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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.


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My Most Blooms Taxonomy-friendly Workshop: Building Critical Thinkers Using the Language of the 6 Writing Traits

I spend the first twelve weeks of my school year teaching my students (or reviewing with the kids who roll-up with me) to apply the language of the six writing traits to everything we read and everything we write. I do this diligently, as though the success of the entire school year depends upon it. Why? This establishes a vocabulary for writing, and I am a true believer that you can't teach writing well if you don't have an academic vocabulary with which you can discuss it with your students. Giving my students--early on--better ownership of trait-inspired language becomes the single best investment of time that I make while I'm building my community of readers and writers.

Face it. There is a lot of academic vocabulary embedded in Common Core as well as every set of state standards that students are expected to learn, and it's hard to teach it all at a high cognitive level. At my workshops for teachers, I often challenge my audience with this question: "So at what level of Bloom's taxonomy do you think your kids actually understand [insert any piece of academic vocabulary here]?" We all want to say our students learn our vocabulary words at the apply level (at least), but the truth is that too many academic vocabulary words--and this is an admitted generalization--are taught to our students at the remember and recall level of Bloom's at best.

The main goal of my Building Critical Thinkers Using the Writing Traits Workshop is to show what amazing things can happen when students take 6-trait and writing process vocabulary all the way to the analyze and evaluate level of Bloom's. The second important goal is to help teachers design some foundational tools to introduce during those critical first weeks of a school year. The Common Core State Standards--whether you like them or not, whether your states uses them or their own version of standards or not--absolutely expect our students to apply much deeper cognitive skills to their reading and writing, and a foundation for this type of thinking must begin early in the year, not late.

A quick note about the writing traits. As a process writing teacher (as opposed to a teacher who mostly assigns products and pre-designed formats for writing, like the hamburger paragraph), I love the six traits; in fact, I adore them. When I was searching for the best academic language list to use during my writing instruction time, there those traits were, already categorized into six neat pieces. In my travels, I've met numerous teachers who don't want to use or don't like the traits for a variety of reasons, and I respect that because we all have different personal histories, and we all have different contexts in which we teach. Historically In my classroom--in my context--, whenever we turn in a new draft of writing for writer's workshop, each student absolutely must be ready to converse with me about two trait-based topics: 1) Which trait did you "shine with" in this draft, and where is your best evidence of "shining"? and 2) Which trait was your "struggle trait," and what techniques did you incorporate to make your struggle less painful? Without a deep understanding of writing trait-based vocabulary in place, my students and I can't have that conversation. It is as simple as that. If you're a teacher who is anti-trait for whatever personal reasons you've developed or philosophical rationale you fight for, please feel free to modify any of the language on the critical thinking tools I share below with whatever list of writing skills you refer to when planning instruction. Writing skills--whether they're classified as the 6 traits classifies them--are academic vocabulary that your students--and mine--need to be able to apply if they're going to ever be able to discuss quality writing at the analysis and evaluation levels of Blooms.

Below, find a write-up about my analysis of the academic language found in Common Core State Standards and most state standards, as well as a free-to-access sampling of the materials I present during my two-day Critical Thinking with Writing Traits Workshop. I hope you can all find just one piece of information I have posted here useful to your educational philosophies, and I hope something here inspires you to strive to be an even better writing teacher than you are right now. Twenty-six years in this profession now, and I still strive to get even better at teaching writing each year. I would love any comments/feedback: corbett@corbettharrison.com.

This Workshop's Materials Can Be Purchased

I have designed this particular teacher workshop's materials so that any self-motivated teacher could sit down with the PowerPoint I use during training while looking through the packet I print for my participants and learn how to begin pushing students to think more deeply about writing skills and writing traits...even if I'm not there presenting the workshop directly to you. You can now purchase an electronic copy of my 50-slide PowerPoint presentation (which comes in both PowerPoint and PDF formats) and an electronic version of its 61-page handout (which come in both Word and PDF formats) that my participants receive during this 2-day workshop. If, after perusing this page and its resources, you are interested in purchasing my presentation materials, click here for information.

If, instead, you'd rather have me come and present this workshop directly to your district or your school, you can investigate my presenting fees and rates here.

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A Sampling of Strategies from my Critical Trait-Thinking Workshop:
provided to give you a glimpse of what we focus on during this professional development experience

I designed this original workshop for teachers to be an interactive one- or two-day experience where participants analyze their current abilities to design effective trait- and process-inspired writing lessons. After exploring a variety of classroom-inspired trait and process strategies that differentiate for different learning styles and students' different cognitive abilities, my workshop participants set personal goals for the next school year. Below are five of my favorite strategies from this workshop.

Please be aware, these are copyrighted materials that I am sharing here. If you share these free samples with others, kindly cite where you found them. Thanks in advance for respecting my intellectual property.

Strategy 1: The Decalogue...Ten Things I Know about Myself as a Writer

In one of my favorite chapter books for young readers--Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo--there is a wonderful use of a decalogue in the fourth chapter. Opal, the main character, asks her father, who is simply known to us as the Preacher, to tell her ten things about her mother, who has abandoned the family before the novel begins. Opal wants to have a list of ten things that she can memorize, so that she might recognize her mother if she ever sees her some day. I read this chapter aloud at this training; my wife says it's one of her favorite things to hear me read to others. It's because it's not only an absolutely touching scene, but it's also because it celebrates a list-making strategy I've used since my first year of teaching--the decalogue.

I've used decalogues for years with my students. It's a fancy, old-fashioned word for a list of ten personal beliefs. David Letterman made lists of ten things fun, but the Ten Commandments and the Bill of Rights have been around much longer than Mr. Letterman's comedic routine.

During the first week day of class, I ask my students to begin brainstorming a decalogue about themselves and what they know about the act of writing. The list is called "Ten Things I Know about Myself as a Writer." I show them my own teacher example so they have an idea of the types of things I want them to put down. I provide them with a great deal of opportunity to talk to each other about items that might appear on their lists. At the end of the first week, everyone turns in a draft of the list that we began thinking about on day one of class. These final drafts are tucked safely away in my students' writing folders or portfolios.

At the end of the school year, a week before they head away for the summer, my students write a new decalogue with the exact same title: "Ten Things I Know about Myself as a Writer." They usually can write the second list much faster, since we've pretty much talked about writing every day since class started nine months before. As part of their "final exam," my students must sit with me and look over both lists. I ask them to compare the first decalogue to the second . The conversation we have for those five minutes, in my mind, determines more of their final examination grade for writing than anything else we do. If I've taught them to think critically and thoughtfully about the skills of writing, the conversation we have--albeit brief--is remarkable. In order for that conversation to be remarkable, they have to have been taught critical thinking skills while they were in my classroom.

To begin my Deep Student Thinking with the Writing Traits Workshop, I often have teachers create their own decalogues. Theirs can be called "Ten Things I Know about Myself as a Writer" or "Ten Things I Know about Myself as a Writing Teacher." My goal, when this is a two-day workshop, is to have them revise their decalogue at the end of the second day with new learning picked up during the workshop.

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Strategy 2: Encouraging Deeper Thinking about Writing Skills with my 6-Trait Sticky Notes
When I first created these Post-it® Note-inspired templates that teachers now seem to know me by, I intended them to be used during response time as a motivator for revision, which I will explain below in more detail. As time has passed, I have found so many new uses that I cover during my 1- and 2-day workshops. Truly, these simple little notes became worth their weight in gold to me, which is more significant than it sounds; I suspect I go through ten to twenty pounds of Post-it® Notes every school year! Thank you to the 3M Company for always having such a variety of Post-it® Notes in a variety of colors at my favorite office supply store.

Please know these Sticky Note Templates don't actually have to be printed on actual Post-it ® Notes. I am lucky to have a student aide every semester who can print them on Post-it® Notes for me, but in a pinch, these small "Sticky Notes" can simply be printed on colored paper, cut out quickly, and stapled to the upper corner of my students' drafts.

How I used these Sticky Notes during Response Time: I try to vary my use of my seventeen different Sticky Notes I provide to the participants of this workshop, so students can't second-guess how I want them to think on any given day. Here are a few variations we go through during this workshop for teachers.:

  • It's response group day in class, which means everyone has a rough draft ready to be critiqued by members of one's own response group. Students, working with their regular groups, must have--at least--two other students read their drafts and record their rankings on the Sticky Notes I have chosen. On some response days, all the students rank the others' drafts using the same sticky note, which makes for great conversation when two readers--both looking at organization, for example--have different rankings.
  • On other response days, all the students rank one another using different sticky notes, which gives each writer specific areas to think about improving for more than one trait.
  • Some days, before entering response groups, I will have the writer self-rank his/her own skills for a certain trait in the draft so he/she could then compare his own perception of his writing to his responders' reactions to the same trait.

In short, these Sticky Notes ultimately serve as tiny little "scripts" that students carry with them in order to prompt a focused discussion about their own writing and other students' drafts. These mini-scripts, these Sticky Notes, give them specific skills to seek out in the writing they are responding to, and the conversations that they have based on the rankings help them begin to understand--or to "own"-- the language of the trait skills at much deeper than the remember and recall level of Bloom's. Without a doubt, the best conversations about quality writing happen in my classroom on the days we used the sticky notes below.

Next to the two example "Sticky Note Templates" I've shared below, feel free to enjoy my brief history lesson of where the sticky notes came from and how they have developed over the years. I am pretty well-known these days for five techniques that impact my classroom's writing workshop: 1) writer's notebooks, 2) Mr. Stick, 3) "Sacred Writing Time," 4) integrated vocabulary instruction, and 5) these Sticky Notes. I am very proud of the thinking I can get from my students using these Sticky Notes. As said previously, they are worth their weight in gold to me.

My Personal Post-it® Note History: I was bored at my desk one lunch period and discovered a silly picture of myself giving the "thumbs up" gesture that I'd saved on the computer. I wondered to myself, "Is there a way to print that picture on an actual 3M Post-it® Note so I could hang it somewhere funny?" It took me three or four tries, but eventually the picture was printed perfectly in the middle of a 3" x 3" sticky note. I hung it somewhere funny, but as is typical in my office and classroom, I was the only person who laughed at it.

A few days later, an educational application for printing on Post-it® Notes occurred to me. We were preparing to have a response and revision group day for writing workshop, and my response checklist that I had been using since the beginning of the year had recently begun feeling stale to my students. Many had my checklist close to memorized at this time, which is always dangerous, I think. Why? As soon as they think they know what it says, they stop reading anything carefully. So, I created a mini-checklist for idea development that--like my silly picture a few days back--I could land in the center of a 3M Post-it® Note when I ran it through my printer's feeder tray.

I taught my student aide to print them, and the next day when my kids came in for response groups, they were each handed a sticky note instead of the usual half-page checklist. The first reaction was, of course, awe: "How did you make these, Mr. Harrison?" (Click here to view/print my online printing instructions.) The second reaction was the general excitement you sometimes feel from your kids when you challenge them to correctly use a new classroom workshop tool...in a new way.

Now, my green Idea Development Sticky Note you see displayed at left was not in my original set; what you see here is about the twentieth revision of this particular Post-it® Note size-inspired teaching tool, and on the full-sheet version, you can print six of these checklists per page for your student writers. In my training packet that can be purchased here, there are full-sheets for all six of the writing traits.

The purple Word Choice/Mentor Text Sticky Note pictured at left is a newer variation of Sticky Notes. With this particular checklist, students analyze a published piece of writing with a single trait in mind. In my for-purchase packet, I have versions of these Sticky Note checklists for each of the traits, as well as versions that have students analyze mentor texts for multiple traits simultaneously.

My original Sticky Notes asked the kids rate the five listed skills from 1-5 as they read each other's drafts. When rating, you're allowed to rate with all 3's or all 4's, if you want, and that is what many of the students started doing. Kids will find ways to be lazy and not think about things in a way that's hard, if you let them...even if you do give them a cool Post-it® Note with academic language printed on it.

And so my first revision of these Sticky Notes shifted our verb to rank. When ranking, you can only award one score of 1, one score of 2, etc. That requires students to think in superlatives (best, least, etc.), and that means they are pushed to a deeper level of Bloom's taxonomy. Ranking pushed my writers to analyzing and evaluating skills against other skills. And it was differentiated because my best writers could only have one "5" chosen, and my struggling writers could only have one "1" chosen, and that leveled the field a bit.

Once students responded to one another's writing by filling out Sticky Notes for each other, then the students could look over their own rankings from peers, and they prepared to to make decisions about what they might revise for, if they were looking for ways to strengthen one of the traits in their writing. Students didn't automatically have to revise for the skill that received the "1" score; instead, I allowed them to choose from the "1," "2," or "3" ranked skills as they created a revision plan.

Purchase all seventeen of my trait-inspired Sticky Note Templates as editable full-sheets for your classroom by clicking here. You'll also receive my 50-slide Powerpoint which explains how I use them to teach analysis skills. Freely preview the workshop's materials here.


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Strategies 3a and 3b: Focusing on the Conventions Trait with Perfect Practice Sticky Notes
by Creating a Community of Editors
I firmly believe two things about revision when teaching the writing process to students in any K-12 classroom: 1) it is the step of the writing process where students can do their most sophisticated thinking, if they are taught to think deeply and correctly about writing traits or skills, so it is the best writing process skill to focus on if you want to push your kids to the deeper thinking that I believe all sets of educational standards are promoting; and 2) it is the one step of the writing process where most teachers mess up the most because they focus on the conventions of writing--like spelling and grammar and apostrophes--and these are actually an editor's skills, and editing is a completely different step of the writing process. Editing--on its best day--rarely pushes students past the application level of Bloom's taxonomy; revision, as I've been saying all along, pushes students to the higher analysis and evaluation levels. True revision should actually have nothing to do with the conventions trait. In my workshops for teachers, I used to say that conventions should be saved exclusively for the editing step of the writing process, but I've actually changed my mind about that based on the experience that comes when you're truly teaching the writing process. During my classroom's writer's workshop, my students work on "conventional challenges" during two very different steps of the writing process: 1) We use "Perfect Practice Sticky Notes" early on, during the pre-writing and drafting steps; and 2) We building a "Community of Editors" during the editing step.

What are Perfect Practice Sticky Notes? I used to say it to my students too: "It's a rough draft, so don't worry about the conventions." I like the sentiment behind that statement, but I've come to believe that it teaches some truly sloppy habits, and let's face it, a lot of our students don't need any more sloppy habits when it comes to writing. Since I began using "Perfect Practice Sticky Notes," I've reduced quite a few of the bad habits that made their way to my writers' final drafts. And I genuinely do not believe I've squelched their creativity.

Here's how these sticky notes work. Take a look at your students' writing and ask, "What convention-based mistakes are they making that drive me crazy because I teach them not to do that?" Select three of these, and put in place a Perfect Practice Policy. Tell your students they don't have to write perfect rough drafts--that you'll forgive them those errors that might slow them down as they write--but that you've taught them enough about certain convention skills that you will no longer accept sloppy mistakes from them in journal writing, writer's notebook writing, or rough drafting. They must attempt to always practice three conventions skills perfectly.

You can write your three expectations on a big poster, but I like to put them a little closer to the students' writing space; I like them printed on a Post-it ® Note, which is probably no surprise to anyone reading this page. At right and at left, you'll see two of my Perfect Practice Sticky Notes. When I use them, I circulate the room, and should I see a sloppy mistake that the Sticky Note preaches against, I say loudly, "Uh-oh, someone is going to owe me recess time. Perfect practice, people!"

For a week or two, I have students skim each other's rough draft writing for "Perfect Practice" mistakes, which is a great way to involve them in early editing. I smile when I hear them whisper, "Fix this or you're going to lose recess time." After a week of fairly strict perfect practice time, the students--for the most part--are not making nearly as many sloppy mistakes during any step of the writing process. After they have the hang of "perfect practice," it takes much less monitoring from you.

As our school year progresses, and I teach new editing skills and I start seeing new sloppy errors, I can easily create a new Perfect Practice Sticky Notes with new expectations. Sometimes, in a year, we go through three or four different versions of the Perfect Practice Sticky Notes, but generally we have two different versions: beginning and advanced. During my Critical Trait-Thinking Workshop for Teacher, we design our own versions of this type of tool, and we talk about how we might have several versions in order to differentiate instruction. The Perfect Practice Sticky Note above on the left is for beginning writers, while the one on the right is more for advanced writers.

What is a Community of Editors. Insomnia can be a pain, but it can also be inspirational. It was during a bout of sleeplessness in the late 90's that I created my "Community of Editors" concept, which is described thoroughly in the NNWP's "Going Deep with 6 Trait Language" Guide. During my Critical Trait Thinking Workshop for Teachers, participants each receive a copy of this guide, and I also do a demonstration of how to set this type of community up. I only have two more boxes of these guides in my crawl space, so soon my participants will no longer receive a copy of this guide with their training.

In a nutshell, here's what a "Community of Editors" is and why it works. In my early days of setting up a writer's workshop, I was frustrated that my students all expected me to be their editor. Of everyone in the room, I definitely had the best grasp of the conventions of English, so I understood why my students came to me before entering the realm of final drafts. But this was proving to be too time-consuming for me, and it really wasn't teaching my students a life-skill for writing; in the real world, there isn't a teacher you can walk your paper to for a quick check of your commas, homonyms, and apostrophes. We were successfully becoming a "community of revisers," thanks to my Post-its, but they weren't a community of editors.

During conferences, I heard my students say, "I'm really bad with conventions." They said this a lot. If I'd point out how they were really good at spelling or they always knew the right verb tense, they say, "But I don't understand the comma" or "the semi-colon." They seemed to be vilifying the entire conventions trait because of a bad experience with the apostrophe-s versus the s-apostrophe rule.

My insomnia had me thinking about this issue, and it inspired me to break up my class into areas of conventional expertise. My kids who were spelling experts knew they were good at spelling. So we started identifying the other areas of the conventions trait where one might have a degree of expertise; I had kids, for example, who didn't realize they were experts at periods (and other end punctuation) until I asked, "Who has never had me mark comma splice or run-on on a final draft?" and watched who raised their hands. The same thing happened when I had a little pep talk about how you know if you have good skills of grammar.

We got to a place where almost all of my students could identify one area of strength they all had with the conventions trait. We set up a new day for our writer's workshop: editing day. On editing day, you had to find three or four students who had strengths with the conventions trait in an area that was not your strength; if spelling was your best conventions skill, for example, you didn't find another skilled speller to edit your paper. During editing day, you read someone else's revised draft quickly, and you looked only for possible mistakes in your area of conventional strength. At the end of reading, you had a quick discussion with the writer whose paper you'd just read (circling the errors), and you told them how you would fix those errors; you didn't do the fixing for them. That was an important element to stress because I found my "period experts" could explain how to get rid of a run-on better than my mini-lessons on the subject apparently did.

We planned our editing days a week in advance, and when they happened, they really only took us about 30 minutes to get through once we'd found our pace. It was an amazing difference; the final drafts were coming to me close to flawless, and I wasn't editing for them anymore. It took a bit of time time to set up, and it took time to find our pace, but it was incredibly well-invested time. A responsibility of our writer's workshop was solidly lifted from my shoulders and placed on theirs; this is what writer's workshop was supposed to become, and I had found a way to make it work for editing.

I am always asked, "What do you do with that student who--honestly--has no conventional skills going for him/her? Where does that student fit in to the editing community?" I have a superb answer to that question, but you need to come to my teacher workshop to hear it.

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Strategy 4: Analysis and Evaluation Skills from Discussing Student/Teacher Models
As Director of the NNWP in the 00's, I made sure our resource website (WritingFix) was one of our top priorities and focus for growth, and that really paid off for us because we became a writing project with a very strong web presence; current NNWP leadership offers very little in the way of a technology plan, and that's why the organization has dropped off the map for the most part. WritingFix grew--no, it soared--during its heyday, and teachers from everywhere were contributing to the lessons our Nevada teachers had posted there. One of my favorite developments at the WritingFix website became the abundance of student samples featured at the website during that time. It didn't used to be that way; in the beginning, we simply featured lesson outlines from teachers. But then other teachers from all over, excited by the success they'd had with an idea we'd posted, started sending their student samples to us. It was exciting to see that we were motivating teachers, but the samples were also a gift back to the WritingFix project. They became valuable additional resources to the lessons; they were an extra piece of writing other students could analyze, and they could do this analysis during pre-writing, during revision, or during any step of the writing process.

The trick with using student models well in the classroom is that you have to provide support for students to have a strong, meaningful conversation about the student model they are reading. You want a student to leave the conversation with the ability to compare each sample's writing strengths with his/her own writing's strengths or deficiencies. A mentor text is a powerful teaching tool, but the fact that it is a published piece of writing can be a little intimidating, especially to one's struggling writers. A real other kid's sample is a different story. It sends the message that if another student about my own age can write something that shows skill, maybe I can too.

At right, you'll see three student samples from my Start with What Isn't There Lesson (posted originally at WritingFix but recently revised and stored here at my website), and at the bottom of the handout is one of the simplest ideas I use to help students have a critical thinking conversation: The Olympic Committee Task. During my workshop for teachers, we become an "Olympic Committee" and and apply this idea to students' samples from many different grade levels. To create an Olympic Committee Task, here is the process:

  • Find three student samples that showed strength on an assignment. Find two traits in the samples (other than conventions) that seem to stand out as stronger than the others.
  • Instruct students to create an "Olympic Committee," which means they are in charge of awarding a gold, silver, and bronze medal to all three writers. They are to do this with two different writing "events."
  • Event number one is one of the stand-out traits you have selected; event number two is the second stand-out trait. You should provide students with a list of skills that a writer might use if they were working on the two traits (see the light blue boxes on the handout above); this will provide a vocabulary for the group to use during their analysis and evaluation conversation.
  • Monitor students as they discuss the samples with the Olympic Committee task at-hand. Have the groups share their rankings out loud (either whole class or with other groups), discussing similarities and differences in their rankings.
  • Ask each student to share a skill they noticed one of the student writers use that they think they can add to their own writing draft. Remind them of the skill they shared during your next writer's block. Hold them to working on that skill as they write. I have students put it in writing and staple the skill/goal to their draft so it can't be forgotten.
In addition to the 17 versions of the Trait Sticky Notes, purchasers of this workshop's materials receive the Olympic Committee write up as well as four other techniques for helping students have analysis and evaluation discussions that will prepare them for meaningful revision preparation. Attendees of the workshop are walked through the process, but the PowerPoint and the workshop packet do a fine job of explaining how I created and use these types of higher-level thinking discussion prompts.

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Strategy 5: Critical Thinking Skills during the Revision Step of the Writing Process
When asked to revise, my students used to meet the request with vacant eyes, as though they'd never even heard the word revise in their lives. My earliest attempts at reminding them about revision were purposely game-like; admittedly, they engaged my writers, but they weren't yet tools to build critical thinking skills about writing. Those would come later.

One of these early "game revision activities" was the set of four revision dice I created. Here's how the dice game worked. On revision day, students would come up to the front and roll all four of my dice, which had been designed around four of the writing traits: an idea development die, one for organization, one for voice, and one that combined word choice and sentence fluency; these were the four traits assessed on our state writing test. The set of dice at my desk were clunky, wooden cubes (from a craft store) that ultimately had to be retired for my own sanity. When more than ten kids rolled them across my desk during one class period, I would start to get a headache from the noise.

From a roll of the dice, students were given up to four strategies to use when revising. The students didn't choose the strategies; the random throw of the dice did. These dice worked well to help students begin building a vocabulary of strategies one might use during revision, which helped cure them of the vacant eyes spoken of earlier, but I wanted them to graduate my class with the ability to self-select revision strategies, not be dependent on a set of teacher-made, clunky dice. I needed to teach my students what making critical choices looked like during revision, which meant I had to eventually wean them off the game strategies I started with.

Having my students use the sticky notes with trait language was a good ultimate goal, but I needed some transitional steps between the dice and the Post-it® Notes. I came up with two of these: 1) My "Reviser's Toolbox" Poster and 2) The Revision Sprint worksheet.

Barry Lane's book, The Reviser's Toolbox, is what inspired my reviser's toolbox poster. Barry's book takes revision strategies and gives them really great names: slow-motion moments; digging for potatoes; thought shots and snapshots. Kids really connect with these labels, so I begin with them, teaching each one in separate mini-lessons. At the conclusion of each mini-lesson, I would write the revision strategy's name on a sentence strip, and it would go up on our "Reviser's Toolbox" Poster. Then, I would teach some of my own revision strategy lessons, which I try to give fun names to too: subtle alliteration modifiers (word choice); series-of-three detail sentences (idea development); double-verb sentences (voice). During my two-day version of this workshop, I demonstrate all three of these lessons. In my classroom, once we have five or more sentence strip strategies posted on our classroom "Revisers Toolbox" Poster, students can be asked to select one of the strategies to apply to their rough drafts on revision day; instead of letting the dice serendipitously tell them what strategies to apply, the reviser's toolbox poster provides options to choose from. Making strategic choices begins the critical thinking process for students. Some writers will immediately embrace the idea of making their own strategic choices; others will want you to make those choices for them, and these are the students who'll need more individualized help from you. You will need to continue teaching them how to make good choices. The "Reviser's Toolbox" Poster really helped me to begin differentiating instruction for that set of students.

At my two-day version of this workshop, I also demonstrate one of my favorite critical thinking tools: the revision sprint worksheet (at left). This tool has my students analyze their own writing (or a partner's) by imagining the traits are racing through their drafts. After determining which trait or skill was their "fastest runner," they then determine where the other "racers" were when the best trait "crossed the finish line." When they revise their drafts, their task is this: have any one of the slower "runners" tie the "fastest runner," which requires them to commit to some specific trait strategies.

What I particularly like about this tool is that it can be used to help students understand how a 5-point rubric works. The 10-yard through 50-yard markings on the top of the worksheet provide a great transition as we prepare to explain how rubrics are applied to their final drafts.

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If you cannot attend my "Critical Thinking about Writing" workshop, you can purchase my
Building Critical Thinkers Using the Language of the 6 Writing Traits Presentation Materials
Price: $16.50

Here is a newly redesigned set of my training materials, recently revised so that a self-driven teacher could navigate my PowerPoint slides while looking at an electronic version of my training packet and make sense of this workshop without me directly training you: I am very proud to be offering these materials, created and revised over the summers of 2010 and 2011, which come from two of my workshops: Critical Trait Thinking, which is one of the seminars I offer outside of Northern Nevada during the summers; and Pre-Writing and Revision, which I created after I left the Regional Professional Development Program and returned to the classroom with the desire to teach all steps of the writing process better than I had ever done before.

Bonus materials: Included in these materials are seventeen pages of templates for all the 6-Trait Sticky Notes I have created for the WritingFix website. Unlike the Sticky Note templates found at WritingFix, the templates you can purchase here are editable, which means you can modify them to better fit the language of your own writing classroom!

Nevada's adopted Common Core State Standards require teachers to push their students to the analysis and evaluation level of Bloom's taxonomy during both reading and writing instruction. As a regular observer in K-12 classrooms as part of my full-time job for the State Department of Education between the years 2001 and 2009, I can tell you this fact: Over 80% of the reading instruction I see doesn't push student thinking beyond the comprehension level of Bloom's. In writing, I rarely see instruction that pushes students beyond the application level. I am not being critical of my fellow teachers by saying this; the analysis level and the evaluation level of Bloom's require very high expectations of all students, and our Common Core Standards require us to raise the bar higher than ever. I am working to help make teachers aware of this shift and to build student-centered tools that accomplish the expectations of Common Core and other sets of state mandated standards.

Click here for information on purchasing this 2-day workshop's materials and self-paced resources.

Click here for information on hiring me to come present this workshop to your school or district.

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