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.





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?



  1. Rachel Ochoa says:

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

    • 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! :)

      • Tara Brown says:

        Starting to get really into exp next week and I do have all of the books mentioned. Any info you have to help is appreciated:) Tara

        • Tara Brown says:

          Forgot to mention I teach 7th Grade…

        • Kayla Shook says:

          Tara, I’m so sorry I’m just now responding. I saw your comment when I was busy and then forgot to reply. Please forgive me! The most important thing about expository is getting kids to understand their purpose for writing it. From there, I choose text structures that I think the kids can identify with and be successful with. In time, they begin to come up with their own text structures…which is what we want them to do! If you have any specific questions for me, I’d be glad to answer them. Thanks for stopping by my blog! :) Best wishes!!

  2. Debbie Snodderly says:

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

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

    • 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!!

    • 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:=)

    • 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. Raquel Martinez says:

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

  7. I am just now finding you, and I am so excited!!! I’m also a little panicked. I wish I could have found you so long ago. Reading your blog has me excited about teaching writing again, but it’s already close to the end of November, and I feel I need to restart this year and the way I am teaching! Any suggestions of WHERE and HOW to start implementing this without confusing my students? It’s never too late to begin some good teaching, right!

    We have been using Writer’s Workshop, but my schedule leaves me 90 minutes a day for BOTH Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop, which just isn’t working. And as you have mentioned in your posts, that’s 90 minutes on a good day, without interruptions from assemblies, programs, and other classroom disruptions of all sorts. It leaves me feeling frustrated, because I want to do so much more!

    Sorry for the venting! Any suggestions are so very much appreciated! You are amazing!!!

  8. New to Fourth says:

    Thank you for sharing! I am needing help with explaining expository to fourth graders. Do’s and don’ts kind if things. I have recently purchased several of Gretchen’s books and am seeing a great improvement in narrative writing! The kids are so proud of their BaDaBing sentences!!! Any additional advice or resources for expository would be greatly appreciated! :)

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi! First of all, thanks for stopping by my blog! :) With expository…it’s all about knowing the author’s purpose…and in 4th grade, it’s to explain something they believe or an opinion. I have a post called Narrative vs Expository where I explain and have a picture of an activity I do with my kids to help them see the difference between the two types of writing. If you haven’t already, check that post out. You can find it quickly by going to the Writer’s Workshop page and scrolling down until you see the title. As far as do’s and don’ts…expository is in the present tense , while narrative is past tense. It should reflect that. You use the same writer’s tools in both types of writing. Students need to be able to come up with an appropriate structure for the prompt they are given. Other than that…it’s just teaching good writing and surrounding them with mentor texts…which should be done with both genres. Good luck! If there’s anything else I can help with, please let me know!! 😉

  9. Stacy Mecke says:

    I really want to use your kernel essay planning sheet but can’t find it on the blog.

  10. Thanks for creating such amazing tools. I’ve been using Gretchen’s products, and The Writing Academy in MS for the last 8 years. I transitioned down to 4th this year, so I’m working on establishing best practices for my new “smaller” authors. This site ROCKS!!!

  11. I, too, would love your planning guide. Starting expository this week! THANKS I have Gretchen’s book and it is awesome but this planning guide would be so helpful!



    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi, Jody! My Scope & Sequence is in my TpT store. The link to my store is over on the right hand side in the sidebar. It’s one of my featured products. I have one for grammar and one for writing, and then I have them bundled. Best wishes this year! :)

    • Kayla Shook says:

      I didn’t read the previous comments! Sorry! If you are just wanting the planning page, there is a link to it on the Writer’s Workshop page. 😉

  12. Melissa Koury says:

    Love your blog! Thanks for everything! Quick question…do you use prompts for the expository kernel writing like you do in with the narrative? If so, would you mind sharing with me?
    Thanks so much!
    A fellow Texas teacher

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi, Melissa!

      Right now, I’m not using prompts. I just tell them something simple like…write about your favorite person. I’m not giving them “prompts” until next semester. Today we went over what the prompt looks like because we have benchmarks next week…but I’m not focusing on that. I want it to seem less test-like at this point. Once January rolls around, I’ll definitely have some prompt pages posted in my TpT store…probably even before then. If you follow my store, you will get updates when I post new products. :)

  13. Hello! I’m looking at your resources and the link for kernal essays and flipbooks actually takes me to the page “expository in 11 minutes”
    (Below is what I’m needing to get to but am getting redirected.

    Flipbooks & Kernel Essays: These are some pictures (and explanations, of course) of how some of our flip books and kernel essays worked in our classroom.

    I appreciate your help!

    • Kayla Shook says:

      So sorry! I need to get that link fixed! Thanks for letting me know. If you type in the keyword of what you are looking for in the search, it should come up. :)


  1. […] 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 […]

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

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