Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator and a teacher-trainer since August of 1990. I specialize in teaching writing using differentiated instruction. I also focus on critical thinking techniques, especially during the pre-writing and revision steps of the writing process. Every year, I challenge myself to improve my instruction: I am curretly developing grammar and vocabulary lessons so that they're differentiated and promote deep, critical thinking skills, and I incorporate them into my classroom routines to promote a student-centered classroom environment.

The Northern Nevada district I serve has a "balanced calendar" that has me teaching from early August to early June, and during my 7 weeks of summer and during my two annual two-week breaks, I independently contract to present workshops to school districts and professional organizations around the country.

The winter and spring of 2017 are mostly booked up at this point. Beginning in mid-June, I will be available to present at summer workshops in your district or state.

You can find general information about my workshops here.

If you would like to check my availability for summer of 2017, please contact me at this e-mail address.

Always
Write

 
       Because writing--when taught right--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, I created this website.

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Is this one of my students finding this page, or a fellow teacher? Either way, are you ready for our final notebook challenge of the school year?

After a hiatus from the classroom to work for our state's professional development program in the 2000's, I returned to the classroom in 2011. While away from my students during those years, I designed dozens of college-level classes on authentically teaching the writing process to students. During said hiatus, I was determined more than ever to be successful with one of my favorite tools that all writing classrooms should require: a writer's notebook.

In my day back in the 1990's, we maintained journals, and nobody liked them much, including me. They were just huge chunks of daily text that no one wanted to go back and read through: "Today in P.E. [this happened]..."; "I'm really mad today because [this happened]..."; "Can you believe Mr. Harrison makes us write our daily thoughts in our journals still?" These were the kind of writing student journals promoted.

A writer's notebook, however, is different. It's not a diary. It's not based on assigned daily prompts. It's an expectation that a child arrive to class with an idea for a narrative, expository, or argumentative/persuasive paper that they want to "play with" for ten-fifteen minutes before class officially begins. If they don't have an idea for a large paper yet, they play with words or ideas for those ten-fifteen minutes of writing time. I provide tools to help my students without ideas play (our writer's notebook bingo cards, our sacred writing time PowerPoint slides, and our writer's workshop menus are our three best tools), but my kids learn real fast they only will earn an 'A' from me if they have their own ideas to "play" with as soon as they walk through my door for Language Arts class.

Sacred Writing Time has to be fun. Kids have to want to share when it's over. They need to know they're supposed to groan when the ten-minute timer runs out and they're in the middle of a thought. Part of making a writer's notebook fun is requiring a visual element to the writing students do; my kids learn to bring in photos to write about, artifacts from their weekends to glue on their pages and surround with words, and other visuals that make looking back through the notebook a nostalgic pleasure. Because I am artistically challenged, I invented a fancy version of the stickman--"Mr. Stick"--and he has been a part of my writer's notebook since 1996. Once I introduce him to my kids, most of them begin to use him on their pages too.

When I returned to the classroom in 2011, I really pushed the idea of Mr. Stick as we began exploring new things I'd learned about writer's notebooks, and--as usual--he inspired my students to find ways to express themselves creatively and really like their writer's notebooks. I decided to establish a "Mr. Stick of the Year" award in 2012, and now that we're in 2013, I am now expanding the award to honor more students since so many of my students deserve to be recognized for their Mr. Stick-inspired creativity.

On this page, find the resources I use to launch the "Mr. Stick of the Year" Award in the month of May. If you decide to run a similar contest, there is a link at the bottom of the page where you can share photographs of your students' most impressive Mr. Sticks.

in year, I have a group of students who have maintained writers' notebooks that truly amaze me. Inspired by showing pages from my own writer's notebook (please pause for my dogmatic cry: "every writing teacher should keep one!"), by Ralph Fletcher's advice from his A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer within You, and the Amelia's Notebook series (by Marissa Moss), a huge group of my students produced some very gifted and very unique notebooks this year. One of the very few ways to earn extra credit in my class is to go above and beyond with a notebook challenge I assign monthly. The lesson found on this page is one of those extra credit challenges; in fact, it's the final notebook challenge of the year!

Have you checked out our classroom's "Mr. Stick of the Week" Gallery? It might inspire you!

Our May Writer's Notebook Advanced Challenge: Earn a Mr. Stick of the Year Award!
Meet my two mentor texts for the lesson on this page! Okay, so the mentor text at right (Stick Man by Julia Donaldson) doesn't contain a single "Mr. Stick," but my pun-loving children really love this little book. My friend and colleague, Denise Boswell, told me about this book, and I couldn't believe how much my kids took a shine to it. I still am seeking a great children's book that make excellent use of actual stickmen (like good ol' Mr. Stick), but so far...no success on this quest for a mentor text that relates a bit more directly to actual stick men. If anyone knows of a stickman-based picture book, I'd love to hear about it. E-mail me (corbett@corbettharrison.com) if you can offer your assistance in this quest of mine.

Next to the book Stick Man in my chalk-tray every May, I also display Amelia's Easy-as-Pie Drawing Guide by Marissa Moss. My kids meet Amelia (wow, there are a lot of books in that series now!) every September when we begin setting up our writer's notebooks. Because the theme of May's challenge is to incorporate a piece of original writing that is accompanied by a well-drawn visual or two, I want them to flip through this mentor text too so that they might learn some other visuals that can be drawn as "easy as pie." If you're looking for a copy of this book, you'll have to be willing to take a used copy; unfortunately, this one is out of print. Through Amazon, it looks as though you can find both reasonably and unreasonably priced copies from various sellers.

And finally, because what makes Mr. Stick charming--in my humble opinion--are the emotional facial expressions he or she is given, I have at the ready my favorite Mr. Stick handout ever: Mr. Stick's Emotional Faces. Entering my annual contest, students? You better have a great face on any submissions!

Basic Overview about this Contest: On May 31, we will have our final Writer's Notebook check for this school year. Each student is allowed to nominate three pages (only three!) from his/her notebook. I will hand you all a special Post-it that day that you can mark your page with so that there is no mistake which pages you are submitting as your three entry. Entering the contest is not required; it is an extra credit option. There will be only three winners, and they will each receive extra credit and a special prize that can be attached to your next year's writer's notebook, and those artists/writers will earn 15 points of extra credit just in time for final grades.

Detailed rules: (Please read these carefully)

  1. The page(s) you nominate must be a new page, which means it must be created during the month of May. You may not nominate a page from the past eight months of school. Somewhere on the page(s), you must have a Mr. Stick illustration (or two or more).
  2. We've created a lot of two-page spreads throughout the year (like those Important Passages last month). You may certainly create and nominate a two-page spread for this contest as long as it is created in May. No half-page entries; your submission must be at least one full page in your notebook.
  3. Your Mr. Stick artistry must be neat and contain color. I might suggest that you trace your final drawing with ink because that always makes Mr. Stick look better. Be careful with adding too much color, guys; I've noticed that some of you put so much color on your pages that I cannot read the pencil words any more, especially if you write in pencil.
  4. To win, not only will your Mr. Stick drawing be evaluated but the writing that accompanies the drawing(s) will also be equally important . Be creative and thoughtful with the writing that inspires the page you are nominating.
  5. The writing may be a completely independent idea that you come up with (Like Rianna did with this notebook page about yawning), or it can be writing based on any of the formats we have toyed with this year (like Tayler G. did with this notebook page). If you've forgotten, here are some of the assigned formats from the year that you might use again when making your contest entry: alpha-lists, decalogues, extended metaphors, important passages, pangrams, personified vocabulary, recipe writes, rhyming slogans, sixteen-word poems, start and stop poems, and storyboards, to name just a few.
  6. If you're looking for ideas on what to write about, remember to examine at our "Mr. Stick of the Week" Gallery for the year. Also, please feel free to ask to look through my writer's notebook for ideas too. I have a lot of pages in my notebook that you've probably never seen.
  7. Your writing must be legible and mostly correct with conventions--spelling and punctuation. I'm not going to hold a few spelling or punctuation errors against anyone because writer's notebooks are actually pre-writing, but let's keep them to a minimum if you're interested in winning this.
  8. Each winner in the following categories will receive 15 (wow!) points of extra credit just in time for finals.
  9. The most important rule: have fun creating this page! Make me smile and impress me with your writing, my students.

My Judging Rubric:

The
Drawing
Good effort!
Possible Honorable Mentions--but no extra credit!
Potential Winners!
  • There is an incorporation of Mr. Stick with the writing.
  • There is a facial expression on the Mr. Stick.
  • Color/shading has been used.
  • Additional elements (hats, accessories, props, background) are present.
  • Awesome incorporation of Mr. Stick with the writing.
  • Emotional facial expression matches the tone of the writing.
  • Use of color/shading adds to the drawing
  • Additional elements (hats, accessories, props, background, etc.) add to the Mr. Stick drawing.
  • Amazingly awesome incorporation of Mr. Stick with the writing.
  • Emotional facial expression matches the tone of the writing perfectly.
  • Use of color completely adds to the drawing
  • Additional elements (hats, accessories, props, background, etc.) really add to the Mr. Stick drawing.
The
Writing
  • The writing on this notebook page is pretty original, clever, and it shows a skill of writing we have been working on this school year.
  • The writing is sort of complemented by the Mr. Stick drawing.
  • The writing is legible, and there are minimal conventional errors.
  • The writing on this notebook page is very original, clever, and it shows several skills of writing we have been working on this school year.
  • The writing is clearly complemented by the Mr. Stick drawing.
  • The writing is legible, and there are minimal conventional errors.
  • The writing on this notebook page is amazingly original, clever, and it shows many skills of writing we have been working on this school year.
  • The writing is completely and clearly complemented by the Mr. Stick drawing.
  • The writing is legible, and there are no conventional errors.

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This Year's Mr. Stick of the Year Award Categories

 

Best Mr. Stick Original Poem

Pen and illustrate an original poem about any topic to be considered for this award.

Best Mr. Stick Remembers this School Year

Pen and illustrate a reflective look back on the highlights of this school year to be considered for this award.

Best Mr. Stick as Mr. Harrison

Capture and "stick" a memory of your English teacher to be considered for this award.

Best Mr. Stick Narrative Writing

Pen and illustrate an original idea for a narrative story to be considered for this award.

Best Mr. Stick Persuasive Writing

Pen and illustrate an original idea for a persuasive argument to be considered for this award.

Best Mr. Stick's Writing Advice

Pen and illustrate an original idea for how to create a good piece of writing or a good notebook entry.

Best Mr. Stick Vocabulary Cartoon

Pen and illustrate an original vocabulary cartoon to be considered for this award.

Best Mr. Stick Vocabulary Haiku

Pen and illustrate an original vocabulary haiku to be considered for this award. Stick "animals" are encouraged here.

Best Mr. Stick Comic Strip

Pen and illustrate an original three-panel (or more) cartoon for this award.

Here is the flyer I am distributing in my classroom on May 1. It's in Word Format or so that you can modify it for your own students! Here is a PDF version, if you need it.

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Three Winners from our "Mr. Stick of the Year" Contest for the 2011-2012 School Year

Best Mr. Stick Poem
eighth grader Chris L.
Best Mr. Stick Remembers the School Year
sixth grader Mimi H.
Best Mr. Stick's Writing Advice
seventh grader Andrea D.

Our musician Chris, with his ever humble ego (wink, wink), dedicated a "How To Be" poem to himself.

Always-reflective, Mimi simplified a much more ambitious original idea into this personal memory "treasure chest" of her sixth grade year on our team.

I've been asking the students to provide advice to next year's incoming writers, and Andrea used Mr. Stick and Post-its to create this simple-yet-effective page I will be showing all our new students next year.

 

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Running Your Own "Mr. Stick of the Year" Contest? Share Digital Photos of your own student winners using this link.