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Expanding Kernels

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From The Writing Revolution, Expanding Kernels is a K-12 strategy for adding detail and substance to an idea.


The teacher gives students a sentence kernel to begin. Remember that a sentence kernel should be a complete sentence and should not be an imperative (i.e. a command). The teacher also presents students with the questions to ask in order to expand a sentence as follows:

  • Who
  • What (both subject and object)
  • When
  • Where
  • Why
  • How

Depending on the nature of the sentence kernel, some of the questions will be inherently clear (ex: “George ran.” Here the who and what are self-evident). The teacher, therefore, suggests to students which questions to answer in order to expand the sentence.
The teacher provides a simple graphic organizer for students to first answer those questions and then write the new expanded sentence at the bottom.

For lower level students, focus on one or two of the questions at a time. For higher level students, allow them to identify which questions still need to be answered and select which ones they want to expand.


View an example activity from The Writing Revolution here.

Watch a 1st grade example here.

Watch additional examples here.

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