It All Started As An Idea

It’s happening!  I’m blogging!  To all who have been following, thank you for waiting patiently for me.  This year has just been…cah-razy!  But…I’m back!  :)

I wanted to share with you our most recent writing experience…well…in Writer’s Workshop, anyway.  We started the year with narrative, then moved to expository, and now we are back to narrative.  We switch around the entire year to get the students used to figuring out their purpose for writing and showing how it changes.  So…that being said…this is how our narratives have evolved from an idea.

We started out with our text structure and kernel essay.  We do this on our planning page.  You can download your FREE copy here.  For narratives, our structure is always: Where I was –>Moment It Started–>Next Moment–>Last Moment–>Final Thoughts.  Once students get the hang of that, they start asking questions like, “What if I want to put a problem and solution in my story?” or “Can I start with a sound?” or “Is it ok if I put what I hope happens in the future at the end?”  Yes, friends, yes!



IMG_0416For now, we are still getting the hang of using this text structure.  And I’m ok with that.  :)  So we filled out our text structure, came up with our kernel essays, and then began our introductions.  I’m still walking the kids through their papers…at least the first couple of paragraphs.


IMG_0419 IMG_0415 IMG_0409Once we finished our first couple of paragraphs together, I let the students go ahead and finish out their papers on their own…unless, of course, they still needed my guidance.  I don’t freak out right now when students still ask for help.  For one, THEY ARE ASKING FOR HELP!  Isn’t that what we WANT them to do?  And two, some just need more help than others.  It’s my job to help them.  The more experience they have with asking questions (and me modeling the kinds of questions they SHOULD ask themselves), the better…in my opinion, anyway.

When they were all finished, I had them “color up” their own writing.  This is an activity where you have students go back into their own writing and use markers, colored pencils, or crayons to underline their sentences according to what Writer’s Tool they used in order to create it.  If it was a description, they underline in blue.  If it was dialog, it’s red.  If it was a thought, it’s yellow.  If it was action, it’s green.  And then the few that say, “It’s really just a little bit of information.”  Those we underlined in black.

FullSizeRender FullSizeRender FullSizeRender IMG_0461 FullSizeRenderWe actually pulled our rough drafts out of our notebooks and put them onto some manilla paper…not for this activity, but for the one that comes next.  As you can see, EVERY sentence is underlined with color.  Is it important that they get every single one correctly identified?  No…but a little help from the teacher goes a long way with this one.  The purpose is for students to see what they are using and notice trends.

Does my paper have too much of this?  Not enough of that?  Does this paragraph have only one color?  Did I see that one of my sentences WAS my whole paragraph?  Those questions begin discussions of how we can revise (or edit in the case of the last question) our papers to make them better.

After doing some noticing about the colors, we decided what needed to be added to our papers.  We discussed how the best papers have lots of thoughts so that the reader can see inside the writer’s mind…to get a feel for how he/she REALLY felt.  It helps to paint a better picture of what was going on.

That lead us into our revision stations.  These stations were designed to make students question themselves about what could be added to help the reader picture the story.  You can grab a copy of the revision stations here.

FullSizeRender IMG_0510 IMG_0508 IMG_0507We spent about 10 minutes at each station, adding information to our papers.  Students would draw an arrow from the spot where it would be inserted out to the side of their paper where they had room to write it.

At the beginning of each station, I had students reread their papers.  Yes, this meant rereading several times.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  Students were required to reread with the new information to be sure that they placed it in an appropriate place.  Yeah…we’re practicing inserting sentences in a fun way!  Imagine that!

Anyway, students were required to add information that was relevant and meaningful to their papers.  They did not add sentences just to add them.  Some of them chose NOT to write anything extra when a certain color came their way because they already had enough (or too much) of that color.

We finished up the stations by…you guessed it…rereading our papers again.  I asked them to share with a partner, too, so that others could hear what the story sounded like.  Sometimes, as the writer, we feel like it sounds right, but when others hear it…not so much.

The last step is publishing.  We still aren’t finished with that, but when we are, I’ll be sharing the first writing samples of the year.  I’ll try to also post some expository samples as well.

So there you have it.  The process from our ideas to our final copy.  Do I do it this way EVERY time?  No.  Many times we will have mini-lessons to teach a certain skill with our papers.  This time around, it was a quicker process due to time constraints.  But it was fun, nonetheless.  :)




  1. I love your station card idea. I may have missed it, but do you have cards that you use with expository writing? Unfortunately my kids are required to write an expository paper for our ACP test that is coming up the week before Winter Break and I am struggling with the revising part!

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Not yet! It’s on my to-do list! I will try to get them done this weekend! If you follow my blog, I will post when they are finished! :)

  2. Ana Tenorio says:

    I love your structure for the kernel essay! I’m a third grade teacher trying to do my part in preparation for Texas STAAR Writing Assessement. For expository, what is the structure you follow with that worksheet? If you don’t mind sharing. Thanks! for the great idea and resources

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi, Ana! Thanks for stopping by! I use different structures for expository each time we write. There are several listed on my Writer’s Workshop page under Test Genre Text Structures. Expository is a unique animal! There isn’t ONE structure to use unless you just use the My opinion–>Reason 1–>Reason 2–>Reason 3–>My more zesty opinion structure. In third grade, that might actually work since you are just laying the groundwork foe next year. You could try that one and see how they do, but there are LOTS of structures since all prompts require different things. I usually pick 4-5 that I think my kids can handle and use those. Eventually they start coming up with their own…and that is what we WANT them to do. Structures are simply a way of organizing their writing, so once they start questioning and wanting to invent their own, you know they have internalized the purpose. :) I hope that helps! Feel free to email me or comment with any other questions you may have.

  3. What a great and maybe obvious (though not to this overwhelmed 2nd year teacher!) approach to teach students how to write by structure. I really like your color idea, and segueing into revision stations do you think this method could work in a 1st grade classroom?

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi, Patrice! I think this would work at all ages…it just looks a little different in each grade level based on the students’ abilities. I think the colors are particularly good because it appeals to different types of learners and allows kids to store the information in another part of the brain. :) Thanks so much for stopping by my blog!!

  4. Chandria Ridgeway says:

    Kayla, Please take the comment down, i was attempting to e-mail you, not post comments. thank you.

  5. Ashley Countouriotis says:

    Hi Kayla!
    We tried the flip book and cutting a part or stories last year and it was a bit of a mess. Do you have any tips or suggestions on how you have the students complete their flip books or transfer their stories from kernel essay to rough drafts. I am struggling with the flow of the process.

    • Kayla Shook says:

      If students create a flipbook, don’t have them cut it apart. Just use that as their rough draft. You don’t need to cut it and put it on Manila paper. That was hectic for me, too. You can also try the “fake flipbook” the Gretchen talks about in Crunch Time. And I only use flipbooks at the beginning. Once they know the process, we move to notebook paper. Don’t stress over them! 😉

    • Kayla Shook says:

      Hi, Ashley! I just got this notification. So sorry! I’m considering this their rough draft for the first one. We will try to do some revising and editing right on the flip books, and then go straight to publishing. Your other option would be to have them write it into paragraphs on a piece of notebook paper before revising and editing. I agree that it was a mess! Some kids can do it well, while others get totally confused!

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