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Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison. I have been an educator since 1990, and a teacher-trainer and University adjunct professor 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 stages of the writing process. I retired from the classroom in June of 2019, and I will continue to consult with schools, districts, and states who are more interested in developing quality writing plans, not buying from one-size-fits-all writing programs.

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

If you would like to check my availability for a specific date or dates for the 2019-20 school year, please contact me at this e-mail address. My calendar is already fillling up with workshop engagements.


Write & WritingFix

       Because writing--when taught well--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, we created this website to provide fun, adaptable ideas for teachers.

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Contact me through my e-mail address with questions/comments about the lesson on this page: Corbett@CorbettHarrison.com

Help your students establish a writer's notebook or journal "mascot" that can visit their pages. I believe a great writer's notebook must have visuals alongside its words and ideas. Me? I am very artistically challenged, but that doesn't stop me from attempting to include simple-to-draw visuals alongside my ideas for future writing. My Mr. Stick Resources are popular among my students as well as teachers who visit this little old website of mine. Mr. Stick has become my notebook's most-used "mascot." He appears on many (if not most) of my pages. My students end up using Mr. Stick in their notebooks too.

I have other "visual mascots" who make cameo appearances in my notebook too; like Mr. Stick, they are always simple-to-draw mascots. For example, some of my pages are visited by Old Black Fly, who is a character from a favorite alphabet by James Aylesworth--Old Black Fly. Now, I have never met a student who was threatened artistically by the notion of drawing a fly buzzing around a page in their notebooks.

Diane's personal treasures page, complete with an original "notebook mascot." Click image to view it at Pinterest in larger form.

For the assignment found on this page, I introduce students to Old Black Fly, but I challenge them to create an original mascot who visits their personal treasures. I hope students feel inspired to create their own, easy-to-draw mascots who can make occasional visual appearances on their notebook pages.

If you have any fresh ideas or adaptations of the lesson I am sharing here, I hope you will share them with me: Corbett@CorbettHarrison.com

A "Personal Treasures" Collection--Encouraging Students to Create Visual "Notebook Mascots"

"I am rich beyond measure." This is the quote I share with my students before starting this lesson. It comes from an amazing novel by Robert McCammon that I discovered back in the 1990's--Boy's Life. This rich, well-written story documents the boyhood of Cory, a young man growing up in the south. Like most boys-about-to-be-men, the world still seems magical to Cory, and the author helps us believe in this child's magic. In one chapter, for example, Cory convinces himself that his bike has "free will" and can fly; the chapter is so well written that--by its end--the reader is convinced the bike can think and fly too.

Right in the very first chapter of Boy's Life, McCammon shares a wonderful description of Cory's room. The description starts simply: "Here is my room." Cory describes his personal treasures--the things that are most important to him. The description ends effectively with "I am rich beyond measure," summing up the author's belief that items without monetary value can be "treasures."

After we read this passage from the first two pages of McCammon's book, I ask my students to think of the things they own or possess that have "personal worth" to them. They don't have to be items found in their own bedrooms (like the mentor text), but they have to be personally valuable items to them. I ask my students to discuss these things before we move forward with this lesson.

When it comes to a mentor text, I believe students should be "tricked" into reading it a second time. The first time my students read a short piece of text, I tell them they have just "Read it like a reader" so they can comprehend the words; on a second read, they should begin noticing tricks the writer did to keep the reader interested, which we call "Reading the text like a writer." To trick them into read the text a second time, I tell them they are about to play a memory game, where they will be asked to remember as many items from Cory's room as they possibly can. Quietly, allow the students to re-read the passage from the first chapter again.

Then, I collect the passages back, replacing them with an Alpha-box sheet. Working with one partner, students recollect as many nouns from Cory's room; if the noun they think of starts with an "N" (National Geographics, for example), they record it in the appropriate box on the alpha-box sheet. I give student groups five minutes to remember as many items from Cory's room as possible. Without the text in front of them, they do a great job of really thinking back on the words they've read; the alpha-boxes do a great job of keeping them focused, but there is not an item for the text that will fit nicely into every box of the worksheet.

When they have brainstormed a list, I give them back the passage from the book and cleverly "trick" them into reading the words a third time, this time checking for the items they missed. I actually inform my students that I have "tricked" them into now reading the same piece of excellent writing a third time; should they ever spot me doing this again in the future, they are to automatically know that I think this is a valuable enough piece of writing to read a third time. Good writing deserves to be read (and analyzed) multiple times. When the passages are short--like this one--students don't see a third read as that much of an inconvenience.

Next, I show my students the "Personal Treasures" page I made in my own writer's notebook. This page features six items from around my home that I believe make me "rich beyond measure," like Cory in the mentor text. On my notebook page, I have sketched the items, described what they are, and I have had a character from a favorite alphabet book--Old Black Fly--land on each of the items.

Students always ask, "Who is Old Black Fly?" which always prompts me to bring out my copy of James Aylesworth's book (at right) and share from it; it's the story of a fly landing on different items around a house that happen to correspond with the letters of the alphabet. Students immediately figure out that it's in alphabet book pattern, which makes it predictable. I ask, "So what do you think the fly lands on next, knowing the letter will be [insert name of letter here]." The students always have fun, varied guesses.

I, then, explain that I chose to create a page for my notebook that shared six of my personal treasures, and that I chose Old Black Fly--a character that was easy for me to draw--to connect the six pictures together. I tell students they can use Old Black Fly as their character on this page they will set up, but I challenge them to create original characters/ideas to link their five or six personal treasures together.

And...then they work. These pages in their notebooks begin to take shape.

Some of my students borrow Old Black Fly from my notebook to link their personal treasures together. Some just share their personal treasures without a "mascot." And some create an original mascot that I have never seen before.

A visual page like this one will draw students back to this page on a day you ask them to look through their writer's notebooks for their next idea for a paper for writer's workshop. Students can be easily encouraged to write a longer piece about one or all of their personal treasures; the two paragraphs from Boy's Life can be shown to those students right before they build a rough draft inspired by this page.

Below, find some of my students' notebook pages from this year. I hope they inspire you to try this lesson and to encourage original "notebook mascots."

"Personal Treasures" Notebook Pages from some Wonderful Sixth Graders:

Kendall's original mascot was her dog that likes to chew on things. Click image to view larger.

Mimi's connecting image was, of all things, loose change, which she had fall on all her personal treasures. Click image to view larger.

Nate proved that you don't need a mascot or a connecting image to build a great page based on this prompt. Click image to view larger.

Adam, one of my reluctant drawers, had his treasures visited by an original "Stick Unicorn." See next picture over too. I think Adam did a great job with originality here!

Adam's personal treasures page became two pages in his notebook. Click either image to see his notebook pages in larger form.

Jaycee linked her images together with a recurring "dog theme."

Audrey used a bouncing ball as her connecting visual. See next page too!

Audrey's personal treasures collection became a second page in her notebook. Click either image to see it in larger form.

If your students create a "personal treasures" notebook pages with an original mascot, I'd love to see a digital photograph of their notebook page.

Click here to post your students' notebook photos at WritingFix's Ning!


Like the Notebook Lesson on this Page? Check out two of my other Writer's Notebook Lessons!

Serendipitous Character Names

This notebook lesson is actually house over at the WritingFix website!