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A Message from Gretchen
Dear Friends,

We hope this summer brings you rest and fun. If you want to get a jump on next year, come to our four-day learning extravaganza in New Braunfels, where it’s so energizing to share ideas with some of the best master teachers and literacy leaders anywhere! Sometimes we learn as much from the brand-new teachers as from the experienced ones. 

We will be focusing on authentic experiences for a writing, especially including writing about what you read, rather than going straight to test practice. We hope to see you there in New Braunfels in July!

Meanwhile, we expect to begin hosting Saturday writing retreats in the fall. Details in the very near future!

Have a wonderful end of your school year, and as always, let us know if you need anything from us!


P.S. Okay, I have to confess. I’m writing this from Paris, where Judi and I are attending Paris Cafe Writing. We are actually at a cafe, where the group is about to convene! If you walk up to me in New Braunfels and say four or more words in French, I will have a souvenir for you.

Join Us This Summer!

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.

Click here for more details and to register.

A Questions about OERs

What questions do you have?

Do you have a question you'd like to ask Gretchen? You can send your question by email to

All questions will be answered and many will be added to the new FAQ page on the website. We may even feature your question here in the newsletter!

Here's an example . . .

Do you have any tips on answering open-ended questions?

I do. In a nutshell, here's the sequence of what I do:

Teaching them How To Answer a Question (not in writing, but out loud)
1. Have the students practice answering questions about themselves, NOT about stories or written text, using the dialogue Q&A format. Do these out loud. Have fun with them. I do two a day (just you and a volunteer at the front of the class, in front of everyone, you using the QA1234345 script and the other person answering the questions) at the beginning of class, and don't tell students that it's even related to testing.

Teaching Them To Answer A Question About a Story They Already Know (they prepare it in writing so they can "perform" the dialogue out loud)
2. Have students write questions about movies they've all seen, using the generic question stems.
3. Have them write QA12345 scripts to answer their questions, using the dialogue format, and then act out their questions and dialogues.

Teaching Them How To Answer A Question From a Story They Just Read (they prepare it in writing so they can perform the dialogue out loud)
4. Have them write questions about stories they read, using the same generic question stems.
5. Have them write answers to these questions, and on #1 and #3, use ONLY quotations of text from the stories.

That's what I do. We don't even try to make them insightful or global, just shoot for an answer with evidence. The above will get passing scores if they just do that with the questions from the test. In fact, for questions involving only one text, they can use QA125 and do well. I advise all of my students to do this, NOT to write tiny little essays. Go for a 2 and move on, saving all that energy for something else, like their composition or lunch.

Teaching Them How To Craft Their Answer Better
6. Do sentence-combining exercises.  Prepare for this by getting one of your own students' released answers from any recent tests and breaking it down into sentence-combining exercises.
7. Hand them out and ask students to combine the sentences into stronger writing.
8. Compare answers.
9. Look at the student's original answer together.
10. Repeat this process with another high-scoring response, readied for a sentence-combining exercise.
11. Repeat this process with a high-scoring released response.

Grammar Keepers Addresses 100% of the Tested Conventions TEKS

Thanks to the great work of Corrine Spillane in Los Fresnos CISD, here's evidence that 100% of the STAAR-tested conventions TEKS are explicitly taught if you are using Grammar Keepers.

Visit the website to download the document showing how many times each standard is addressed in Grammar Keepers. Green indicates readiness standards; pink indicates supporting standards.

New Text Structure Comics

Fifth-grade teacher Tara Temprano has been hugely successful with the text structure comics she created. Her New Jersey students' test scores have soared!

Tara has graciously shared her comic pages with us, and you can now download them from the website.

The short link for sharing with your colleagues is

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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