Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator and a teacher-trainer since 1991. 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.

I serve Northern Nevada for nine months of the year (August-May), and during summers, I hire myself out to school districts around the country.

If you would like to check my availability for the summer of 2014, please contact me at my 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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The importance of writing every day...in our writing classrooms, we call it "Sacred Writing Time"

"What's scared writing time?" a new student asked me this year when he first saw my first Sacred Writing Time PowerPoint Slide this past August. I laughed and clarified that he was mis-reading the word sacred. We still smile about that, especially since the purpose of having students write every day is our strategic technique for helping them not be scared of writing.

Sacred Writing Time, which we start our classes with every day, is designed to build confidence, fluency, and promote original thinking for upcoming writer's workshops. In my classroom, you should expect to write in your writer's notebook for--at least--an hour every week, and SWT is the time I set aside for you to do that.

SWT Resources...from my classroom to yours

I set the timer for ten or fifteen minutes as soon as class starts every day, and my students are off and writing, "making their pencils dance" they are used to hearing me say. You'll know you have successfully implemented Sacred Writing Time into your routine when your students groan because the timer goes off and ask for more time. On this page, I share some of my best resources and challenges for implementing sacred writing time successfully.

Sacred Writing Alongside your Students
Sacred Writing Time Lesson Ideas
 
More to come soon...
 



SWT PowerPoint Slides

Dena and I hatched up the idea for our Sacred Writing Time Powerpoint slides while on a car trip; we tend to do our best collaboration when there is a highway rolling beneath us and luggage in a trunk behind us. During the 2012-13 school year, we slowly rolled out the entire set of slides, and we became better at using them in class. In that one short year, they became an integral element that our students expected to interact with every day.

When the slide for the day wasn't posted as our students filed in, we certainly heard about it. At my school, we have this very silly rotating schedule, which means I don't see every student every day. I have a dozen students who--on days they don't see me--faithfully stop by with their phones and take pictures of the slides they miss. I have learned to use the information from the slides as transitions between my mini-lessons and activities; "Find your new partner and when you do, talk about what the slide's interesting quote of the day means to you" is the sort of way you can say when using the slides as transitional elements.

Click here to freely access our August 15-September 15 slides. Click here to order the entire set of slides.

Below, I share some of the different ways we developed and used the slides in the first year of classroom use. If you purchased the slides and have discovered another creative way of using them, thank you advance for considering sharing them with us at corbett@corbettharrison.com.

Yes, the Holidays are Real! We did not make them up!
Sharing Good Slides a Week Ahead of Time

I am asked this a lot by students and teachers. It became fascinating to us as we developed these how many different holidays there are for each day of the year. I have students who were inspired to research how one declares a day a national holiday. We might turn that into a writing assignment in the future: "The Propose a New Holiday" persuasive essay followed by the "How To Actually Get it on the Calendar" report.

Here is a slide from the set that has a holiday our kids responded well to:

I'm not a huge fan of having students respond to a writing prompt they have never seen before; instead, I would prefer my students have plenty of time to think out a topic before writing about it. Some of the slides contain prompts for writing, and I am now looking ahead for particularly interesting ones and sharing those slides early so that students can really write about the prompt on teh day it makes its appearance.

Here is a slide I shared a week ahead of time to promote thinking about its prompt:

Themeatic Connections Between the Slides' Four Elements
Vocabulary Connections & Mini-Lessons

The slides contain four pieces of information: 1) holiday of the day, 2) trivial fact of the day, 3) quote of the day, and 4) vocabulary word of the day. At first, we didn't connect the four, but as we got better at designing the slides, suddenly we made themes happen, and our students started noticing them.

Here's a theme page we were particularly pleased with because it connected all four:

The 2012-13 school year was my year to improve my vocabulary instruction; I always set a personal goal each August for myself. I allow my students to collect one of their four required vocabulary words each week (here is my vocabulary lesson that explain this better), and one word for the week can come from my slide.

The -onym root in this slide's vocabulary word complemented this lesson nicely:

Students Designing their Own Month of Slides in the Spring

I just love this idea that was shared with me by Julie McCarragher, a middle school teacher from Wisconsin. Her students used the sacred writing time powerpoint slides all Fall and Winter, then she had her class design their own set for April. I love how each slide lets you know a little bit about the student's personality or interests. She gave me permission to share the slides here, and I love them!

Pi day is greatly comlemented by this writer's notebook lesson:

I just love this idea that was shared with me by Julie McCarragher, a middle school teacher from Wisconsin. Her students used the sacred writing time powerpoint slides all Fall and Winter, then she had her class design their own set for April. I love how each slide lets you know a little bit about the student's personality or interests. She gave me permission to share the slides here, and I love them!

Here's just one of her students' slides; click here to see the whole set:

 

 

Sacred Writing Alongside Your Students

If you know my work and my dogma, you know that I am a firm believer that you cannot be a great writing teacher if your students do not see you write too. I try really hard to do ten minutes of sacred writing every day too. I'll admit that it doesn't always happen; my school is notoriously dis-organized, and sometimes we are told we are all doing something new and schoolwide with less than twenty-four hours of notice. While my students write, I sometimes need those ten minutes to set-up for something that came out of the blue or to deal with a technology issue, but for the most part, I get ten minutes of sacred writing time in each day too.

Interestingly, I try to never use the Sacred Writing Time slides or my Bingo Cards to prompt me; instead, I try to model the idea that every little thing that goes on in your life can be turned into ten minutes of interesting writing. I usually share what I am writing about before I set the timer. I challenge my students to independently seek topics from their lives, but they always have permission to use any of the prompting resources I have provided. Everyone writes during sacred writing time; no one has reason not to, especially if they see me writing too.

Here are some models of sacred writing I have done this past year with my kids.

Action Research & Personal Inquiries!
Responding to Students' Questions & Challenges

In Nevada, we have sudden frosts after spring officially begins. Peach trees grow well here, but it's about every five-seven years that you actually get a peach crop because of late frosts and early blossoms. 2012 was a year for peaches in Northern Nevada. It was the first year we had peaches at the house we are currently living in. Our tree went crazy. Week after week, I climbed and thinned, but the peaches just kept coming and growing. On the Saturday morning in early September that I planned on finally harvesting the tree, we went out to breakfast and came back to find the tree had split down the center. This made it easy to harvest with half the tree on the ground, but it was heart-breaking. My Facebook friends told me I might be able to save the tree by bolting it back together, so I decided I would do my best to save my tree. I took the whole weekend to harvest, and the whole next week to trim and hoist the trunk to where I could bolt it, and I documented the whole thing over the week in my writer's notebook.

 

The documentation in my writer's notebook will continue this spring when we find out if I indeed saved my peach tree.

During my first five years of teaching, I needed a beard. At twenty-two years of age, I still looked like some of my high school students. A beard was the answer. In 2011, my sixth graders saw a few pictures hanging behind my desk that showed me in a beard, and they wanted me to grow one for them.

I told them no. My wife hates it when I have whiskers.

This year, as my seventh graders, they persisted. They even said, "You could write about it during sacred writing time," so how could I say no. Of course, I gained Mrs. Harrison's permission first. And then I turned it into a two-week series of entries in my writer's notebook. As soon as the beard was thick enough, I shaved it off.

 

My notebook now has a nice documentation of the whole beard-growing experience, so I can show it to future students who make the same request.

The New Puppy Chronicles
Vocabulary Connections & Mini-Lessons

In November of 2012, we lost our loyal Westie, Ozzy, to bladder cancer. We had always said we would not have three dogs at the same time again, but I knew there was a huge hole in my lovely wife's heart over Ozzy. In January, we found a dog groomer about 50 miles away who had a litter of Westie puppies. It was an easy sale for her.

I am currently documenting the puppy experience. I am pretty sure when I re-read these pages years from now, I have all the evidence I need that puppies are too much work for people who work full time!

The 2012-13 school year was my year to improve my vocabulary instruction; I always set a personal goal each August for myself. I allow my students to collect one of their four required vocabulary words each week (here is my vocabulary lesson that explain this better), and one word for the week can come from my slide.

The -onym root in this slide's vocabulary word complemented this lesson nicely: