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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A writing workshop is not an easy thing to establish, but once it is established, writing becomes so much more authentic to students.

Writing Workshop...on this Page:
For Parents, Students, and Visitors:
Information about our Writer's Workshop
Step 1 for Writer's Workshop:
Pre-writing in Writer's Notebook
Step 2 for Writer's Workshop:
Rough Drafts & Trait Mini-Lessons
Step 3 for Writer's Workshop:
Peer Feedback & Revision Lessons
Step 4 for Writer's Workshop:
Editing & Self-Evaluation
Step 5 for Writer's Workshop:
Teacher Evaluation & Self-Reflection

Below is a graphic representation of my classroom Writer's Workshop. This page shares explanations, student resources, and mini-lessons that will--hopefully--make all five steps make sense to you.

To my parents and students and visitors: Welcome! I focus a great deal of classroom energy each Fall into establishing what's known as a "Writer's Workshop." Why? Because, after two decades of teaching, I honestly believe Writer's Workshop to be the most authentic environment for learning genuine writing skills. So many of my students show up each Fall, believing if they write a single draft of their ideas on paper, it's ready to be called a finished piece of writing. True enough, there are plenty of expectations to write in life and in school that allow for a single draft: Tweets, e-mails, phone messages, answers on worksheets. But those aren't examples of the kind of writing done in a Writer's Workshop. I know that in high school and college, as students start receiving fewer (if any) worksheets and more constructed response and essay assignments, if they have had very little experience with revising their writing, they will flounder and they will fall behind their peers. My writer's workshop teaches students to genuinely rethink and revise their best ideas as practice for both higher education and for real life; if a young person can put their ideas down well on paper, they will go farther than the person who fears or dislikes the act of writing. Adults who can write, expressing themselves well, will have better opportunities come to them in life. People who can write are people who can change the world. "We write to change the world" is one of my classroom mottoes.

In elementary school, under the tutelage of a great teacher--Mike Borilla--I was taught to not fear the act of writing. I remember the day it happened pretty well, considering it happened in fourth grade. Mr. Borilla caught me being dishonest to him, and he sternly said, "Corbett, if you say something out loud that's untrue, it's called lying. If you learn to write untruths down in an interesting way, that's called fiction. I believe you could be a great writer of fiction, Corbett, and that's where I want you to put your energy. Stop lying and start writing fiction." I was inspired by his words. I obviously never became a best-selling novelist, nor did I want to, but the fact that I do not fear the writing process, well, it allows me to be a very different type of teacher. Not every teacher maintains a website like this one. The words I write, then revise, then publish on-line are read by hundreds of my fellow educators daily. Because I write, I didn't just become a teacher. I became a teacher-leader; in my district, in my state, and on the national scene, my lessons and ideas are shared because they are thoughtful, well-developed, and well-written.

I want my students to have the opportunity to be leaders in whatever profession they choose to. I believe having a "no fear" attitude about writing is the first step in developing a leader.

And so...we use Writer's Workshop. Here's how it works in a nutshell; the graphic near the top of this page :

  • Every day in class, my students do (at least) ten minutes of pre-writing in their writer's notebooks. Their responsibility is to come to class with an interesting fact, an idea for a story, or an opinion about something they've formulated since our previous class. For ten minutes every day, they quietly jot down ideas that are personally interesting to them.
  • After a few weeks of jotting down quick snippets of ideas, they re-read all of their entries and decide on one idea from their notebooks they'd be willing to take through a four-week process that will develop that snippet into an essay or paper. Each student begins writing a "rough draft" of their idea in class.
  • Almost every day in class, we will be analyzing writing skills in some small pieces of quality writing I have selected for discussion. After completing a rough draft for Writer's Workshop, they will share it with peers while thinking back on all of the writing skills we have discussed and analyzed in class. Inspired by those past mini-lessons and their peers' feedback, students self-select writing skills they will focus on when they revise their rough, creating a second draft. Students self-select a rubric based on the skills they will focus on, and they use that rubric to help them decide where to specifically revise in their papers.
  • Second drafts are again shared with peers. This time, peers are analyzing the original draft against the new draft with revisions, asking, "Did the revisions work? Could they work even better with further revision." With this draft, peers are also focusing on conventional skills (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.), making suggestions in that area as well.
  • After typing a final draft, students self-reflect on their own writing process, and they predict how well they think they will score, using the rubric that they selected before they revised their rough drafts. Final drafts are turned in (with copies of all previous drafts), and Mr. Harrison scores the papers based on three questions he will ask: 1) Did the writer work hard on this paper during all five steps of the writing process? 2) Did the student successfully revise for the skills they had chosen before revision? 3) Did the writer work hard to make sure the papers conventions are mostly correct?

Every six weeks, we go through this process again, with four or five designated days set aside each month to work exclusively on these developing papers. Each semester (18 weeks), students will write three papers. About 40% of each student's report card grade is based on the work they do in their writer's notebooks and the writing that develops during writer's workshop.

There is one important rule that students must follow. Each semester, they must turn in one paper for each of the following three purposes of writing we study in class:

Mentor Texts that influence my use of Writing Workshop:

If you appreciate the lessons I am freely posting here at my website, kindly consider using the links below to purchase the mentor texts I am recommending; a very small percentage of each sale from Amazon helps me keep this website free and on-line for all to use. Thanks in advance in helping me out!

A comprehensive book about how Writer's Workshop might look:

Writing Workshop: The Essential Guide by Ralph Fletcher and JoAnn Portalupi
Katie Wood Ray is one of my favorite teacher-authors. She'll be yours too, I bet.

Study Driven
by (the stupendous!) Katie Wood Ray
Narrative
writing that tells a story, truth or fiction, to entertain a reader

As we are attempt to make sense of the world around us, we seek out quality narrative writing.

Main Trait Focus: Idea Development & Sentence Fluency
Support Trait Focus: Voice & Conventions

Expository
writing that explains or reports information that has been learned

When we wish to discover the factual intacracies of the world, we seek out expository writing.

Main Trait Focus: Organization & Idea Development
Support Trait Focus: Sentence Fluency & Conventions

Persuasive
writing that shares an opinion or makes an argument

When we are moved to take action, it is often because of a piece of persuasive writing.

Main Trait Focus: Voice, Organization, & Word Choice
Support Trait Focus: Organization & Conventions

We discuss and analyze these three purposes (a.k.a. genres) of writing every semester, but I spend extra time on certain genres depedning on the year of the student. My student writers are allowed to make choices about what topics they'll write about, but they must choose topics that will eventually fit all three purposes of writing by semester's end. I focus a number of my mini-lessons are tailored to focus on the following genres during the following semsters, but it does not matter to me in what order the students complete the three papers:

 
6th grade
7th grade
8th grade
Fall Semester (August-December) Narrative Expository Persuasive
Spring Semester (January-June) Expository Persuasive Narrative

 

Resources and Lessons for Writer's Workshop in my Classroom
Step 1: Pre-writing in our Writers Notebooks...My section on pre-writing for this page will be kept short. I have already published my pre-writing resources published on various pages here at my website, so I will direct you to those pages with links in the next paragraph. I will share my three most popular resources for pre-writing from this page: my random topic generator, our writer's notebook monthly bingo cards, and our NEW writer's notebook/workshop monthly menus in this section. Please feel free to explore the three links in the next paragraph if you want more information about my philosophy of the importance of pre-writing.

I have an entire resource page here at my website dedicated to Writer's Notebooks; it contains many pages from my own writer's that I show my students. I have another dedicated to our Writer's Notebooks' "margin mascot," Mr. Stick, because I believe the most useful student notebooks are full of both written ideas and visual ideas; my students enjoy flipping back through the pre-writing in their notebooks because the pictures draw them into their ideas. The children's book author--Marissa Moss--did the world a great service when she dreamt up the concept of her Amelia's Notebook series; channeling the personality of a student writing (Amelia) who keeps a pretty fabulous writer's notebook, Moss totally gives my classroom a perfect model for what a writer's notebook can become. I always have one of the Amelia series available in the room to remind students what they should be striving for with their own notebooks. They do help, these books. They also hope

Every class session begins with ten minutes of what we call "sacred writing time." Students quietly record interesting ideas (using any format of writing--lists, poems, paragraphs, etc.) during this short period that begins our class. You see, my students encounter dozens of ideas and concepts daily that I know spark personal interest in their brains. They forget these ideas if they don't write them down, so I have designated ten minutes daily to allow them to each record (or continue recording) an interesting idea they encountered in the previous twenty-four hours. You see, I need my students to write about topics that are personally interesting to them because I know they'll put more effort into revising their writing if they genuinely care about the paper they're writing. In my school days, more often than not, we were told what to write about. It was the opportunities I was given to write about things that interested me that received my best efforts when I was a student. Now I'm not saying there aren't situations when I assign topics to my writers--during a mini-lesson on sentence fluency, for example--but I absolutely don't want to assign topics to students for their writer's workshop pieces.

Having to write every day about a topic I do not assign them proves to be tough for a number of my students; they're not used to doing this, and I have developed three support tools to guide those who struggle with what they can write about during those ten minutes.

Four Resources for Inspiring Pre-Writing in Writer's Notebooks
Some of our students arrive needing ideas for what they can write about, so over the summer of 2010, my wife and I began developing a set of Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards that we're very proud of. Each month's Bingo Card comes with a "center-square" lesson that's designed to inspire all students to explore a notebook idea using a unique format. I freely offer you our September Bingo Card below, which also contains free access to that month's "Center square" lesson: Alpha-Genres for Writing.

If you like our September card, Dena and I sell the entire set of Bingo Cards to help us pay for keeping our websites online and to help us diffray the costs of classroom supplies and library books. We thank you in advance for considering this purchase.

#1: Our Nine Monthly Bingo Cards

Click here or on the Bingo Card above to access September's card & lesson.
Over the summer of 2012, my wife and I--inspired by the successful implementation of the Monthly Bingo Cards with our student writers--began creating a resource that pushes independent pre-writing just a little harder than the Bingo Cards did. We are both teachers who differentiate, and we see the value of having both these Bingo Cards and our newest resource: Writer's Notebook/Workshop Menus. Here is the first of nine menus we are creating over the summer.

This August, we will proudly offer the entire set of nine menus (which--once again--come with nine lessons) to teachers interested in having a Bingo Card-like resource that push student thinking just a bit harder than the original Bingo Cards did.

#2: Our Eight Notebook/Workshop Choice Menus

Click here or on the menu above to access the first of eight menus we've created.

"We Write Every Day" is one of the mottoes of my classroom. The first ten or fifteen minutes of each class is known as "Sacred Writing Time," and students open their writer's notebooks and begin working out an idea with words. I ask my students to walk through each day using a "writer's eyes," which means they are to study every aspect of their worlds, asking, "Could I write about this interestingly in my notebook."

Even after being trained, some students still occasionally walk into class without any idea what they're going to write about that day. And so, my wife Dena and I began creating this set of "Sacred Writing TIme PowerPoint Inspirations" in July of 2012. The entire set, which will feature a slide for August 15-June 15--will be complete by October 21 of 2012. You can freely access the slides for August by clicking here. You can read about ordering the entire set (which is editable, if you have PowerPoint software) by clicking here.

#3: Sacred Writing Time PowerPoint Inspirations:
Need a topic/prompt today?

Instructions: Click the button until you discover a writing prompt that sparks an idea in your brain. Write freely for ten or fifteen minutes, not worrying about writing conventions (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) or if the sentences are perfectly formed. Just put some good ideas down in your notebook that you can build upon and improve later. If you have time, I always suggest you go back and add a visual (like Mr. Stick) to help you remember what you wrote down.



 

Current number of writing prompts in this prompt generator:  573
Date of most recently added prompt:  June 23, 2012

A Tip: If you accidentally click past a prompt you wished you hadn't, use your right-click button on the white screen above, select undo, and you can go backwards through the prompts you've already seen

Suggest a prompt? If you have a favorite prompt you use with students, feel free to send it to me at corbett@corbettharrison.com. If I end up adding your prompt to this prompt generator, I will send you a complimentary copy of my writing prompts in a thirty-page Word document.

In 2001, I helped the Northern Nevada Writing Project launch a resource website called WritingFix. I contributed some of my best lessons and resources to this quickly-growing website, and I proudly served as its webmaster. Sadly, in 2011, the NNWP lost most of its national funding, and although we were able to keep WritingFix online, we had to downsize considerably. I am in the process of moving many of my resources from WritingFix to this classroom website, and I invite those of you who had my "Daily Writing Prompt Generator" bookmarked to record this link into your browser as the new bookmark.

Can't think of what to write about? Click the button below for some interesting choices of writing prompts I have personally collected over the years.

Not sure how to start your prompt-inspired piece of writing? The prompts all purposely begin with a question. Why not answer the question in the first sentence of your writing? "Answering a reader's 'unasked question'" is a great way to start a piece of writing.

#4: My Random Daily Writing Prompt Generator:
Need a topic/prompt today?

Instructions: Click the button until you discover a writing prompt that sparks an idea in your brain. Write freely for ten or fifteen minutes, not worrying about writing conventions (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.) or if the sentences are perfectly formed. Just put some good ideas down in your notebook that you can build upon and improve later. If you have time, I always suggest you go back and add a visual (like Mr. Stick) to help you remember what you wrote down.



 

Current number of writing prompts in this prompt generator:  573
Date of most recently added prompt:  June 23, 2012

A Tip: If you accidentally click past a prompt you wished you hadn't, use your right-click button on the white screen above, select undo, and you can go backwards through the prompts you've already seen

Suggest a prompt? If you have a favorite prompt you use with students, feel free to send it to me at corbett@corbettharrison.com. If I end up adding your prompt to this prompt generator, I will send you a complimentary copy of my writing prompts in a thirty-page Word document.


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Step 2: Rough Drafts and Trait Mini-Lessons...After we've done some pre-writing in our Writer's Notebooks, we select one of our notebook ideas that we are confident could become an interesting 1.5- to 2-page (minimum) rough draft. Whether it's expository, narrative, or persuasive, I challenge my students to apply new writing skills to their first drafts of writing. With a true rough draft (or a "sloppy copy"), the whole idea is "acted out" from start to finish on paper. Some students prefer to type their rough drafts; I always have preferred to hand-write mine. Some educators I know are satisfied with students simply putting their whole idea down with an introduction in front of it and a conclusion at the end, but I challenge my students a bit more than the average writing teacher.

During the days leading up to the rough draft and the week we are writing it, I try to present two or three mini-lessons focused on skill-based strategies that real writers use. My intention in doing this is that students--even though it's a rough draft--begin developing and including a skill-based technique or two that we can really "shine up" during revision. Eexperience has taught me that if I teach students new skills while they are writing longer drafts for me, I am more likely to see them trying those skills in their rough drafts than I would be if I waited to teach the lesson right before they revise the rough draft. I do have mini-lessons specific to revision that I teach later on in the writer's workshop process (as you will see lower on this page), but I have quite a few more lessons I teach while we are drafting.

Here I have included half a dozen of my favorite personal lessons. I plan to add more during the 2012-13 school year, but in the meantime, you can find plenty of great lessons at the NNWP's WritingFix website.

Six of my Favorite Mini-Lessons to Teach During Step 2 of Writing Workshop
Lesson: Start with what isn't there Lesson: Moving through the machine Lesson: Showing nice without saying nice
Lesson: Using 90th Street's Advice Lesson: Short adventures and purposeful paragraphs Lesson: Three-voice important passages

 

Step 3: Peer Feedback and Revision Lessons...This is a new page for my 2012-13 students and their parents. Explanation about feeback cards coming soon.

Peer Feedback "Post-it Notes"
     
     

This is a new page for my 2012-13 students and their parents. Explanation of revision lessons coming soon.

Three Revision Lessons Based on Analyzing Mentor Texts
     

 

Step 4: Editing & Self-Evaluation...This is a new page for my 2012-13 students and their parents. Explanation about editing coming soon!
Step 5: Teacher Evaluation & Self-Reflection...This is a new page for my 2012-13 students and their parents. Explanation coming soon.