Monday, June 29, 2015

Personal Narrative Writing Made Easy
I am a big fan of educator Gretchen Bernabei. I have been fortunate to attend two of her writing workshops for teachers and have walked away with gold nuggets of wisdom each time. She helped me to change the way I was teaching narrative writing for the better.  

Having students write personal narratives always seemed the easiest place to start, right? They'd pick an event or special memory from their life and after all the requisite writing "mini-lessons" on "juicy word choice" and "varied sentence length", and "beginning-middle-end" structure, you would ask them to write that story and give it all they had. Although, most of the first drafts and even the second "revised" drafts lacked something. I found that the students' stories lacked depth or reflection about why this memory was worth recognizing or writing about. 

Gretchen Bernabei offers her students a guided structure through questions that they kids answer while writing what she calls a "kernel essay." I like to start with this: 

1. What I used to think....   2. Then this happened.....    3. So now I think.....

Here is an example of one of my student's kernel essay ( I retyped her words on this image). 

Here is another student's final draft of his narrative following this kernel essay structure: 
Check out Gretchen's book ( I LOVE this book for teaching writing!) 

The Story of My Thinking: Expository Writing Activities for 13 Teaching Situations [Book]

Saturday, June 13, 2015

         Well, we have just a week left of the school year and I'm filled with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I cannot wait to catch up on my sleep, read books for pleasure (lots and lots of books), go on a vacation with my family, and mentally unwind. On the other hand, I feel such an attachment to my group of fourth graders and will have a hard time saying goodbye. 
          I have been reflecting on my year as their teacher and thinking about what worked, what didn't, and how I will change or tweak certain lessons next year for more impact on student learning. Today I went through pictures and videos that I took of the students throughout the year. This video is of one of my students explaining her thinking about a math problem. It makes me smile!

The photo is of when we were doing our unit on Electricity and using balloons to learn about positive and negative charges in static electricity. :)