having an author's celebration with some sparkling grape juice to celebrate our hard work!!
You can get the whole book at my TpT store here: