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A Message from Gretchen

Happy Springtime, Friends!

As we turn the page to a new season, a new test, and a new outlook, my team and I have been busy, preparing some fresh new tools for you. We hope you’ll like the new web site and newsletter as much as we do.

I’m still amazed and thrilled that our friends at TCEA invited me to create an online course for reading and writing teachers. It’s up and running there (just go to and search “kernel essays”). They’ve also allowed me to share the videos periodically, and the first one is already up on YouTube. Thanks to Lisa Taiclet of San Angelo for sharing her classroom experience with responding to reading.  

I know you’re going to enjoy seeing a really great sparkling sentence from one of Dottie Hall’s students, as well as a fabulous poetry twist with fourth graders from Paul Erickson. Samantha Miles’s discovery of the vintage version of QA12345 may crack you up, as it did me.  

Thanks to all of you for your work with our young ones. We owe you so much.


New Videos Each Week!

We're excited to bring you . . . Kernel Essays for Writing and Reading, a new series of 30 short videos on teaching reading and writing.

These videos from Gretchen's online course (available from TCEA) include an introduction to kernel essays, writing for readers, adding details, revising weak writing, and writing to respond to reading.

Stay tuned as we release a new video on the Trail of Breadcrumbs YouTube channel each week!

Updated Question Stems from STAAR Reading Tests

Thanks to the hard work and generosity of the incomparable Jenny Martin, we've updated the reading questions stems to include released tests through 2021!

Click here for the questions stems and explore the new Reading and Responding page on our website for helpful resources.

Sparkling Sentence

Dottie Hall sent us this sparkling sentence from one of her students at Keystone School in San Antonio. Here's what she said about it:
This may be my favorite sentence ever written by a kid. Naya was writing a response to a video we watched in which Kazuo Ishiguro was talking about Remains of the Day. This was her final sentence in a paragraph about the ending of the book.

Crossing the Line

Paul Erickson sent us this Texas History Poem and the following note about his process for writing it and revising it with some fabulous fourth graders. We had to share! 

With today falling during the siege of the Alamo, I spiraled back to that unit in history and tied it to our poetry lesson. Today we were discussing bio-poems, so I wrote a quick poem about Travis drawing the line.

I had the students read through the poem in collaborative groups and discuss what they saw.  After their discussions, I brought it back to the whole group and we talked about the poem.

The students said that the poem was sad and that they saw that the stanzas were in random order.  I asked them if they were really in random order, or if there was thought put into the placement.

We read the first stanza, and I asked them to tell me what the stanza was describing.  One student said, "It's talking about when that one guy drew a line in the sand.  If they crossed the line, they were to become soldiers and would die at the Alamo.  If they didn't they'd be allowed to leave and only one person didn't cross."

I told him that I liked that summary.  I then had them read the second stanza and asked them who "he" was.  They were like "that guy!"  Right, William Travis.  What side of the paper is this stanza on?  "The right."  Let's look at the next stanza.  Who is this stanza about?  "The person."  And what side is this stanza on?  "The left."  Good.  Let's look at the fifth stanza.  How does this stanza start?  "Those who cross the line."  And where is that stanza?  "On the right..."  One of the kid's jaw dropped.  "With Travis!"  Then another, "Look the next stanza is on the other side and it says "Those who do not and the last one is crossing the line."

It was pretty cool.  I then told them that I had written the poem, but that writing is never final.  We can always add to it, so I had each group add something to the poem.  I thought it was pretty cool and wanted to share.  The first page is the original.  The second is with the added portions from the students.

85-year-old QA12345

It's a freeform QA12345 from 1937!

Fun to read, spotted by Samantha Miles of Sequin ISD.

Registration is open!
STAAR Intensive: Reading and Writing with Both Hands

New Braunfels Convention Center
July 25 - July 28, 2022 | 8:00 am - 2:30 pm

This workshop will weave between grammar, writing and reading across the curriculum, preparing teachers for integrated, authentic instruction.
Who is it for?
This four-day session would benefit anyone who works in staff development with other teachers OR teachers who would like to receive a more thorough training in the work of Gretchen Bernabei. It will focus on kid-centered, healthy, authentic strategies, spanning all TEKS strands while containing serious STAAR preparation.

For every grade of writing, 3-12.

Is this the same as Gretchen's previous workshops?
This four-day intensive workshop will include strategies from previous workshops, but extended and explored for practical implementation. Participants will explore the many ways to use text structures and kernel essays throughout the year, incorporating them into other content area writing and responding to any kind of reading passages. Participants will also have an opportunity to experience the gradual release from guided kernels to independent choices, both as writers and as readers.
Will this address the new STAAR Test?
Yes. Teachers will learn a simple process to help students answer the new constructed response questions, as well as solid foundations for revising and editing passages.
Why is this a "Training of Trainers"?
Most school districts hope that teachers who attend great staff development will come home to the campus and share what they learned, whether formally or informally. This four-day intensive session will equip instructional coaches or other instructional leaders (including classroom teachers) to conduct multiple sessions throughout the school year. 
Could teachers attend?
Sure! Even teachers who have never been to one of her workshops! Gretchen will offer deep coverage of the basics.

Click here for more details and to register.


Share Your Successes!

We would love to feature your work and the work of your students in our next update! Please send your success stories to us at
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