Gretchen Bernabei’s 11-Minute Essay (In 9 minutes)

Earlier this week, I challenged my students with the 11-minute essay that Gretchen Bernabei uses with her students…only we did ours in 9 minutes.  The text structure she uses is this: Truism–>How this is true in a book or personal life–>How this is true in a move or TV show–>How this is true in history–>What I think or wonder.  Because 4th graders don’t know all that much about history (and because our truism was about pets), I omitted the paragraph about how it’s true in history.

The students were excited about this challenge I set forth for them.  I gave them 1 minute for paragraph 1, 3 minutes for paragraph 2, 3 minutes for paragraph 3, and then 2 minutes for the final paragraph.  The truism they were expected to write about was: Pets are an important part of a family.

Considering this was their first attempt, I thought it went extremely well.  Were they perfect?  No.  Will they EVER be?  No.  But this was an eye-opener for them (and for me, too)!  When they were finished, I told them that they had just written an expository essay in 9 minutes.  The looks on their faces was priceless!  They were so darn proud of themselves, beaming from ear to ear!

Curious about how they did?   Click here to see a sample of what they wrote.  😉

This has been an amazing week in writing.  Here’s to hoping it continues!!

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Narrative Student Writing Samples (4th Grade)

Here it is: the post you’ve all been waiting for–the one I’ve promised for some time now!  STUDENT WRITING SAMPLES!!!  😉

I don’t have a lot of time today, but I wanted to go ahead and post these samples for those of you who have been waiting on me to post them.  Our internet is still not working at my house, so I’m having to type this quickly (after school hours) on my school computer.

These are samples for our first narrative of the school year.  These kids stood out above the rest, so I wanted to show off their mad writing skills.  Here they are:

Stealing Candy  A narrative written by Blake Sterling.

Go Kart Race  A narrative written by Andrew Pensiero.

Is It Me  A narrative written by Avery May.

Yes, I have permission from these students and their parents to post their work with their names.  They are all super sweet kids who are totally stoked that I am using their papers as examples for the world to see.  They were even made famous in a workshop presented by Gretchen Bernabei!  You will see them on her blog soon if you visit www.bernabeiwritingtools.com.

Enjoy!

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Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style

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.

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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?

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Word Clouds: They Aren’t Just For Fun!

Word Cloud of my blog by Tagxedo

Word Cloud of my blog by Tagxedo

I hate to admit it, but I’ve only used word clouds with some of my students.  I wasn’t really sure how to use word clouds when I first heard about them, so I only selected a few individuals that I thought would benefit from using it.  Mostly to help them in their writing.  You see, when the idea of word clouds was presented, I was only showed a website and was allowed about 3-5 minutes to “explore” it.  The more I read, the more I found out how helpful they can be.

So what types of things can you do with word clouds?  I know I won’t even begin to touch on everything, but here are a few ideas on how they can be used with your students.

1. When students have finished a piece of writing and they need to check for redundant words, put them on Wordle.net.  The best part about Wordle is that it counts the number of times the words are used and makes the highest count the biggest in the cloud.  That way, students see how many times they have used words like then, I, me, and so on.  This is how I used them in my classroom, and it really makes the students aware of the overused words.

2. At the beginning of the year, allow students time to write an “About Me” paragraph and then type it into a word cloud creator such as Tagxedo.  This is another word cloud site that easily downloads the image you create and has an assortment of shapes for your words.

3. After students read a passage or discuss content in class, allow students to write down the words they feel are most important to the lesson and put it into a word cloud.six flags

4. Use a word cloud for vocabulary words.  This can be used in any subject!

5. Use math vocabulary words in a word cloud and ask students to come up with a mathematical story using the words.  Great way to combine some writing and math!

6. In Social Studies, create a word cloud using character traits of various leaders or important historical figures.

7. For a Mother’s or Father’s Day project (or anytime, really), allow students to make a word cloud as a gift.  This could be with characteristics of the

person, a thank you letter, a poem…you name it!

8. Students could actually draw their own word clouds as an activity to “fill time” when they get finished early.  They will probably end up doing this on their own, anyway.  It’s sort of addicting.

9. Use Wordle to create a word cloud with units of measurement.  I say use Wordle because you can decide how big or small you make the words.  This way students would get an accurate picture of which units of measurement are bigger than others.

Word Cloud by ABCya

Word Cloud by ABCya

10. Use word clouds at the end of the lesson or day to see what the students remember.  The teacher can either assign a certain amount of words, or the students can write as many important words as they can at the end of your time together.  This could be a neat twist to exit tickets!

Now that I’ve written about all of this, I will have to do some of these before school starts.  I’m excited to begin another new year!  I will post some of my results!

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Anchor Charts

I finally uploaded some of my anchor charts that I used with my kiddos last year. Head over to my Anchor Charts page and check ’em out! 😉

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Individual Word Walls

 

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Materials I used

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My finished Word Wall

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The pages inside

 

Individual Word Walls have helped my students get through their writing so much easier.  And as an added benefit, I don’t spend as much time spelling words over and over again to the same students.  When a student asks me to spell a word, I will not spell it for them until they have their WW opened up to the correct page to write it down.  These little books have come in very handy!

All you need is a small memo book, some colored paper, scissors, glue, and some stickers or anything you want for decorating.  I actually found the memo books on sale at Walgreens 6/$1, so these didn’t cost me much!  The other supplies I had laying around the house.

1. Trace the cover of the memo book  on the colored paper, an then cut it out.

2. Decorate the colored paper with the design of your choice.

3. Glue the cover onto the memo book.

4. Count out the pages and divide them so that each letter gets an appropriate amount of space.

There you have it.  Individual word walls within 15 minutes–or 5 for most boys!!  😉

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