Kernel Essay Anchor Chart

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 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? ūüėČ

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?


I would love to come work with your team!  I have presented both writing and grammar workshops for teachers of grades 1 through 7.   If you are interested in having me come do a workshop, send an email to


If you are looking to purchase any books by Gretchen Bernabei, head on over to QEP Books to get the best prices. ¬†They will do bundle deals and give discounts for bulk orders. ¬†If you need to give them a call, ask for Catherine and tell her I sent ya. ¬†ūüėČ

Resources for the Writing Scope & Sequence

Writing Scope & Sequence: This is a comprehensive scope & sequence that gives a unit overview for each unit, a calendar with daily activities, notes to the teacher for each week, and pages with resources.

Writing Process Battle Game: This is a game that allows students to practice memorizing the steps of the writing process in a fun way. ¬†Played just like the traditional card game of “War” or “Battle,” students use the word cards to battle until one player has all the cards.

Narrative & Expository Rubrics: This product comes with 4 rubrics (1 teacher and 1 student for both genres) and a scoring guide.

Narrative Revision Stations: This product has 4 stations with questions designed to train students how to add details to their writing.

Listing: This post has lots of pictures of the lists I do with my kids to generate ideas for writing.

Planning Page This is a newer version of the planning page I use with my students when planning for Narrative OR Expository writing.  We like this one the best!Helpful Idioms Chart

Color It Up: The very first lesson from Fun Size Academic Writing.

Narrative vs. Expository: A concrete way to explain the differences and similarities between narrative and expository writing.

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.

Writer’s Celebration Page: For those who like the idea of having students go around and make comments on others’ writing (rather than having the traditional read to everyone in the room).

The Whole Process: This is a post that explains how we go from an idea to a published piece.

Expository and Narrative 11-minute Essays:  Yes, you CAN use the 11-minute essay for more than Expository! Each genre has a separate post.

Adding Icons: This blog post shows one way to help your students add icons (AKA: REVISE) to their writing.

**Also check down at the bottom of this page for additional resources from Gretchen Bernabei!!**

Resources for the Grammar Scope & Sequence:

Grammar Scope & Sequence: This product is made EXACTLY like the writing scope, with an overview, calendar with daily activities, notes, and resources.

Keepers 101 Chart: This is a 4th grade version of the Keepers 101 chart that you can use to hold students accountable for the rules they have learned.

Some Other Things:

Test Specs: This is a document from TEA that explains what skills are tested on the editing and revising section of the test. ¬†They haven’t changed…

Practice Using STRONG Adjectives

Went is Gone: A list of other words that can be used other than “went.”

Said is Dead: A list of other words that can be used other than “said.”

2013 TCTELA_Young_STAAR Writing_4-7: A PowerPoint presentation by Victoria Young about student performance on Writing STAAR.


WRITING SAMPLES & Explanations:

Be sure not to forget about the many blog posts I’ve tagged as Writing Tips & Tools. ¬†There are numerous writing samples, both narrative and expository, along with detailed explanations of how my students move from an idea to a published copy. ¬†You can always find this tab on the right-hand side of the page under Categories. ¬†There are several pages, so be sure to scroll through to find just what you are looking for.

A large part of these posts is¬†about how my students are using Gretchen Bernabei’s tools in their writing. ¬†Here is a quick breakdown of some posts you might like:

**Click on the blue words to visit the posts relating to the content**

Various Writing Samples: These are SOME of the writing samples we did throughout the year. ¬†Be sure to look at the date to see¬†when they were written. ¬†You’ll notice…the more the year progressed…the better the writing became!

Narrative vs. Expository: This post has been one of my most popular posts, and the picture has been pinned on hundreds of Pinterest boards. ¬†“Grandma” is my way of explaining the difference between narrative and expository writing in a concrete way.

Revising & Editing Practice:

Revising and Editing RULES: A list of revising and editing rules that students need to know for the 4th grade Writing STAAR Test 

Don’t forget to visit my TpT store to find lots of revising and editing/grammar activities…for a really reasonable price! ¬†There are also several other activities for other subjects and school in general. ¬†You can click here to see for yourself!

Resources from Gretchen Bernabei:

***Over 70 Truisms***: Use these “Lightning in a Bottle” writing prompts to get your students writing…and THINKING! ¬†These are PERFECT for 11-minute essays!

Text Structures for Writing: Use these text structures to help your students write with meaning and with a purpose!

STAAR Genre Text Structures: More text structures to help around test time.

Literary Text Structures: Literary text structures.

Reproducibles from Crunchtime: These are pages that you can print and use with your students as they are writing.

Icon Glossary: Wondering how to get students to write better with more details?  Check out the icons listed here.

Grade 4 Remediation Packet: This was put together by Gretchen Bernabei to get kids ready to take THE test.  This is a link to her blog post where you can download the file.  We love this resource, too!!

I have used all of these resources with my students, and their writing DRASTICALLY improved.¬† Think using text structures is too hard for your students?¬† It’s not!!¬† ALL of my students have been successful with using them….and their understanding of what writing is and how authors organize their writing improved, too!

For more information about an amazing writing teacher and presenter, go to or


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