Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style

on October 21, 2013

My class has officially started their expository writing pieces. This is very new to them, so we are taking it slowly. Thank goodness for Gretchen Bernabei! She makes it so much more fun, interesting, and easier for these little people to understand!

We began by brainstorming people we admire. I told my students that this person could be a friend, family member, singer, entertainer, sports star, or anyone they like or look up to. They had to understand that admire doesn’t mean that you like them in a romantic way because they automatically think of a secret admirer. Haha.

Then I gave them a planning sheet from Gretchen’s resources. Hers was just drawn out on paper, but my OCD wanted needed it to be typed up, so I spent about 45 minutes perfecting it (to my standards) on the computer. I handed them out, and we filled in our topic and text structure. Before I knew about this amazing woman, my explanation if expository writing was pretty lame…and the students’ writing showed it. That’s not to say it was bad, but it definitely was NOT to the level it is now. The text structures she has developed has raised the level of their writing tremendously!

After that, we came up with our kernel essay about our peeps. When you see the text structure we used, you’ll see that it wasn’t easy, but it made them really think! And that’s what we’re going for, right? 😉

From that kernel essay, I told them to find at least three people who would listen to them read their kernel essay. The listeners were required to ask two questions about their kernel essay. They wrote the questions down in the box, and tomorrow they will use sticky notes to answer those questions. These sticky notes will go in the flip books they have created. This will help them fill out their paragraphs with valuable information that readers want to know.

When we finished the questions, we thought about where that information should appear within the writing. We put paragraph numbers beside each question to be sure the information arrives at the correct destination. Again–extending their thinking.

This is as far as we have gotten. I’m looking forward to reading what they write. I have a training tomorrow, but I know they will be in good hands with my student teacher. I can’t wait to read them on Wednesday!

Below you will find pictures of two planning pages and two kernel essays written on their flip books.





I have uploaded the planning page to the Writer’s Workshop page here on my blog. It’s the last resource listed under Gretchen’s resources.

What do you do to help your students understand expository writing?


16 responses to “Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style

  1. Rachel Ochoa says:

    I would love a copy of all your lessons on this type of writing we are starting it next week

    • kaylashook says:

      I use CrunchTime and Fun Sized Academic Writing by Gretchen, as well as the How & Why CAFE from The Writing Academy to help my students understand and be successful with expository writing. If you don’t have Gretchen’s books, I HIGHLY recommend you get them. Your students’ writing will definitely improve if you use them. I wasn’t aware of these resources until January last year, and as soon as I started using her work, the students started writing at a higher level. One of the best parts is her text structures. It makes writing make sense to kids. I have lots of them posted on my Writer’s Workshop page. I would be happy to answer any questions you have about expository writing. I don’t have all the answers, but I can share what I know! I will be posting some student samples soon, too! Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by! Oh, and leave me your email address so that I can send you some things! 🙂

  2. Debbie Snodderly says:

    Yes! I would love your planning sheet! I just attended one of Gretchen’s workshops on Monday. Wonderful!

  3. Becca Morris says:

    I would to have this planning page. I also teach 4th in Texas! I am going to check her out right now.

    • kaylashook says:

      I’m so sorry, ladies…I didn’t get a chance to send that planning page. I have it saved to my computer at school. I will try to get it emailed out on Monday. I will also post it to the Writer’s Workshop page. It’s been a CRAZY week!!

    • kaylashook says:

      I’ve only been at school 1 day this week due to being sick, training, and now flooding today. I will post the planning page tomorrow and send it directly to those of you who provided your email address. Sorry for the delay. 😦

  4. I attended a Grethen Bernabei workshop yesterday in Austin. Your blog was shared, and I love it. Please share the planning page when you can. Thanks in advance.

  5. Vikie Lewis says:

    When you get a chance, I would love for you to share your planning page with me. Thank you in advance:=)

    • kaylashook says:

      Vicki, I posted the planning page on the Writer’s Workshop page. Just scroll down to the bottom under Gretchen Bernabei’s Resources and it’s the last one posted. It has **NEW** next to it. 🙂

  6. […] you are interested in how we planned out our papers, see my blog post titled, “Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style,” to see our planning sheets and flip books.  You can also access the planning page by […]

  7. Raquel Martinez says:

    Can I have the planning page file…please…thank you.

  8. […] Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style (texasteachingfanatic.com) […]

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