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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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Here's the lesson I created to celebrate the 2012-13 school year's "Mentor Text of the Year." I am going to admit that I didn't do a very good job teaching vocabulary last school year. My two excuses: 1) I switched grade levels and had three new grade levels to prep and 2) I had to earn twelve college credits to earn a new certification for my teaching license. This year is going to be different; vocabulary is going to take a front row seat to all that we do--during both reading workshop and writing workshop. I once watched the great Nancie Atwell speak at an NCTE Convention, and she was showing slides from her classroom's Reading Workshop. Her kids were giving each other individualized vocabulary quizzes based on vocabulary they found in the independent novels they were reading. I don't think I can get my kids to that point for a while, but I know I can turn them into vocabulary collectors.

And so...I proudly present a brand new lesson I'll be using during the first few weeks of this school year to introduce the idea of collecting words.

Could this be the Year You Begin Vocabulary Workshop?

Writing Workshop--albeit it completely worth it--is admittedly very time-consuming. It requires a teacher to set aside a little time each week to make it work and to help it become a routine. My students loved our workshop schedule when I saw them all every day for class because they came to school knowing that Fridays were always Writing Workshop days; my students were excited to move their latest piece of writing to the next step in the writing process. Unfortunately, in 2011 a new administrator changed our very predictable schedule to a very confusing and rotating one, and suddenly I didn't see all of my students on Friday anymore. Like my middle school students, at first I resisted the change and complained about it. As that year progressed and I realized my complaints weren't serving any productive purpose, I decided to create something new that I could make work with the new schedule.

I didn't see them every Friday, but odds were pretty good that I'd see them all every other Friday no matter what confusing day of rotation we were experiencing that week. I wanted to maintain the Friday energy we felt in class when we celebrated our attempts to be better writers, so I created what I call a vocabulary workshop. Each Friday (even if I don't see them), my students come to their homerooms with a new set of four published vocabulary words; a student from each homeroom then delivers the vocabulary to me before homeroom is over. Thanks to the lesson on this page, I have trained my students to be active "word finders," and the words they publish every Friday are words from our readings that my students liked enough to do a small but special piece of writing around. My students have ten different options on which to base their vocabulary-inspired writing, and each week they have to use four different options for their four words. Every other week, when they have eight words ready to go, we set aside thirty minutes to do a student-centered vocabulary workshop. Here's what happens:

  • Students must teach all of their eight words during that time to other students in class. They are responsible for teaching a different word to each of seven or eight students with whom they partner up. I actually ask students to choose their favorite vocabulary writing activity of the week before we begin, and when they partner up with a fellow student, they have to teach the word in that favorite piece of writing as well as one of their other words to their partners.
  • At the end of sharing, students must do a short piece of writing that makes use of two or three vocabulary words they were taught by their classmates that day.
  • Students self-assess their eight vocabulary writings based on their discussions with their classroom partners, and I glance them all over to make sure the students fairly self-assessed themselves. Graded vocabulary goes into students' vocabulary binders.
  • On writing workshop days (which now happen on random days once or twice every two weeks), their vocabulary binders are one of the tools they must have on their desks so they can refer to their word collections as they plan, draft, and revise a new piece of writing they're working on.

I invite you to visit my Vocabulary Workshop Resource Page here at Always Write to learn more about the ten different writing activities I created for my students choose from, and also to access some of the vocabulary-inspired writing tasks my students have created for each other.

I used to love Fridays because it was always Writing Workshop day in class. Now I love Fridays because--in at least one or two classes that day--we are celebrating our writing by having a student-centered Vocabulary Workshop. Friday has truly become my favorite day of the week.


A Vocabulary Lesson from my Classroom to Yours:
Creating a Classroom of Logophiles
challenging students to become active vocabulary word collectors

Overview: Students (and teachers) will begin by sharing things they collect. The class will then brainstorm as many different things people collect that they can think of. The brainstorm will continue as students brainstorm all of the different ways people can display their collections. After sharing from The Boy Who Loved Words, the teacher will challenge the class with this metaphor/simile: "Suppose people could collect words in the same way that they collect butterflies. Suppose they displayed the collected words in the same way that collected butterflies are displayed. What would that display case look like?" After drawing a "cover page" to introduce a special vocabulary section of their writer's (or interactive) notebooks, students will learn a format for collecting favorite words they come across during the upcoming school year.

"I adapted your Logophile lesson last year, and my children collected four words every week.  As the year progressed, it was amazing to watch them come up with 'cool words' to add to their glossary! As an incentive in my classroom, I give out tickets for vocabulary sleuthing.  Every time the students find any of our words someplace, they can share it and receive a ticket.  The tickets add up to a trip to the treasure box! It was awesome to see the children take ownership of their words!  Thanks for sharing all of your ideas with us!  By the way, my students rocked the vocabulary portion of the FCAT!" (Gina H., Florida teacher, sixth grade)

A note from the teacher who wrote up this lesson: Below in this write-up, I'm going to write-out and visually document the way I will be presenting this lesson to my students some time in the first few weeks of school. I completely invite you to modify the ideas based on your own experiences and personal teaching preferences. For example, just because I show my collection of Pep Cereal Flicker Coins below, and you don't have one of those collections, doesn't mean you can't use this lesson; I invite you to substitute and tweak the ideas I am presenting here. At the bottom of this lesson, I am inviting you to share any modifications you made that really worked with your students. Good teachers find ideas they like from other teachers, but they modify them enough that the ideas become their own. Adapt!

The Mentor Text I Will Share:

The Boy Who Loved Words
by Roni Schotter

Additional Mentor Text Possibilities: As I dug through my collection of mentor texts, I found four other books that I'll definitely also refer to when teaching this lesson. The main book (and most important) is the Roni Schotter text pictured at right, however.

  • Max's Words by Kate Banks (a book about collecting words that's a bit more primary in style than The Boy Who Loved Words.)
  • Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Conner (I love how Nancy always identifies vocabulary words by saying, "That's a fancy way of saying ____.")
  • The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Tobin (I'm creating a new lesson inspired by this book in 2016!)
  • Thesaurus Rex by Laya Steinberg (Come on, it combines dinosaurs with 'word collecting!' How could you not love this book?)
  • Adventures of a Verbivore by Richard Lederer (I'll mainly use the word verbivore from the title to inspire creative word collecting)
Setting the stage: A day before starting this lesson, I will inform students that we will be talking about different things that people collect on the next class day. I'm going to actually invite my students to bring in something (one or two items at the most!) they collect with the following caution: "Students, I can't guarantee the safety of your collections if you bring them in, but if you'd like to show us something you collect that you are proud of, we will be talking about interesting things people collection in class tomorrow. Don't bring anything big please. You can store them in my cabinet if you wish to. You may also bring photos of your collected items."

I--this I will tell them--am a collector of many things; some of my collections are physical items, like my collection of Pep Cereal Flicker Coins from the 1950's, or my collection of Tom Corbett (Space Cadet) plastic rings (photo at left). I also have collected things that don't take physical form; as a kid, for example, I used to collect license plate sightings, and I was determined to personally see a license from every state in the union and every Canadian Provence; there was a list in my Mom's car of all the ones I had seen during commutes. In the same spirit, as an adult, I am determined to see every Shakespearean play performed on stage by live actors (as opposed to dead ones, I guess!), and I consider that to be a collection I maintain in my own head; over the summer of 2012, I finally saw my first production of Troilus and Cressida in Ashland, Oregon, (which was awesome, by the way), and that leaves me less than ten plays I need to see to finish that personal collection.

"Why do people collect things? What's the point? Is is better to collect things (like my Pep Cereal Flicker Coins from the 1950's) that you can actually find the entire collection (All 18? I've got them!) and be done collecting them, or is it better to collect things that one person --for the sake of any argument--could never have every single one? For those people who don't collect anything, why do suppose that is? For those who do, at what point does it become an obsession instead of a collection? Can collecting too much be dangerous?" These are the questions I will pose to my kiddos before they head home to decide if they want to bring in something from one of their collection.

The Lesson Begins: At the point of teaching this lesson, my students will have been warned that they need to have their writer's notebooks ready and in class. I am going to begin class by showing off the two collections of Pep Cereal prizes from the 50's I have pictured at left. I am going to suggest that my students use their ten minutes of sacred writing to pre-write about a collection they have, that someone else has, or that they wish they had. At right is a page from my own writer's notebook where I wrote about someone else's collection: my grandmother's and my father's magnet collections.

After ten minutes of writing, I will ask if anyone wants to either share what they wrote or something they brought in from a personal collection of theirs. If there is time, I will share from my writer's notebook. I hope you are keeping one so that you can share from yours too. True fact: your students will take their writer's notebooks more seriously if they see you keep one too.

Explain how it's important for people to collect their own things, not to be necessarily influenced by collecting exactly what their friends collect; however, this year, all your students will become collectors of something similar: challenging vocabulary words. They will be storing their collections in either their writer's notebook or their interactive notebooks in a special section, and each student will be responsible for creating his/her own collection based on words they hear or read and want to remember.

At this point of the lesson, I will share Roni Schotter's wonderful picture book: The Boy Who Loved Words, about Selig, who spends his life "collecting words" that sound interesting to him. We'll stress the importance that Selig's collection was his own--it wasn't given to him by the teacher on a vocabulary sheet. In your classroom, you may hand the students vocabulary sheets still, but those may not be the words you want students to add to their notebook collection--the notebook collection should be words that were self-discovered by the student in conversations and in independent reading.

Before going further, it's important to talk about what makes a word worth collecting in one's notebook. The idea of the vocabulary collection this lesson is attempting to begin is that students are choosing challenging, interesting-sounding words that they want to know more about, and they want to be able to use. I tell my kids what the research says: "In order for a student to truly 'own' a new-to-them vocabulary word, they must meaningfully use it 8 to 10 times through reading, writing, and/or speaking it." I used to tell my students that when they truly "owned" a word, it became one of their "pocket words," which meant it could be taken out of their pocket and used correctly--because they understand its meaning, its spelling, and they could apply in interesting ways.

For a word to become a part of their notebook collections, students must seek out new and unusual words that they believe they can actually make use of in life. We are--in my class--going to break words down into three levels.

  • First level: there are a lot of words that are so common that everyone already knows--words like dog, couch, classroom, and notebook. First-level words do not belong in these notebook collections.
  • Second level: there are a lot of words that you maybe have already heard (or maybe not) because they are common-but-difficult words--words like vivacious, strenuous, amplify, and chromosome. Second-level words should make up the heart of your notebook's collection. Second-level words will be commonly found in books, stories, poems, and classroom lectures.
  • Third level: Okay, let's face it. There are some great words in English that aren't very commonly used. It's fun to know about them, but they're so trivial they would never appear on the S.A.T. Test--words like the ones listed in the table below, all of which have to do with specific names of collectors. Third-level words can be included in the students' collections, but they should make up no more than 10% of the collection. These are the 50-cent words mentioned in the project idea I share below this lesson.
"Third-Level Word" Examples...Can You Believe There is a Specific Word For That?
a collector of stamps
a collector of coins
a collector of butterflies
a collector of beetles
a collector of flies
a collector of teddy bears
a collector of bird eggs
a collector of postcards
a collector of banknotes
a collector of beer mats
a collector of matchboxes
a collector of old stocks and bonds

Third-level words are fun to know, but they are words that probably won't be seen very often. They have limited appeal, and if the human head can only hold a limited amount of memorized vocabulary words, they're the kind of words that you might say, "I'll just look that one if I ever see it again."

The words Selig collects in The Boy Who Loved Words are more apt to be seen again and be useful to the memorizer. Same thing for the words in Max's Words and the words Nancy explains as being "fancy ways of saying" in Fancy Nancy, should you happen to be sharing from these mentor texts too.

Inform the students that this year they are responsible for building a personal collection of vocabulary words for their notebooks. Your students may have noted from the list of "third-level" words above that the root phil or phile (Greek--to love) is found in many of the words about collecting. Introduce these three level-three words to your students:

This Year, You Must Become More of Each of these Three Level-Three Words:
a lover of books
a lover of writing
a lover of words

Ask students, "Of these three labels, which word already fits you the best? And which one will you need to learn the most new ways to be able to claim that you love what the word claims you love?" Inform students their simple job this year is to become better with all three. Today, they will begin setting up an area of their notebooks where they will begin practicing logophilia.

Setting up a notebook section for vocabulary collecting: Again, I will explain how I am going to do this, but I strongly encourage you to modify this part of the lesson to fit your classroom. My students will be given the last ten or fifteen minutes of class several days a week to add words, definitions, sentences, and drawings to a "word collecting section" of their writer's notebooks. Throughout the week, as they read, write, and listen to lessons, they are to jot level-two words they come across on this special vocabulary bookmark. Because my students are required to always carry a book with them (an independent novel or an assigned novel), their bookmarks will be stored in these books.

One side of the bookmark is for level-two words they overhear--from friends, teachers, family, etc. The other side of the bookmark is for level-two words they come across while reading. I expect them to write down way more words than will ever end up in the "word collection" section of their notebooks. To me, it's an important critical thinking skill to--when asked to choose just one word from their bookmark and celebrate it in their writer's notebook--to choose a word they really want to "own" as a "pocket word." As I have already said, several times weekly I will give them the last ten or fifteen minutes of class to do just that: a) choose a word they recently heard or read and really liked the sound of and b) prepare to add it to their logophile collection. Being able to do this well will take a lot of practice on my kids' part, and the purpose of this lesson is to begin that type of practice and to build a place in their notebooks that is fun to come back and add to: their vocabulary collection section.

In my class, students will flip to the last page of their writer's (or interactive) notebooks, and they will count backwards by twenty pages; in short, the last twenty pages (perhaps only ten in your classroom) will be where their collected words will be store. I will give them all a piece of masking take to make a "tab" for this section by placing half of the tape on the right-hand edge of a page, and folding it over so that it sticks to itself and to the back side of the page. On the masking tape, I will have my students write the word "logophile."

First and foremost, I think it's important to design a cover page for this section that is creative and colorful. I will assign my students this homework task: "Go home and come back with a list of ten level-two vocabulary words that you already know the meanings of. If you already know and like the word foible (a noun that means a person's minor flaw), or the word preposterous (an adjective meaning absurd or ridiculous), or the word ponder (a verb that means to wonder or think about), write it down and bring it in. You might ask your parents to help jolt your memory of some excellent vocabulary words you already know. Tomorrow, I need a list of ten words, and I need their ten definitions written in your own words. Do not consult the dictionary!"

When the students bring their words in, have them share with each other. If a student hears a word that they already knew but didn't think to write it down, allow them to add it (and its definition) to their list. Students can certainly have more than ten words for the cover page we are setting up.

After you've checked in everyone's homework task, organize a small group brainstorm on this topic: different ways that people display things they collect. Challenge the small groups to come up with ten or more different ways that collections (depending on what the collection is) are displayed by their owners. Ask each group to share their three or four very best ideas from the brainstorm, and create a class list that can be left up for a few days--either on the whiteboard, a Smartboard, or on a chart. You can see a picture of my whiteboard display below.

A vocabulary word collection is more of an abstract collection than it is a physical collection. A physical collection, like butterflies, can be displayed; you gas those winged bugs, stick a pen through their bodies, and put them under glass in a case. You wouldn't display collected vocabulary words in the same manner...or could you? Here is your students' task: Create a metaphorical or imaginative way that a inventive collector might display his/her vocabulary words to the public...and draw a picture of your ten vocabulary words being displayed. To do this, my students will have to examine the brainstormed list of ways people display collections and use their creativity. Challenge the groups to talk it out, letting them know it's okay to borrow and modify an idea someone else says out loud. There's a finite number of ways collectors can display things, but their are an infinite amount of ways to creatively approach each display option.

I believe strongly in having a teacher model to show the students, so at right is mine; click on it to enlarge and zoom in on my "butterfly words." I decided to display my vocabulary words as a butterfly collector would. I ended up including 12 words on my cover page...these are all words that I proudly know the definition of.

In my classroom, students will be required to create a rough draft sketch of their display idea, then show it to me before they put a final draft of their drawing in their notebooks. I stress that art is never graded on a task like this; both effort and creativity are. A student who creates a rough draft sketch in less than a minute will be sent "back to the drawing board." Literally.

I will probably give my students a week before I check these cover pages for the vocabulary section. I want them to make them really good, since we'll be using this section of their notebooks every week. If I tell my students that I am going to photograph my favorite five or six cover pages and post them here on the Internet, I know I'll have quite a few kids take theirs home and put some extra effort into the color and design. If you want to do the same, I invite you to post digital photos or scans of your students' efforts at this page, which--if you're a member of my "Lesson of the Month Ning"--you can post pictures and celebrate your extra-creative students. By the end of September, I will be posting several of my students' most innovative cover pages here. I invite you to come back and see my kiddos examples in a few weeks.

Ten Vocabulary "Cover Pages" from my Eighth Graders' Metaphorical Minds

A vocab metaphor that was based on collecting teddy bears.

A vocab metaphor that was based on collecting fortunes.

Wonje's vocab metaphor was based on collecting hats.

Nathanael's vocab metaphor was based on collecting bird eggs.

Nick's vocab metaphor was based on collecting pens.

Kage's vocab metaphor was also based on collecting pens.

Del's vocab metaphor was based on collecting old records.

Samantha's vocab metaphor was based on collecting snow globes.

Julia's vocab metaphor was based on sports memorabilia.

Mitchel's vocab metaphor was based on throwing stars.

Post your own students' Vocabulary Cover Pages here!

Collecting the Vocabulary Words for the Entire School Year:
With my students, I will be requiring them to find four vocabulary words for their notebook "collections" each and every week. Three of those words weekly must come directly out of the book they are currently reading, and that is how I will check to see if they are reading enough pages a week. If students can't find vocabulary words in their books, that will mean they have chosen a book that is too easy for them.

Other vocabulary words can come from their other classes, from overheard conversations, or from the "word of the day" on our best-selling "Sacred Writing Time" PowerPoint Inspiration Slides (pictured at right). They will have their vocabulary bookmarks to select their weekly words from. As I said earlier, one side of the bookmark is for words from their reading books, and the other side is for words they find anywhere else.

On each page we have reserved in the back of their notebooks, I am going to ask students to fit four words from their growing collections. Required with each vocabulary word will be the following tasks:

  • The vocabulary word must be written in color and spelled correctly.
  • The part of speech must be correctly identified, and a dictionary definition must be included.
  • Where they heard/found the word must be recorded for future reference.

In addition to the three required things above, students must do one additional task for each word. At present, this is my list of ten creative options, and you can read more about them all at my Vocabulary Worshop Resource Page.

  • A personified vocabulary word
  • A Mr. Stick Vocabulary Cartoon
  • A vocabulary-inspired haiku about nature
  • A showing sentence with three action verbs in it
  • A decorated list of antonyms/synonyms
  • A list/explanation of words that share a common root in the word
  • An original metaphor inspired by the word
  • A sausage sentence that uses the vocabulary word
  • An EGOT sentence
  • An Imp-Int-Exclam sentence

Here is a two-page spread from my vocabulary collection section of my new writer's notebook for the 2012-13 school year. I purposely made sure I didn't do two of the same activities on the same page. I suspect I will be expecting the same of my students.

Well, that's my "Logophile lesson." I am determined to help my students become better vocabulary collectors and "owners" this year. If you have a variation, I invite you to post it at the bottom of this page at our Ning.

In the table below, I am sharing the pages from some of my students' notebooks who have taken thier vocabulary collection pages VERY seriously. I am awarding these students extra credit for their efforts, and I will be choosing three "Vocabulary Collector" awards for the week between now and Winter Break (December 21). Enjoy.

These are examples from my first year of Vocabulary Workshop (when we put the words in our notebooks):

from Alex G.'s vocabulary collection...

from Emily V.'s vocabulary collection...

from Jacie T.'s vocabulary collection...

from Akshay S's vocabulary collection...

from Ryan L's vocabulary collection...

from Tayler G's vocabulary collection...

from Mason O's vocabulary collection...
(Click here to see Mason's two-page vocabulary spread!)

from Jaysen S's vocabulary collection...
(Click here to see Jaysen's two-page vocabulary spread!)

from Natalie's vocabulary collection...
(Click here to see the "fold outs" Natalie attached to this page!)

These are examples from the second year and beyond (when we put our words on paper instead of in notebooks)

from Alex G.'s vocabulary collection...

from Emily V.'s vocabulary collection...

from Jacie T.'s vocabulary collection...

from Akshay S's vocabulary collection...

from Ryan L's vocabulary collection...

from Tayler G's vocabulary collection...

from Mason O's vocabulary collection...
(Click here to see Mason's two-page vocabulary spread!)

from Jaysen S's vocabulary collection...
(Click here to see Jaysen's two-page vocabulary spread!)

from Natalie's vocabulary collection...
(Click here to see the "fold outs" Natalie attached to this page!)


Return to the Top of the Page

The Project I Assigned the Week Before We Became "Logophiles"
Presenting Me!
exploring the two sides of my students' brains, and an introduction to 25-cent vocabulary words

Thank you for your interest in this lesson. In 2013, we revised it and made it the "Center-Square Lesson" on our brand new August Writer's Notebook Bingo Card. In August of 2013, we officially moved this lesson to a new location at our site.

To access this lesson now, you will need to acquire the updated set of our Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards, which we sent to all who purchased the product in May of 2012. If you purchased the Bingo Cards and did not receive the update, please contact me and let me know what e-mail address you used to purchase the cards through PayPal. Once I verify that you're in our database, I will send you the updated set of Bingo Cards.

--Corbett Harrison (corbett@corbettharrison.com)


P.S. We have created a new Pinterest Board called "Hallway Publishing" which features some amazing exemplars from students who completed this project as well as other projects I purposely design to be hallway decorations. Click this link to access that board and to share it with your teacher friends!