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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My students collect, write about, and "display" four interesting new vocabulary words from their reading books each week.

We used to memorize a dozen new words' definitions a week. In retrospect, this expectation of rote memorization demanded a pretty low level of thinking skill. Today, my students choose their own words, and they think harder about those words than they ever did with those dozen weekly words we used to monotonously memorize.

In my classroom these days, we go to all sorts of interesting places with the Common Core State Standards using the method of vocabulary instruction I've been developing for a few years now. Back in 2011 when I first read the Common Core, I began toying with the idea that I could teach most of CCSS's poetic and grammatical expectations if I established a new weekly writing routine with my kids. At the time, I also needed some creative revision on my vocabulary program, and so I launched a new vocabulary routine that required the expectation of 1) students collecting words from their readings each week, and 2) students doing small pieces of writing based on the vocabulary they'd discovered. Over the summer of 2013, I finally published my ten best vocabulary & writing lessons here at my website, and you can investigate purchasing those lessons here at my website's product page.

Like what this page offers? Interested in purchasing our entire set of vocabulary materials? Click here to visit my products page.

In my classroom, we collect vocabulary words, and we write about them after analyzing them. I teach my students to read the definition in a dictionary so they can look at the possibly-related. The writing we do is superb practice that prepares my students to think grammatically and poetically when we talk about their word collections during writer's workshop.

Vocabulary Resources for my Students
Need a Bookmark?
Remember, index cards & Post-its make bookmarks too!

Each week, you must use some form of a bookmark where you can record interesting "25-cent" words you discover during reading. You should actually collect between 12-24 words each week so you can choose the very best ones to put in your final collection.

How to Maximize Your Grade:
Here are exemplars from your teacher.
These would all earn maximum points.

Always study any exemplar provided by your teacher.

Vocabulary Collecting Forms:
Your 4 best words can be published using:

Each week, you must use some form of a bookmark where you can record interesting "25-cent" words you discover during reading. You should actually collect between 12-24 words each week so you can choose the very best ones to put in your final collection.


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Vocabulary Lessons & Resources for Visiting Teachers:

I used to be the teacher who assigned ten vocabulary words a week, had my kids memorize their definitions and spelling as homework, then gave them all a quiz every Friday. The same students who always earned a high score on those quizzes (about 10-20% on average) continued to do so, and the same kids who refused to memorize and study vocabulary in this way (about 10-20% on average) continued to flunk their quizzes. The middle chunk of students often usually eked by with lightning-fast study sessions 30 minutes before the quiz, or with lucky guessing skills, but as soon as the words weren't on the quiz the following week, they'd complete forget the vocabulary. All three groups of students, I noticed, had one thing in common: neither really cared much about the words because I was choosing the words for my students, and only once in a blue moon would I see any of my assigned words make it to my students' writing. Vocabulary--back then--was not something any of my students found interesting or engaging.

I've become a entirely different teacher...thank goodness. When Common Core State Standards officially rolled their way into Northern Nevada in 2011, I looked upon it as an ideal opportunity to change the way I had been integrating vocabulary into my reading and my writing instruction. Up until then, by assigning those lists of random words and--let's be honest--expecting little more from my kids than rote memorization (which is a skill in the bottom third of Bloom's taxonomy, I am certain), I had made vocabulary its own element in my classroom, as though it needed to be separated from reading and writing. That was wrong, and I sincerely apologize to any past student who I made memorize words they could care less about.

Over the years, I discovered such smarter ways to make use of vocabulary as a teaching tool, and in 2011, I "shook my metaphorical Etch-n-Sketch" (as I like to say), and I began creating a new classroom routine based on the best results that came from some little things I had been trying in my mini-lessons. On this page, I share the basic premise and philosophy of how vocabulary is used to complement reading and writing time in my classroom.

Vocabulary Philosophy 1...Depth is better than coverage: Can disciplined kids memorize ten (maybe even 20!) S.A.T. vocabulary words a week? You bet they can. Start them early, and by the time they take that actual S.A.T. vocabulary test, their little heads will be so full of memorized words that may or may not even appear on the test that year. Unfortunately, that is simply what I call coverage, and I no longer do anything in my classroom that I consider to be coverage. I would much rather have my students learn fewer words each week but require them to do something more meaningful with them through original writing or thinking tasks. That is depth, and that is the philosophy that shaped my vocabulary routines.

My students "collect" four words every week from their readings. They actually collect way more than that on their vocabulary bookmarks, but each week they are required to evaluate the list of words on their bookmarks and select (and justify!) four new-to-them words they actually can see themselves using in the future. Once they've selected their best four words for the week, they record them onto a "Vocabulary Collecting Page," and they select one of my ten "Meaningful Writing Activity" choices. These activities require them to apply the word correctly in a new and interesting (and deep) way. Bookmarks and vocabulary collection pages can be accessed at the top of this page, in the section I have designated for my students; you are more than welcome to take a free look at what my students use.

Vocabulary Philosophy 2...Develop vocabulary expectations as a routine: At present, I teach English and Language Arts to 6th-8th graders, but I spent my first ten years teaching writing at the high school and college level, and during my 9 years as a professional developer for our state, I mentored and facilitated more elementary school staffs than my old brain can even remember. Through that collaborative K-6 work, I assisted teachers in implementing instructional writing routines that centered around everything from writing traits, writer's notebooks, writer's workshops, grammar, to vocabulary skills. With every topic I just listed, my number one belief with these elements--if you're using them well--is they need to become routine. Writer's workshops should become a weekly routine with a mandatory monthly "final draft" from every child. Writer's notebooks remain my favorite daily routine, and I've creatively established the routine so well that our quiet Sacred Writing Time in my classroom is--quite often--my students' favorite ten minutes of their whole school day; if you don't believe that, look at the pages from my students' writer's notebooks that I've posted at my Pinterest account. Their work shines routinely, and it's because I have routines in place that allows expressing themselves creatively and in exchange for some silly extra credit prizes or classroom privileges.

Here is our vocabulary routine at present, and--based on my past experiences--I believe this routine would work well in grades 3-12: Every week, my students "publish" four new words in a special way that become part of their vocabulary "collections," which are stored in their in-class binders once they have been assessed. Because we read every week (from novels, poems, non-fiction, memoirs, short stories, etc.), my students collect every week. For my own sanity, I actually collect and assess eight word every other week so that I am not ALWAYS checking vocabulary. Even so, every Friday, we do a "spot-check" of the four words their currently working on, and we try to do Friday activities around the words; this formative "spot-check" allows me to make sure students aren't falling behind with this weekly expectation. In the old days, when my students were all memorizing the same ten words, these Friday activities wouldn't have been very interesting, but when 30+ students all come to class with four different words to "play with," the activities we do can become really interesting

Vocabulary Philosophy 3...Be efficient by consolidating your teaching of grammar, poetry, sentence structure by simply having students write using their new vocabulary words: Each student-collected vocabulary word has to be written about in an interesting way that requires way more than copying the word's definition from the dictionary. I originally created ten different activities, each coming with a mini-lesson that show students how to try out their vocabulary word in either a creative or logical way; many of the creative lessons focus on poetry skills from the standards while many of logical lessons focus on applying grammatical vocabulary in interesting ways. As of July of 2013, I revised those ten lessons enough times that I felt they were worth packaging and selling.

Every summer during teacher hiatus, I set aside a week or two in order to "package" some of my latest original resources for the purpose of selling them. I'm still a bit bitter about the 2% pay cut we public educators all took in Nevada over five years back, but it inspired me to see if I could make up for lost income by building an income-generating section of this little old website of mine. My website regularly gives away so many ideas for free (and has done so since I launched it in 2008) that I felt it was time to make a little money back, if that was even possible. I'm pleased to say it is possible.

Over the summer of 2013, my focus for a new product centered on packaging my vocabulary materials so that any teacher could make sense of them. I am really pleased with the ten skill-specific vocabulary lessons I created. Not only did they sell really well just in the first few months, but--if I can be humble--they are really smart in the way that help me go deeper with so many areas found in Common Core, including the possibility of bringing in more writing across the curriculum. Here are my ten vocabulary activities, and I've included brief explanation of what areas each activity helps me reinforce:o

My 10 Vocabulary Activities
Common Core and Writing Trait-Inspired Benefits to Students
1. Personified Vocabulary Reviews/teaches personification and creative idea development techniques. This technique really appeals to my right-brained thinkers, and they love to create original names for their "vocabulary collectors" based on their words' meanings. Click here to have free access to the poetry/vocabulary lesson that is part of the set of vocabulary materials I sell here at my website.
2. Vocabulary Haikus Reviews/teaches syllabication as well as word choice techniques. This technique also requires students to create a context for a vocabulary word based on a connection to the natural world.
3. Mr. Stick Vocabulary Cartoons Reviews/Reinforces "Mr. Stick," which is a favorite here at my website. I require students to be visual when they pre-write in their writer's notebooks, and Mr. Stick is my technique for "leveling the playing field" for my non-artistic students. This activity not only gives them practice for this pre-writing technique, but it also forces them to contextual-ize the word in an original cartoon. I also require them to use a face from this handout, which is full of rich vocabulary words!
4. Symbolic Representations Reviews/teaches figurative language skills for creating metaphors and similes as well as original idea development techniques. Students are required to create/explain an original symbolic representation for a vocabulary word...no cliches allowed!
5. Vocabulary "Showing Sentences" Reviews/teaches verbs (transitive/intransitive/linking) and details. This activity also requires them to create and write original context clues for their readers, which ultimately teaches them to analyze context clues when they come across unfamiliar words in our reading.
6. "Root Attack!" or Related Words Reviews/teaches Greek & Latin root while showing students how to find in a dictionary where such etymological information is displayed. This activity also requires students to summarize related words' definitions in their own words.
7. Antonyms & Synonyms Lists Reviews/teaches proper thesaurus use. I also require the students to only provide four antonyms and four synonyms that are the same part of speech as the original vocabulary word, which is tough for some of them but excellent practice once they've mastered the skill. I grade this one the hardest, which I tell my students, because I think it's the easiest of the ten choices.
8. E.G.O.T.s & E.G.O.T. Sentences Reviews/teaches the four main parts of speech a student usually encounters when collecting new vocabulary words: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. This technique is a Corbett Harrison original that I'm really proud of. When I play the E.G.O.T. game with students and teachers, everyone is surprised how much grammar vocabulary and knowledge of suffixes we are required to use and know.
NEW FOR THIS SCHOOL YEAR: 
9. Sausage Sentences
Another Corbett Harrison original in the form of fairly challenging word game; it's based on a writer's notebook prompt I created for my gifted students a few years back. It requires students to create a context for the vocabulary word to be used in a sentence with a special pattern to it--a sausage sentence. This activity makes students dig deep into their personal "word banks," and many are surprised to learn how many words they actually know.
NEW FOR THIS SCHOOL YEAR: 
10. Imper-Inter-Exclam Sentences
Another new activity based on the fact that I wanted my students to be able to talk about the four sentence types more intelligently: declarative, imperative, interrogative, and exclamatory. This also requires students to create their own context clues for their friends, which only teaches them to read context clues in published writing.
Someday, I'll have an even dozen: 
11. T.B.A.
Ultimately, there will be a dozen techniques that my students will choose from when they are adding to their vocabulary collections each week. The last two, I will have my students help me design. At present, there is talk about using #hash tags or fake texts as the writing activity we will add for the next school year. Those who've ordered my vocabulary lessons from this website will always receive updates to these products at no cost!

Vocabulary Philosophy 4..."Famously" Celebrate your Students Who Collect Vocabulary with Excellence: "Are you famous, Mr. Harrison?" my kids like to ask me this when they actually look over my website, and they discover how many teachers follow me and use my lessons and materials; my students are fascinated by fame...even if it belongs to me. I always cryptically reply to their questions about fame with "The river is famous to the fish," which is the opening line from a poem--"Famous"--by the great Naomi Shihab Nye. I love her poetry, and so do my middle schoolers.

If there is a metaphorical river out there that I happen to be "famous" in because of this website of mine, then I want to share that fame with my students who work hard for me. I believe strongly in showing LOTS of student samples as exemplars, and I believe in setting expectations pretty high. Back in 2012, I tried out using Pinterest as my new on-line space where I could celebrate my best students' vocabulary work by photographing it, posting it, and linking it directly back to my website. At Pinterest, I created a special board that's called Vocabulary Collectors of the Week. My writers beam with pride when they first see their pages displayed there from my Smartboard. My kids--who are naturally competitive because that's the nature of middle schoolers, I've found--love to see whose vocabulary pages receive the most "likes" and "re-pins." My kids work hard to become vocabulary collectors worthy of being posted at my Pinterest account.

If you don't happen to use Pinterest or have another electronic way to celebrate your students' vocabulary like I do, please know there is also a real, old-fashioned cork-based bulletin board right outside my classroom where I do post color scans of some awesome collections from my current students too; this is also where I post blank vocabulary collecting sheets if students forgot to pick one up and my room is locked.

The other celebratory gesture I provide was started in spring of 2012: my "Vocabulary Collectors of the Year" Awards. Three students from each grade level win this award at the end of May, and I give them a really nice ribbon (made from--of all things--a khaki Boy Scout patrol patch with a colored ribbon hot-glued to it so it looks an award ribbon. Last year, my nine winners became my "Vocabulary Warriors" (warriors because of the stickman patch I found--pictured at left), and those kids proudly display their patches in or on their new notebooks this year--like seventh grader Emily did here with a lovely note of appreciation; remember, my kids roll-up with me, so my three 6th and 7th grade winners from last year have already shown off their ribbons of victory and are determined to win their second vocabulary award this May, and I have a lot of kids determined to . I have to tell you that if buying nine $3.00 patches puts that much motivation out there, then I have no problem investing $30.00 each May for this in-class competition I host. The Boy Scouts have some great "patrol patches" that are easy enough to find on e-Bay for pretty reasonable prices. I also have a "Mr. Stick of the Year" Contest, which requires ribbon awards. Thanks to Pinterest, my Mr. Stick--our Margin Mascot-- board is already showing me who .

Visit/Follow my "Vocabulary Collectors" board at Pinterest to see some great weekly collections from my student writers. Click here to visit!

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My Two Free-to-Access Vocabulary Lessons That Launched this Resource Page:

Ever since I saw the great Nancie Atwell present on teaching vocabulary at an NCTE Conference in Indianapolis back in 2004 (I think that was the year!), I have been slowly building my own technique for having students collect and write in interesting ways about challenging vocabulary words they discover in their readings for me. In 2012, the two books pictured just below became my personal "Mentor Texts of the Year" for myself, which meant I spent that whole school year putting finishing touches on my weekly vocabulary routine and expectations using their remarkable guidance. The two lessons below are two that I created during that school year to "frost my vocabulary cake" before serving it. Enjoy these two free lessons below, and if you're interested in exploring more, be sure to check out my "Vocabulary Workshop" materials at my website; two of my eleven PowerPoints on vocabulary are offered freely at this link: http://corbettharrison.com/products.html#vocab

Over the summer of 2013, I published and offered for sale eleven complete lessons based on my ten best techniques for having students write about vocabulary they've discovered and analyzed from classroom reading assignments. I am pleased to report that the new packet of vocabulary materials we began selling in August of 2013 has quickly outsold any other new products we have developed over past summers here at our website. Thanks for helping us achieve this!

Creating a Classroom of Logophiles
(Click lesson title or image below to access the lesson.)
Root Attack Posters
(Click lesson title or image below to access the lesson.)
Mentor Text: The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter

Overview: This lesson sets up the weekly expectation of finding a dozen or more words each week, then carefully selecting four to "publish" as part of an on-going collection.

Like Selig in the book, students not only collect the words but they also make interesting use of them through a short piece of writing.

Part of this lesson has students design a metaphor-inspired cover-page for their vocabulary collections. If you do this lesson with students, you can publish outstanding examples at this special posting page at our Ning.

Mentor Text: Vocabulary Unplugged by Alana Morris

Overview: You don't have to have a copy of the mentor text pictured at left to be able to actually do this lesson; my entire, original lesson is online, and the only books needed for it are a class set of dictionaries. But Alana's book was so inspirational as I went back in 2011 and revamped many of my good vocabulary lessons and made them great. I owe her thanks.

Students design root-inspired posters to hang in the hallways to teach fellow students about roots.

This lesson is part of my Hallway Publishing program. I run out of wall space in my classroom, so we take over the hallway outside my room.


On this Page...
Want to see my students' Vocabulary?
Check out this Pinterest Board.
Interested in ordering my Vocabulary Lessons? Click here for ordering information.

Freely Preview my Vocabulary Product & Lessons:

After two years of revising my best vocabulary lessons and materials from 20+ years of teaching, I created a new set of materials on teaching vocabulary in a Common Core-friendly way. over the summer of 2013.

Please enjoy two of the eleven lessons you receive should you order the set from my Products Page.

Here is the overview slideshow on
"Vocabulary Collectors" I show students:

This free preview comes as an un-editable PDF file. When you order, you also receive lesson file also as an editable Microsoft PowerPoint file.

Here is one of the 10 lessons you receive when ordering my vocab. lessons:

This free preview comes as an un-editable PDF file. When you order, you also receive lesson file also as an editable Microsoft PowerPoint file.



My Favorite Vocabulary
Mentor Texts:
These are the books that directly shaped my system of collecting vocabulary in my classroom.

The Boy Who Loved Words
by Roni Schotter

A great picture book about Selig, who discovers the power of collecting and sharing words with the world. This book sits in my chalk tray every year, and there isn't a week that goes by that a student doesn't pick it up and read (or re-read) from it. Another of Roni's books--Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street--is a beloved book when we are learning about revision.

Vocabulary Unplugged
by Alana Morris

It was back at the NCTE Convention (2008?) in San Antonio, Texas, that I heard Alana present several activities from this book alongside another author-hero of mine--Barry Lane. I was instantly hooked! I knew I had to "unplug" the boring way I was teaching vocabulary, and this book helped me find the creative twist I needed. If you ever have a chance to see Alana present, she truly is one of the most engaging presenters.

Max's Words
by Kate Banks

If Roni Schotter's The Boy Who Loved Words seems a little daunting to your younger readers, try this picture book which is basically the same premise: young person likes to collect words = motivation for students to want to collect their own words. Even my eighth graders aren't too cool to pull this one off my shelf and re-read it for fun.

Fancy Nancy
by Jane O'Connor

Again, if Roni Schotter's The Boy Who Loved Words seems a little daunting to your younger readers, try this picture book instead. My middle school girls have great memories of the Fancy Nancy series, whose main character seems to be a walking thesaurus. We learn to say, "That's a fancy way of saying [insert simpler word here.]"

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Vocabulary Collectors' Exemplars: from both Teacher and Students!

I know...I know...I know. And I understand it; totally, I get why teachers protest against my idea that teachers should always share their own writing samples too. Most teachers don't want to make (let alone share) their own writing exemplars to include in the teaching process, but I am so glad that I learned early in my career the amazing effect the sharing of my writing has with involving my kids in our writer's workshop; they are more invested in the process because I am going through that process with them.

Does sharing your writing with your students make you feel uneasy? As I have dogmatically cried since first publishing and presenting my workshop on 7 Elements of a Differentiated Writing Lesson, "Your kids deserve to see an example of quality work before they start pre-writing, and the most important example I think a teacher can show is his/her own personal example." Lots of my teacher-followers still don't do this with their student writers, and I am not going to be sad by that, but I do see a lot of missed opportunities; I teach the concepts of writing so much better because I've gone through it myself, and I can explain my meta cognition. My students and I have such a unique relationship that develops simply because my kids KNOW me has a writer through all of my teacher examples. If you ever really want to make the writing process feel different and more authentic in your classroom, then make yourself write along with your kids too! I understand why it doesn't happen though.

Share Back! Great Vocabulary Words & Writing Examples should be Shared! Here are some...

Great Personified Vocabulary

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplars:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

Great Vocabulary Haikus

Teacher-made:
Student-made:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

Great Mr. Stick Vocab Cartoons

Teacher-made:
Student-made:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

Great Symbolic Representations

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplar:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

Great "Showing" Sentences

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplars:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

Great Related Word Lists

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplar:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

Great Antonym and Synonym Lists

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplar:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

Great E.G.O.T. Sentences

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplars:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

New! Sausage Sentences
Coming SOON!

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplar:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

New! Imper-Inter-Exclam Sentences
Coming SOON!

Teacher-made exemplar:
Student-made exemplar:
Click here for my teacher-made exemplar. It comes with explanations for what it takes to earn full points with this writing activity. Click the image or here to visit our Ning page where teacher members s can post their own students' samples.

What's going to be new for next year?

 

In Nevada, as we return for second semester on January 13, my 8th graders will be given a new expectation: help create two brand new write-using-our-vocabulary-words activities. I can't wait to see what they develop over the spring. In September of 2014, we will have an even dozen activities listed here, two new ones being the work of my 8th graders over the next few months.

What's going to be new for next year?

 

In Nevada, as we return for second semester on January 13, my 8th graders will be given a new expectation: help create two brand new write-using-our-vocabulary-words activities. I can't wait to see what they develop over the spring. In September of 2014, we will have an even dozen activities listed here, two new ones being the work of my 8th graders over the next few months. .

 

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