Tuesday, July 30, 2013
This summer I was given the opportunity to go to a training with Gretchen Bernabei.  That sentence sounds really sweet but is not the whole story.  Actually, my teacher friends and I went to great lengths to attend a training with her.  We heard a rumor that Gretchen...I'm going to call her Gretch...was coming to our district, so I emailed the head of our district staff development.  She said that was a no-go.  So Lori emailed Gretch herself to see if she would be in the Dallas area anytime soon, and she wrote us back that she would.  Isn't she the best?!  Lori had to have an emergency appendectomy in the spring and wound up confirming our spots in the training from her hospital bed.  That's dedication, folks! 

Let me tell you, it was worth it.  We became GB fans this year while trying to help our students write organized, but not formulaic, essays.  *Enter her essay structures.*  In case you're unfamiliar with these structures, Gretch and her students have developed about 119 of them to help students write logically and have plenty to say.  They look like this:
Hello beautiful structure for the 9th grade literary story!

These are also lovingly referred to as Kernel essays.  To use this method, set the timer for 5ish minutes and have students write 4 sentences- one for each box of the structure.
If students respond only to what is in each box in a complete sentence, they have a rough outline of an essay that ACTUALLY SAYS SOMETHING!  Students can then expand the story and provide detail through Ba-Da-Bings and Pitchforking.  Those words are Bernabeinese for some excellent and user-friendly strategies.  Thankfully, Gretch is very generous in providing lots of online resources that are F-R-E-E-E.

Everything you could possibly want plus things that are too good to even imagine are under the 'Teaching' tab.  Don't hesitate to comment here with questions about how I use the strategies in my own class.  I'd also love to know what you've used with success.
More great GB resources from her book, Crunchtime, can be found here.

Oh, I nearly forgot the best part!  Lori and I got to take a picture with Gretch because we're cool like that!

ETBFFE= English Teacher Best Friends Forever and Ever


  1. Thanks for stopping by Hangin' With Hekken ( I look forward to more shared ideas!


  2. Thankyou for this reference - it's term 2 holidays here and I'm furiously reading up every reference I can find to Gretchen Bernabei in order to put her 'essay structures' in place for the second half of the year. Our school has used writers workshop in the past, but I really struggle to fit it into a high school English program - it either takes up too much time or there isn't enough accountability (at least for the way I've attempted to run it) so I was looking for an effective alternative. I think this is it. Thankyou!

    1. Michelle, so glad we could help! Try to attend a conference if you can so that you can see her writing workshop style.

      Best to you!