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!!



  1. Lu Ann Douglas says:

    Wow! Great work! I’m looking forward to reading more. Your students are really responding well.

  2. I just want to teach writing through your lesson plans… I love what you are doing!

  3. Amazing weeks will continue to happen with your students when learning if relevant and engaging. Keep up the good work.

  4. Lori Tatum says:

    Trying this TODAY…I’m looking for something to add a little “spark” before STAAR, and this seems perfect! Thank you!!

  5. I love this idea! I plan to try this with my students.

  6. Diana Boykin says:

    This was a game changer for us last year. I was amazed when I was allowed to look at student’s STARR essays. Thanks for the wonderful idea!


  1. […] Gretchen Bernabei’s 11-Minute Essay (In 9 minutes) ( […]

Speak Your Mind