Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator since 1990, and a teacher-trainer since 1998. I specialize in teaching writing using differentiated instruction techniques. I also focus on critical thinking skills, especially during the pre-writing and revision steps of the writing process. Every year, I challenge myself to improve my writing instruction even more, and this website is where I post my most successful new ideas.

I have been on hiatus from doing out-of-state teacher trainings recently for two reasons: 1) I'm writng a book on teaching writing, and 2) I'm preparing to retire from the classroom at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Beginning in the summer of 2019, I will be available once again to train teachers your school or district if you would like to hire me. You can find general information about my workshops here.

If you would like to verify my availability for a specific date or dates starting in June of 2019, please contact me at this e-mail address.

 

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I've been developing some new classroom techniques for our Interactive Non-Fiction Notebook routine. Doing so has inspired Dena and me to start our own Interactive Non-Fiction Notebook (INN), which documents things we learn that personally fascinate us while serving as an example we can share with our own students. We've now been adding to it since July of 2017, and we've decided we will be sharing six of our favorite techniques between January and June as our "Lessons of the Month" in 2018. These will be shorter, more visual write-ups because I am working on a book while still managing to post these monthly lessons.

an interactive, non-fiction notebook challenge for student researchers
What the Movie Got Wrong!

translating learned information into an imaginary movie and then writing a historical critique that points out factual errors

Essential Questions/Overview/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • What type of thinking skills must I use to create a fake movie poster based on a person, place, or thing I have researched for class?
  • What "voice" should I give to my fake critic who is panning the accuracy of my movie?
  • How can I design an Interactive Nonfiction Notebook page that contains summarized non-fiction texts AND contains an interactive element that my audience must complete after I finish sharing my INN page?
  • How does a writer who creates an "interactive challenge" for others in his/her notebook ensure that he/she has reached the deepest level of Bloom's taxonomy?

Three-Sentence Overview: Sometimes we get it wrong, and people remember that; when children's book author, Eric Carle, accidentally wrote that his most famous book's butterfly character came out of a cocoon (instead of a chrysalis), he got letters, lots of letters. This research/writing task has students imagine a Hollywood "movie" that would be made about the topic they research, create the movie poster in their notebooks, then create a list of historically inaccurate things that happened in this "movie" that a critique might see. When students share these pages with their classmates, they must attempt to really "sell" the movie and the story its based on.

What's an Interactive Non-Fiction Notebook (INN) Assignment? When we are studying a new piece of fact-driven content, I often assign my students to add one or two new pages in their Interactive Non-Fiction Notebooks. These composition books' pages are researched, planned, drafted, polished, and presented to two or three other students on a special day we set aside, and usually we can get through the process of making and sharing these in 2-3 days. I try to provide a menu of ideas for students to use when designing an interactive non-fiction notebook page (writing a critique about a fake movie based on the content is certainly on my classroom's menu of choices), but ultimately I want my students to create their own ideas for interesting ways to present information they've learned about a topic of study. We teach a lot of concept attainment in traditional schools, but I don't see enough teaching that pushes the students to a place where they are encouraged to create their own conceptual ideas, their own unique ways of presenting the information they've learned. That's what I aim for when I assign these pages: I want my students to create their own concepts with which they can explain their learning to an audience or to me, their teacher.

When I assign an Interactive Non-fiction Notebook page, on the final copy that is actually presented in small groups and to me, I expect to find and assess the quality of the following:

  • facts that the student has decided are worth remembering have been recorded in a way that others can read them and understand them;
  • facts that are written completely in the student's own words (aka summarization);
  • personal reactions/responses/connections to content that can be pointed out and explained when the INN page is shared in a small group;
  • (required for my advanced learners) an interactive element--like a quiz, riddle, game, active listening task--the audience is made aware of so they can participate fully when the page is shared in small groups or with partners.

"What the Movie Got Wrong" is not an INN page assignment to begin with because it truly requires some higher-level thinking and planning on students' parts. First, they have to imagine a movie that doesn't exist based on researching a topic of choice; next, they have to pan their own imaginary movie. You're asking your students to point out historical inaccuracies in a "film" that doesn't really exist. It's kind of a weird assignment, but it's easy to walk the students through the process with ample samples to share. I'm happy to share my growing collection of samples here on this page.

"Mentor Texts" that Have Science, History, and Writing Mistakes: I believe this INN notebook page idea could be adapted to many age levels, so I provide many levels of "mentor text" to demonstrate how mistakes happen a lot in life.

  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle is one of the top-selling children's books of all time even though it contains a scientific mistake that children began pointing out to the author. The book's very hungry caterpillar, when going through its metamorphosis, emerges as a butterfly from a cocoon, not a chrysalis. Even a mistake like this can't bring down a great children's book! Eric Carle has a ready-to-go response to all those who contact him on this issue at his website: Eric Carle website.
  • There is an oft-panned moment early on in the original written version of Robinson Crusoe where the main character undresses in order to swim out to his sunken ship for supplies, and while he is out diving in the nude or in his skivvies, the book tells us that he "...filled his pockets with biscuits." And, despite this error, this book went on to be a classic!
  • And finally, the James Cameron version of the film Titanic is rife with historical errors. A big one that I point out is the portrayal of First Officer Will Murdoch in the film as a bad officer who, after shooting two passengers by accident during the evacuation, shoots himself. In real life, Murdoch died much more heroically, helping passengers lower over ten lifeboats. The Vice President of the company that produced the film, 20th Century Fox, personally apologized to Murdoch's 80-year-old nephew after the film came out.

Three favorite mentor texts with factual errors in them:

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
by Eric Carle


Robinson Crusoe

by Daniel Defoe


Titanic

which is full of historical inaccuracies

Below, I happily share how I introduce the idea of writing and then panning a fake movie as a way to report on interesting facts my students learn while doing research for topics across the curriculum. My philosophy of this website and good teaching is this: Borrow ideas from this write-up that work, adapt others that need tweaking, but do not think I am giving you a free script for a lesson here. This page contains a solid idea for doing some writing that your students will enjoy. When teachers figure out how to adapt lessons to work with their own students, they are acting as much better teachers than those who take, buy or borrow lessons and programs and hope they'll work with students with limited adaptations. Adapt like crazy, my friends. That's how I became a better-than-good writing teacher.

Introducing the "Fake Movie Poster," first, as an option for the Writer's Notebook: My students first see models of fake movie posters when I am teaching them about their own writer's notebooks.

With the ten minutes of sacred writing time I give my students each day in their writer's notebooks, I encourage my students to try different formats for writing, and we are forever on the look-out for new formats, especially formats that can be accomplished in ten minutes: acrostic poems, text battles, top ten lists, and bucket lists are such formats I both model and encourage. So too do I model lots of "Fake Movie Posters"

The trick with fake movie posters is they have to be planned to include a sufficient amount of writing; otherwise, I consider them to be a sacred drawing--not sacred writing-- task, and we don't draw during SWT. Not when we're supposed to be practicing writing. A movie poster can have lots of writing on it, and students can save room to add pictures/color afterwards, if they desire, or they can do so during class if you make such a thing part of your bigger assignment.

Some posters advertise great movies all while having very few words on them at all. I don't encourage this type of movie poster to be made during Sacred Writing Time because there aren't enough words for ten minutes of writing. Here are four examples of movie posters that are too visual and don't contain enough writing. Click the images to show them to your students in larger form.

BAD Mentor Texts: Movie Posters without enough words to be used as inspiration:

Lesson to stress after showing these first four posters: if you're designing a fake movie poster, make sure you have a way planned to get more words on your poster than images. Seek out ways to include much more writing in or alongside your poster.

Here are four I share that use many more words, and they all do so using the same technique:

Mentor Text Movie Posters to Showcase: Movie Posters with Critical Reviews on Poster

Lesson to stress after showing the four posters above: a lot of movie posters depend on words from the critiques to help build the poster. Here you see a variety of films that used this technique. Challenge: Can you write quotes from the critics that do more than just praise? Can you write quotes that help me better understand what you're movie is about?

Finally, here are two older movie posters which both use a common technique; I call it the "See the..." technique:

Mentor Text Movie Posters to Show: Posters that use a "See the..." list-writing technique

Lesson to stress after showing the above two examples: a lot of movies from the past did a great job of teasing the audience by including facts about the movie's plot and building suspense about the characters. Both the above posters use the "See the..." technique, which my kids can easily impersonate, and I love how they "censored" the frightening face of the monster in the Godzilla poster. I have a lot of students who could apply that "censored" idea to movie posters that aren't about monster movies and, thus, are requiring my students to use another's technique in a different context, which is a great way to teach writing skills.

Lastly, I share two of the fake movie posters I created in my own Writer's Notebook (WNB). I wrote the "Nevada Vanity" page in ten minutes, adding visuals and color after I decided I liked it enough to decorate. The "Kiln Killer" fake poster took me fifteen minutes to write, and five more to decorate.

Example Fake Movie Posters from my own Writer's Notebook...Two Movie Posters

Here, with this "fake movie poster," I impersonated the type of actual movie poster that focuses more on the critics' quotes than focusing on the movie. I made sure my critics' quotes helped sum up the story I had thought up in my mind for this fake movie poster.

This is based on a true story about a boss I heard about who had an inappropriate vanity plate on her car, and no one told her about it because she thought it was "cute." It wasn't.

Here, I used the "See the..." movie poster style to create a modern re-telling of a favorite fairy tale in "fake movie poster" format.

This fake film is based on a lady down the street who has a kiln in her garage that my wife and I comment on when we walk the neighborhood and see it in her garage. Once we said, "We could make a modern-day re-telling of Hansel & Gretl and the wicked witch would would lure them to their doom.

Using the "Fake Movie Poster," second, as an option for the Interactive Non-fiction Notebook: When we do research projects, one of the products of learning I often ask my students to complete is an Interactive Non-fiction Notebook page or two-page spread that looks like a movie poster and a critique. My students who've created fake movie posters in their writer's notebook before I introduce this idea, not surprisingly, are quite a bit better at creating posters that reflect a lot of research that can be discussed, and they can serve as group leaders, if you choose to use grouping during this type of assignment.

For the "Fake Movie Poster" for an Interactive Non-Fiction Notebook, you want the writing that ends up on the page to focus on the research the student has done on whatever topic your class is researching. For that reason, we made the following requirements for our students when they create the notebookpage:

  • The title (and the movie's tagline) must be interesting, and it must start a conversation on the person, place, or thing, the "fake movie" is about during sharing time.
  • The movie poster must contain words other than the title and the tagline, but I don't require as many words with these movie posters because of the next bullet.
  • On a page in the notebook, next to the fake movie poster, the student must compose statements from the fake critiques who have seen the fake movie, and those comments must all point out inaccuracies (factual or historical) from the imaginary movie. By pointing out what the imaginary movie left out, they are actually sharing what they have learned about their topic when they researched; they're just using a fake movie critic's voice to share those facts, and believe it or not, students have fun with that idea.
  • The students must hide an interactive message in their poster or their critiques so that, when they share their pages with a classmate or a small group, the has a reason to actively listen.

Need models to understand? If so, that doesn't make you unlike your own students. That's why I show models--both mine and my own students. Below, are my models that I worked on in the summer of 2018.

Models from our Interactive Non-Fiction Notebook

Person: Annie Edson Taylor

She was not only the first lady to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, but the first person!

Place: Cholame, CA

This is where James Dean crashed. I drive through Cholame every year.

The movie poster is on the left; the historical critiques are at right. Click to enlarge.

I tried fitting a poster on one page for this.

Thing: The Mary Celeste mystery

A famous nautical story with multiple possible endings.

 

Dena prefers to type her posters and critiques, then tape them into her INN.

More to come in 2018-19!

 

Fake movie posters for the Interactive Non-Fiction Notebook, be they individually- or small group-created, should help a student talk about the research he/she has done about a topic without ever needing to read directly from the research itself. What persons, places, or things might you have your students research in order to create "fake movie posters" about the facts they find?

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

If your students like the idea of using Fake Movies that get panned by the Fake Critics as a way to inspire writing on a notebook page, I would love to see you post a picture/scan of their writing at this posting link: Better still, if your students invent a new way to uniquely inspire writing in their writer's notebooks, we want to hear about it: corbett@corbettharrison.com

 


from Corbett & Dena Harrison to you...
Six Conceptual INN Ideas
An Interactive Non-Fiction Notebook (INN) requires students to use interesting true facts they've learned as they create a unique or thematic way to present the information to fellow students. If used well, INNs can help you up the student-centeredness of your classroom.

This resource page features one of the freely posted ideas we share with our fellow writing teachers. We hope this page's idea inspires the establishment of a writer's notebook routine in your classroom.

If you're a teacher who is just getting started with classroom writer's notebooks, welcome aboard. We fund this website--Always Write--by selling just a few of our products from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Before buying, kindly take advantage of the free preview materials we share so you know if the resources will work with your grade level and teaching style before you purchase the entire product.

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Beginner Prompts, Thoughtfully Presented:


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-- short video about SWT & Bingo Cards --

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365 Ideas for Writing/Discussing:

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For Writers Needing a Guided Challenge:

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Did you miss this freely posted lesson?

RheTURKical Triangle -- Lesson Link

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Mentor texts to inspire Vocabulary Collectors:

The Boy Who Loved Words
by Roni Schotter


Boris Ate a Thesaurus
by Neil Steven Klayman

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Primary Source Picture Books -- Lesson Link

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Notebook Mentor Texts that Inspire Student Writers:

 

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