Friday, November 1, 2013

Fun-Sizing Academic Writing #gbwrites #writing #txed #saacte13

"Show, don't tell." With these words, Gretchen Bernabei declares war on 23 years of memories that involved a poster. Who doesn't remember this poster on their classroom walls, a hypocritical poster that does exactly what it counsels students not to do--TELL. Full of insight and wisdom, Gretchen engaged a packed room of educators. Thanks for an awesome day, Gretchen!

Gretchen had forgotten her video cam stand, so she used black electrical tape to good effect!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to study at the feet of the great and wise, Gretchen Bernabei, one of the most dynamic, engaging facilitators of writing instruction I've ever met. As a veteran writer who has settled into his own creative grooves--not a good thing--it was exhilarating to have the opportunity to learn from Gretchen.

Not only that, but participants received Gretchen's book, "Fun-Size Academic Writing for Serious Learning," (Publisher: Corwin Literacy). Absolutely thrilling book.

A few reflections:

1) A master at recognizing the underlying structure of writing
Gretchen's efforts at making writing more were absolutely wonderful. I found myself in awe of her ability to see through to the underlying structure, and encourage students to look back at their own writing, identify the structure they've created, and then write it down as a series of boxes.

Other neat outlines include the 11-minute essay, the kernel essay she's made famous, pitchforking, and more.

[structure of 11 minute essay]
by Gretchen Bernabei
  1. truism
  2. how it's true in a story
  3. how it's true in a movie
  4. how it's true in history
  5. I wonder...
She cites James Moffett as inspiration for this idea of tapping into students' thought processes and getting at the internal dialogue, a technique I will have to apply to my own high school writer:
"We need to be tapping into students' thought processes and the internal dialogue they  are having in their heads."
Another activity was the Gritty Life Quick List....
  1. The Gritty Life Quick List can be composed of:
    1. Shopping list (two items)
    2. Two items in your living room
    3. Conversations you've been having with people or topics. 50% of all human discourse is people quoting other people. Think of 2 things you've discussed in 24 hours.
    4. Two things you can do
    5. Two places you want to go to
    6. Think about how much stuff you own...two lost items
  2. Gritty Life Quick List - a list of topics inside your head then build a kernel essay
    1. Bananas
    2. Candy
    3. Pillow
    4. Couch
    5. Battlefield game has come out
    6. Travelling to Austin for United Nations event
    7. App smash with an iPad
    8. Design a pamphlet
    9. Spain
    10. New Zealand
    11. tourquoise eagle ring
    12. electronic file with ebooks
She also shares the kernel essay:
Topic: My Structure:
Kernel Essay:1. I wish I could go...2. It has the most...3. It also has...4. That's why...
I heard this:
The kernel essay concept is great and is later applied to chunking student writing, helping students identify the structure of a written piece that will score a "4" in the STAAR assessment.

Another neat point was that if your piece of writing has these colors--which represent different approaches--then your students' writing will do well on STAAR.

Red = Talking
Blue = Seeing
Green = Doing

Renaming Strategy
Naming and Renaming Strategy is outlined on page 78 of the book, Fun-Size Academic Writing for Serious Learning. These result in richer.

Renaming Example Activity: Come up with 5 Ways to Rename

Main Point:
  • Thesis statement
  • controlling thought
  • central idea
  • position
  • opinion
  • truism
  • main idea
  • message
  • attitude
On the STAAR test, all these things mean the same thing. 

Another approach to get at what students are thinking and it is important to model this with students:
1.How do you know?
2. Huh? What does that mean?
3 How else do you know?
4. Huh? What does that mean?
5. So your answer is? is the web site where you can find all this. Look for Teaching->OERS

Teaches you how to ask a question, answer and then write it.

2) “The advent of technology," says Gretchen, "has changd my mind about sharing writing…the urge to share writing isn’t the dessert…it's the motor that runs this train.”
What an absolutely profound statement. This was a great remark to make to a roomful of teachers, many of whom are still stuck in the paper-n-pencil era.

3) Helpful web sites where you can find everything:
There were a few others but I regret I didn't get them all.

Check out Miguel's Workshop Materials online at

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

No comments:

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude