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A Message from Gretchen
Dear Friends, 

In addition to wishing you all a joyful holiday season, I want to share with you something funny and thought-provoking, one of my favorite combinations.

It began when Paul Erickson, pre-school teacher in Killeen, sent me this:

Is "Die Hard" a Christmas movie? 
This past week, I had to defend my stance on this popular holiday debate. On both sides of the fence, people are adamant that their side is correct. Some people have used pictures taken from store shelves and shown the movie put with the rest of the holiday movies. Other people have used interviews from actors and directors to prove that it wasn't a holiday movie. So I decided to use the Completely Made Up Story text structure to prove that, in fact, "Die Hard" is a holiday movie.

And here’s the kernel essay:
1. A family is getting ready to celebrate Christmas.
2. They get separated from each other days before Christmas.
3. One of the family members tries to reunite with the family.
4. Something impedes the person, making this improbable.

5. A miracle happens.
6. The family is reunited in time for Christmas.

So . . . how many holiday movies, in addition to the Die Hard movies, follow this kernel?

I read Paul’s words, and laughed, thinking about my sister Sue who is probably watching Die Hard with her family as I write this. Then I considered the kernel and thought of several movies that fit this structure:
1. It’s a Wonderful Life
2. One Magic Christmas (one of our favorites)
3. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (kind of)
4. The Day After Tomorrow (okay, not Christmas)
5. Planes, Trains and Automobiles

I sent the question to several friends, who sent me these:
6. Santa Clause with Tim Allen (Jennifer Payne, Abilene)
7. With Love the Coopers (Jennifer Payne)
8. Home Alone (Alana Morris, Houston)
9. Holiday Inn (Jayne Hover, San Antonio)

If you think of others, post them on our Facebook page!

Meanwhile, we hope you have a lovely holiday, and we look forward to seeing you next year.


P.S. Our February poetry workshops are live!

New Workshop! New Book!

     Are you looking for enjoyable, concrete ways to weave reading and writing together in one class period?  
     How do you teach students to joyfully read, analyze, and write poems? 
     And how can poetry lessons give a leg-up to your STAAR reading and writing scores?

Gretchen Bernabei and Laura Van Prooyen have put together a wonderful new process to “pop the hood” on a poem to discover what makes it work, using text structures to unlock the engine of a poem. 
Join us for the Poetry for STAAR Workshop and you’ll receive a copy of Text Structures from Poetry, with 50 classroom-ready lessons, as well as access to a TEKS alignment document.
Click here for details and to register.

Short link for easy sharing:

High-Scoring STAAR Essays

We’re building up our 2019 treasury of high-scoring STAAR essays, and we need your help!

The current collection includes a good number of essays from English I and English II, but only a few from grades 4 and 7. Please send us your score-point-8 essays from last year (especially 4th and 7th) and we will add them to this treasury of 8s.

Short link for easy sharing:

STAAR Reading Stems

The fabulous Jenny Martin strikes again! You asked for them and she’s delivered! We now have the STAAR Reading Stems for Grades 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 posted on the website. There’s also a chart of all the connected genres that have been tested since 2013.

Short link for easy sharing:

Three Gifts for You

Check out Kayla Briseno’s awesome Writer’s Craft Coloring Pages! She’s included pitchforks and ba-da-bings along with metaphor, simile, personification, hyperbole, allusion, and sensory details.
Looking for a great way to get a conversation going in response to reading? Kay Price-Hawkins put together this Reading Guide for the Grace Museum in Abeline, and she’s sharing it with us, too! Here’s Read Discuss Create - enjoy!
Paul Erickson shares a full explanation of his brilliant method for creating stories with pre-K students. It’s an inspiring approach you can adapt for Storytellers of All Ages!

A Poem to Share

Little Boys and Bigger Rocks

Too long I stood, downcast, observing
the broken bird, still clearly hurting.

Her last breath drawn, she flapped her wings,
in hopes, I supposed, to escape such things

as little boys with bigger rocks,
false-bravery and sling-shots.

I cried for pain and empty nest,
swallowed hard and tried my best
to look as heartless as the rest.

Sometimes, I sit and wonder still
if I had enacted some different will

or took the weapon off my wrist
and missed the bird I tried to miss.

poem by Richard Roberts

This poem was inspired by Text Structures from Poetry, Lesson 49 using Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” as a mentor text. Here’s the lesson and the mentor poem.

An Invitation

We would love to share your writing and your lesson ideas with the Trail of Breadcrumbs teacher community! Please send them to us at
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