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WritingFix lessons--
traits and mentor texts


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.

 

Always
Write & WritingFix

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

our "always write" homepage | our "Writing Lesson of the Month" | email me | writingfix | pinterest | facebook | teachers pay teachers | twitter | youtube | linked in  


Dena and I retired in 2019, but I remain a K-16 educator, teacher-trainer, and self-taught webmaster who wants classroom writing to be differentiated and learner-centered. Contact us through this e-mail address with questions/comments about this lesson: Corbett@CorbettHarrison.com

While they are practicing writing at home, please have students find an outlet for "daily writing." In my classroom of 30 years, we wrote daily for three purposes: 1) this developed fluency in writing; 2) this allowed students to practice new skills in a non-threatening way, and 3) it promoted logic and creativity, depending on the student who was doing the writing.

Writing daily can also be very therapeutic during uncertain times. My notebook (I keep one too because it absolutely makes me a better teacher)helps me tremendously as I think about the unknowns that lay ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. If you're home with your children, PLEASE consider writing with them and sharing what you wrote and explaining your thinking behind your writing as they explain theirs. I find when students think about their own think while hearing other's varied thinking is incredibly valuable to the learning experience.

Between March 18 and May 1, we will be adding materials to this website that can be easily adapted to be at-home writing tasks. They aren't designed to feel like chores. Depending on the age of the child, somewhere between 15-45 minutes a day should be spent on writing practice, andd I hope these challenges are appealing to them.

We're hoping to Help Parents at Home and Teachers Online
At-Home Writing Ideas

between now by May 1, we will be posting multiple ideas for ideas to keep your students reviewing and practicing their writing at home. New ideas are added daily!

I was pleased to see many of my author- and teacher-friends freely posting lessons to assist teachers and parents during our pandemic of 2020. If you have a lesson you create that's worth sharing, let the world know about it. The hashtag #BetterTogether is currently full of great ideas and oportunities at Twitter right now. I'm proud to include Dena and my ideas among them.

The thing about learning writing at home is it needs to happen regular (as in daily), and it needs to have a pre-determined purpose that the student writer is shooting for. Here are some very simple purposes or objectives you can ask your students at home to work on as they draft and revise:

  • The writer uses interesting and unique details to describe, or "paint a picture" on the reader's mind.
  • The writer correctly uses new or more sophisticated vocabulary in a way that helps the writing and comes across as natural sounding, not forced
  • The writer attempts to begin EVERY sentence with a different word, and sentences must vary from short sentence to long sentence (in order to establish a rhythm)
  • The writer writes a rough draft, puts it away for a while, then improves upon it, creating a final draft. During improving the draft, students usually learn the most about writing.
  • The writer puts researched facts into his/her own words.

If you have a K-3 writer at home, this free PDF download might help!
Six by Six:
Traits Writing for Little Writers

36 lessons, organized/designed by Jodie Black
and her K-2 colleagues

I have divided this page, for ease of use, into three sections. All ideas posted can be easily adapted to be used with a variety of writers of different skills and age-levels. Creatively adapt. Keeping them writing at home is the most important thing.

In 2008, as my contribution to my dear colleague and friend Jodie Black's 6 x 6 Guide, I created fourtenn interactive writing prompts for little writers. They were designed to stimulate creativity and critical thinking in a non-threatening way. They lived at the WritingFix website for many years, but now they will be stored on this page at Always Write.

Interactive Writing Prompts Designed for K-5 Writers

The Noun Game

(click on the giraffe to play!)

The Verb Game

(click on the child to play!)

The Adjective Game

(click on the koala to play!)

The Crazy Animal Game

(click on the crazy monkey to play!)

The Colored Wheel Game

(click on the purple wheel to play!)

The Colored Animal Game

(click on the green zebra to play!)

The Feeling Game

(click on the smiling cat to play!)

The Memory Game

(click on the elephant to play!)

The Top Three Game

(click on the three fingers to play!)

The Setting Game
(click on the ferris wheel to play!)

The Wacky Word Game

(click on the wacky dog to play!)

The Opposite Game (COMING!)
(click on the tall or short man to play!)

The Color Game (COMING!)
(click on the crayon box to play!)

The Idea Game (COMING!)
(click on the penguin to play! )

Suggest a word game?

Don't see a game you like here?

Propose one at corbett@corbettharrison.com, and I'll consider turning it into a game. I'll even give you credit for the idea behind the game.

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Each Day, We've Posted a Write-at-Home Activity for Older Writers throughout the Pandemic.
These can be used in any order, and they are all one-time writing tasks that don't need to build upon each other.
Pi Day Poems

Posted on March 17: Since this last Saturday was "Pi Day" (March 14, or 3/14), have your students write a Pi or a Pie Poem that uses the digits of Pi to determine how many words or syllables are in each line. I teach two variations:

  1. 3.14159... is Pi. The first line of the poem must have three words, the second must have just one word, the third line four words, etc. The trick is to see if they can make it to a certain digit of Pi, depending on the level of the student writer. I made my sixth graders shoot for 20 lines.
  2. The second variation is a bit more challenging because requiring lines to syllables instead of words requires much sharper use of writing details. You'll have fewer words in your poem, but it will probably take you longer to write this version.
  3. Our lesson link: Pi Day Poems features a teacher sample by Corbett that displays both variations of the poem.
  4. Don't forget to focus students on a learning objective before they write: ask the writer to create a message or theme about pi/pie, and to use unique descriptive details in their poem(s) about Pi or pie.
Personifying Vocabulary Words

A favorite twenty-minute writing assignment we do in my classroom is "Personify New Vocabulary Words." Before we read a story or after students find words independently in their reading, I have them:

  1. Create a clever name for a character based on a vocabulary word. I recently created Amelia Orate, who tends to ameliorate people when she talks. Simply naming your character Mr. or Mrs. Ameliorate works too.
  2. Write a three- to four-sentence descritpion of your personified character, and the description should make us see that the character fits the word he/she stands for.
  3. I require a picture from the Internet or a hand-drawn one.
  4. My students then share their personified character descriptions, seeing if their classmates can guess a word's meaning based solely on the personified descriptions they have created.
  5. Our lesson link: Personifying Vocabulary features a teacher sample by Corbett as well as student samples.
  6. Don't forget to focus students on a learning objective before they write: Include clever details. What job would be appropriate for your character, or outfit, or personality, or idiosyncracy?
Digital Photo Snapshots & Writing Challenges
  1. This writing task requires a digital camera and a partner. My students use their phones or our laptop cart webcams for the camera. I have often been a student's partner when I had an odd number of students.
  2. Writers go on a "treasure hunt" around the house, locating three interesting items they can try to photograph from different angles.
  3. Student writers select their favorite three pictures of their three items they found. They show/send these photos to partner with this challenge: "I dare you to write a story that makes me smile and uses one of my digital pictures as the story's only illustration."
  4. For example, I might take a picture of a spatula in the fridge, a picture of an electric fan looking through the spinning blades, and a photo of my dog's back legs when he thinks he's hidden under the couch. I send my partner these pictures with the challenge. My partner selects his/her favorite picture from me to base his/her story around.
  5. Focus writers on an objective: have students work on details and techniques to make a reader smile or laugh.
  6. Important: Have partners share their stories with each other.
  7. For a true challenge: put more than one or all three of your partner's images into one story.
Acrostic Vocabulary Riddles
  1. Here's a great vocabulary/writing task that requires the student to share his/her thinking behind the ideas.
  2. Students use new-to-them vocabulary words they read or hear to create "Acrostic: Example/Non-Example Riddles." To do this, the students use the letters of their vocabulary words to create examples/non-examples that are inspired by the vocabulary word's meaning.
  3. Students share their acrostics, challenging the person they are sharing their acrostics with to identify what they've written as "Example" or "Non-Example."
  4. Here's my teacher-made example, which I store at Twitter. I ask, "Which are examples that fit my word's meaning, and which are not?"
  5. Here's a student-made sample from a sixth-grader, to show you what a sixth-grader can do. Here's a student-made sample from a seventh grader.
  6. A detailed write up (with more examples) can be freely accessed at our website: Acrostic Vocabulary Riddles
  7. Focus writers on an objective: Ask students to "craft" their riddles, not just scrawl down the first thing that comes to mind. Make them take the job of "Fool your reader with your riddle" seriously.
  8. Pass the riddles among the student or among family members. Have student writers explain their thinkining, when needed.
First-Class School Bus Seat Designers
  1. Imagine your school has been given an unlimited budget to update its school buses.Part of the improvement involves designing every seat on the bus to be equivalent (or better) to a first class seat on an airplane. Brainstorm what features each bus seat should have. Remember, you have an unlimited budget for this.
  2. You're going to imagine there's a video being made that shows off the features you've put on your first class school bus. Your job is to write the narration the viewers will see as the video plays.
  3. We have a detailed lesson here at Always Write that provides a video you can watch as well as other resources: First Class School Bus Seats
  4. Again, students imagine or (if they feel up for a challenge) create a video that shows off the new seats' features while their narration explains what we're seeing. Without the video, students simply write the narration, and share it with each other, offering suggestions for improvement.
  5. Focus on learning objectives: Ask students to work on really capturing the written "voice" of a narrator whose trying to convince you to be impressed with the features being described interestingly.
  6. Share and enjoy one another's ideas and "voices."
ABC Treasure Hunts or Research Projects
  1. Today might be a good door for some ABC brainstorming or ABC research. Anything brainstormed using today's challenge can be turned into a longer piece of writing.
  2. Distribute an Alpha-list brainstorm sheet, or have writers create their own on a piece of notebook paper. There should be room for multiple answers for each letter of the alphabet.
  3. Come up with some topics for brainstorming, like:
    • ABC's of breakfast cereals, Harry Potter characters, colors, etc. For letter boxes the students have no answer for (like X, for breakfast cereals), students can invent a cereal that starts with X that would help finish their alpha-list. Somehow, the alpha-boxes should inspire something creative from the student in the form of writing.
  4. Or assign topics for research, like:
    • ABC's of presidents, COVID-19, World War I, etc. The topic should be broad enough that the students should search for a representative idea for each letter of the alphabet. Somehow, the alpha-boxes should inspire something creative from the student in the form of writing.
  5. Focus on an objective: Have students organize an idea from their ABC brainstorms into a story or report with a beginning, middle, and end.
Life is a Multiple Choice Math Test!
  1. Pretend life was one gigantic, multiple choice math test. Go through the day, creating multiple choice test questions that apply math to their every day life. By the end of the day, assign a certain number of life-based math questions for the student to complete.
  2. Here is a teacher-made sample from a day I spent working on projects during spring break a few years ago. Here is a second teacher-made sample from that same series of spring break projects.
  3. This idea is--of course--inspired by Jon Scieszka's wonderful book--Math Curse. I found this video link of Math Curse being read aloud on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCrcky6n2m8
  4. After looking at the samples and the video, student writers search the house or other nearby locale to find topics that would make humorous math-based questions that come from the student's real life.
  5. Set a deadline and a number of multiple choice questions that are being assigned, and meet when all are done to share.
  6. Work on objectives: Test writing is practically an art, especially in writing multiple options as answers that are believable but wrong. Work on that skill today.
Rhyme Time Riddles
  1. It's a Rhyme-Time Riddle Day. To play, you must spend an hour walking around the house and creating a list of clever rhyming couplets, like fat cat, garden pardon, and telephone baritone. One one-syllable word couplet is a "rhyme time," two syllables is a "rhyme-y time-y" and three syllables make a "rhyme-ity time-ity."
  2. At a set time, everyone meets with their list of rhymes. They spend the next 15-25 minutes writing clues for others, tying to create a riddle that's not too easy and not too hard.
  3. So, if I had "fat cat," I would make a "rhyme-time" clue that read something like "an obese feline" because my goal is to make my to make my partner guess the rhyming couplet based solely on the riddle; additionally, if I had "garden pardon" as my "rhyme-y," then my clue could be "Saying I'm sorry to the tomato seedling I just stepped on."
  4. Partners can ask for a syllable clue. If they do, the writer has to identify their couplet as a rhyme-time, rhymey-timey, or rhyme-ity time-ity. Some even make rhyme-time-ity couplets, which is fine.
  5. This idea is inspired by a full lesson here at our website: Rhyme-Time Riddles. It's free to use!
  6. Work on objectives: Writing a "baby bear riddle"--one that's "just right" in its level of difficulty is a good challenge. Often my kids write riddles that are too easy, so I make them revise. Once they've mastered "just right," I give them permission to go "daddy bear riddle" on me, and try to stump the teacher.
Writing with a Speciouos Voice
  1. I posted this idea on April Fool's Day, but it could work any day. Learn the word specious with your writers today! Today, have them write a specious tale or a specious reason for something. It has to sound believable, but it won't actually be true.
  2. One thing my students have responded well to with this April Fool's writing is when we write specious reasons for the rules that adults enforce. Here is the on-line lesson: Rules Justified Spuriously
  3. There's also a great Dr. Seuss story you can share with your students online at Youtube to inspire a specious excuse: And to Think I Saw It On Mulberry Street It's free to use!
  4. Have writers work on creating an age-appropriate specious story, specious excuse, or specious reason behind an adult rule that exists. They will share what they write, and their goal should be to make the specious writing sound as believable as possible.
  5. Work on objectives: The trick to being spurious or specious in your writing is that you have to include believable details that aren't true. Spend some time brainstorming personal-yet-specious things you might say about yourself to a stranger that sound believable, not ridiculous.
  6. Share. Share. Share. There's something about being given permission to be a little dishonest in your writing that makes the writing a bit more delightful to listen to.
Letters to Friends and Family
  1. I have six niblings in grades K-5 thanks to my extended family, and I decided I would spend my time in self-quarantine seeing which of the six I could tempt to write me a letter, should I send them a letter first. I spent a week addressing hand-written, personalized letters to my young nephews and nieces. I'm pleased to be able to say that second-grader, T-Dawg, successfully mailed me his return letter first, and my letter I've sent back to him is continuing an on-going conversation we've begun. Trenton is reviewing the friendly letter format and successfully addressing his own envelope to me by hand. That's big for a second grader.
  2. Look through your address book and ask, "Who in my friend or family list deserves a really great hand-written letter in the mail today?" Take thirty minutes to an hour to sit down and write to them. Ask for a return letter in your letter. Promise a letter in return if you receive your letter in return. Use a forever stamp (get rid of some of those left-over holiday ones!) and mail it.
  3. Work on objectives: With younger students, many will know how to write a friendly letter, so work on addressing an envelope properly. I had seniors who didn't know how to address an envelope to themselves just two years back. With older students, encourage them to work on written conversational skills. No one likes to receive a letter from a robotic voice.
Make "Top Ten" Lists
  1. Let's do a Top Ten List writing day!. You may have to show some properly previewed old David Letterman Top Ten Clips from YouTube (and then explain any dated references), but the idea is simple: Create a list of ten items about a topic, prioritize them so the last one shared is the best item from the list, and add humor to the lists whenever possible.
  2. It helps to suggest humorous topics for the last requirement of the Top Ten list writing task. "Top Ten Best/Worst Things about School Being Closed" or "Top Ten Things that Would Make Terrible Toilet Paper Substitutes."
  3. You can also do this writing task with a serious, researched topic. Barry Lane's awesome book 51 Wacky Wesearch Reports suggests research, followed by designing a funny topic, followed by designing a list that has both facts and attempts at humor. In Barry's books, he provides examples, like "Top Ten Reasons Why You'd Want to be a Crusader." His reason #8 is "You want to work on your relic collection," which clearly speaks to a fact that Barry learned while researching the Crusades and attempts to be clever about it with a humorous tone.
  4. The Top Ten List can just be a personal topic too.One of my favorite lists I ever created in my own notebook was a list of the "Top Ten Ways to Make Crossing Guard Duty Enjoyable." At a new school I moved to, I was assigned the worst duty--morning crossing guard for a school that started at 7:30. The list I wrote actually forced me to come up with new ways to have fun out there, which I employed and made duty even more fun.

 

 
   
More Ideas posted daily throughout April!
   
   
   

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Monday through Friday's Complimentary Sacred Writing Slide Access, March 17 - May 1

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Next up...

April's SWT Slides


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The spaghetti plant link from Slide: click here.

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Do you appreciate our free lessons but don't want to purchase our for-sale products?

That's fair, but did you know there are two less direct ways you can financially support our site. We actually receive a small commission from Amazon for each person using the following referral links to try out one of their products. If you've been thinking about trying either of these out, kindly use these links so our site can pay the bills to stay online.

Try Amazon Prime for free, and we receive a small donation from Amazon that we use to stay online. Use this link please. Try Audible for free, and we receive a small donation from Amazon to stay online. Use this link please. You'll get two free books!

By the way, Dena and I are both Prime and Audible members, and we love everything about both services.

Tired of boring book reports?
We were too!

Dena created these twenty-five reflective tasks for her students who were responding to chapters in novels. Each week, her students completed one new activity, and after four or five weeks into a novel unit , the students each had a small portfolio of writing about their book.

Please try before you buy...

When you visit our Teachers Pay Teachers store-page for this product, select PREVIEW to download full, complimentary access to three of the twenty-five instead-of-book-reports writing response formats we created for this for-sale product. All proceeds from sales like this keep our Always Write website online and free-to-use.

Even if you don't purchase the entire set of twenty-five ideas from us, please use the three writing formats we share freely instead of summarizing a chapter one day in class.

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--Teachers Pay Teachers purchaser


This resource page features one of the freely posted ideas we share with our fellow writing teachers. We hope this page's idea inspires the establishment of a writer's notebook routine in your classroom.

If you're a teacher who is just getting started with classroom writer's notebooks, welcome aboard. We fund this website--Always Write--by selling just a few of our products from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Before buying, kindly take advantage of the free preview materials we share so you know if the resources will work with your grade level and teaching style before you purchase the entire product.

Our FIRST Product!
Beginner Prompts, Thoughtfully Presented:


-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --
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365 Ideas for Writing/Discussing:

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Want a writing task you can always rely on?
I teach my students to turn new words into "people" through writing.

Personifying Vocabulary Words
inspired by David Melling's
The ScallyWags


Here's another of our free-to-use writing lessons:
Creating Acrostic-Styled Lists of
Examples and Non-Examples

Vocabulary Acrostic Riddles
inspired by Bob Raczka's Lemonade and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word

Here's another of our free-to-use writing lessons:
Airplanes have First Class seats.
Shouldn't school buses?

First-Class School Bus Seats
inspired partly by Mo Willems'
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!

An inspired STRUCTURE mentor text
Impersonating A Test's "Voice"
in a Math-Crazy World? Fun!

My Own Darn Math Curse
inspired by Jon Scieszka's
Math Curse


 
 
 
 

 

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