Day 7: Gretchen Bernabei and Cinderella

Gretchen Bernabei

There is no way I can do her presentation justice!  Gretchen has written many books and has some great resources on her website.  I will explain the "biggie" she shared with us: kernel essays.  We start with a "Gritty Life List."  We had to write 2 problems with the world we thought we could solve, 2 things in our living room we love, 2 topics of conversation from the last 48 hours, 2 things we've lost, 2 pet peeves, and 2 things we can do.  This list can really be anything, but gets the brain thinking about topics to use later.  Next, we chose a structure.  Gretchen's website has a list of many, but the possibilities are endless.  She also suggested that when a student comes up with their own, you name it for them and post it as another possibility.  We used a pet peeve structure.  The structure works as sentence starters.

For example....

My topic/truism: your/you're
My structure: pet peeve

  1. I saw an alert on my phone for a text message from Scott.
  2. I said to myself, "I wonder what it says."
  3. Then I saw the typo.
  4. I decided to respond, but with a correction.
  5. Now I understand that before I read his texts, I need to be prepared to see "your welcome."
There are so many possibilities with this.  Our group talked about her method as a nice balance between having a form and throwing it out.  Yes, this is a form, but it's open-ended and easily adaptable to meet the needs of the teacher and the student.

It's called a kernel essay because it's just the start.  I showed how it can turn into a short "paragraph," but each box could be its own paragraph or even chapter.  Kids from kinder to college can fit into that range!  Definitely check out Gretchen online and in bookstores.  She is bursting with ideas and has a new book coming out soon.


One of the Fellows did a presentation on Cinderella.  She teaches 4th grade, but I think her lesson could be adapted to a whole-group project for younger kiddos.  The project focuses on the different cultural versions of Cinderella and guiding students to create their own story based on research of a culture/country.

We started by reading two versions of the story, African and Chinese, and identifying the main ideas, themes, and any patterns or similarities between them.  We generated lists to show the common themes, etc.  Documenting them made it easy to understand what key components our stories would need (good conquers evil, step-family, trusting in the good of others).  Then we chose a country and worked in groups to create stories combining that culture, the key components, and our own creativity.  They were all so different and interesting!

I love the research and creativity this requires.  Not only do kids have to identify key themes, but research in a meaningful way, and use creativity to create amazing stories.  Our class could absolutely do this!  With scaffolding and support, I think it would be a wonderful way to learn about different cultures and countries.

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