Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator since 1990, and a teacher-trainer 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 steps of the writing process. Every year, I challenge myself to improve my writing instruction even more, and this website is where I post my most successful new ideas.

The Northern Nevada district I serve has a "balanced calendar" that has me teaching from early August to early June, and during my 7 weeks of summer and during my two annual two-week breaks, I independently contract to present workshops to school districts and professional organizations around the country.

I have no available dates left in 2017.

In 2018, I may have availability between January 8-12, March 26- April 6, and June 11 - July 27, October 1-5.

If you would like to verify my availability for a specific date or dates in the windows offered above, please contact me at this e-mail address.

You can find general information about my workshops here.

Always
Write

 
       Because writing--when taught right--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, I created this website.

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Contact me through my e-mail address with questions/comments about this lesson: Corbett@CorbettHarrison.com

One of my most-requested half-day workshops when I visit other states is the writer's notebook/journal presentation. When I display my students' voice-filled samples (check out my Pinterest boards to see what I mean!) with other teachers, the idea of a writer's notebook routine seems both feasible and important. On this page, I share a new type of writer's notebook resource we're developing for the Always Write website. If you use it, let us know, and we will consider continuing to post ideas like this one.

Happy August 2017, which is when this writer's notebook challenge was originally written up! I discovered in January of this year that I would be co-presenting at the 2017 NCTE Conference, being held in St. Louis the week before Thanksgiving. I will be co-presenting with two of my personal teacher mentors and favorite authors: Gretchen Bernabei and Amie Buckner. Our presentation will focus on teaching voice through a journal/writer's notebook expectation. Because we use sacred writing time in my classroom, and because that routine is being used in so many fellow teachers' classrooms these days, I will be speaking about the importance of establishing a routine for this practice and the rationale you should share with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students. If you missed the presentation, here is a link to the materials for you to access: In November, there will be an active link here.

using speech bubbles to share some "trinkets of thought"
Dialogue Baubles & Notebook Memes

Practice Voice Skills and/or Critical Thinking Skills Using
Paintings, Famous Photographs, Advertisements, or...

Essential Questions/Overview/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • How do I plan and layout a notebook page so that I can include my dialogue baubles in a neatly organized manner? Can I use a computer to help me after I have planned my layout?
  • How do you ensure that the dialogue baubles you write have VOICE? What tricks/skills to writers use to add voice to their own story dialogue.
  • Can I convey humor or rhetoric -- as opposed to simple silliness -- through my dialogue baubles? What's the difference between a dialogue bauble containing a smart joke and a dialogue bauble containing a fart joke?
  • How does adding dialogue baubles to my writer's notebook/journal make it more likely that I'll revisit ideas I've written about during the past month or past school year?

What's a Dialogue 'Bauble'? Let's decorate upcoming notebook photos with dialogue snippets. In A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You, Ralph Fletcher suggests that you use your notebook as a place to capture "snatches of talk." Quotations from the famous and the familiar can and should decorate and populate a writer's notebook, but students need to be reminded of the purpose of collecting quotes: to write about it later. I've had students think they can simply listen and transcribe another's conversations as your sacred writing time, but that's not the point. The point is to write down the quote or the exchange that you want to explore further at a later date. A really interesting quote from a family member or a famous person can serve as a metaphorical diamond or a diamond in the rough for one's writer's notebook.

Quotes you collect for a notebook don't have to exclusively be diamonds or potential diamonds; a good notebook has some costume jewelry to decorate its pages as well. My students are becoming good at using dialogue bubbles in creative ways because they see me model this task. On this resource page, I share the techniques and resources I use to encourage the use of--wait for it...--dialogue BAUBLES as decoration and as a potential future prompt for one's notebook.

As you begin or as you attempt to rejuvenate a classroom writer's notebook routine, I find it quite helpful to set aside a Friday in the computer lab for students to set up decoration on future pages that they will write on (or around) during a later chunk of sacred writing time. They will create this decor in in their writer's notebooks. My best advice: before you set aside a day in the computer lab to do this, make sure you also set aside four 15-20 minute blocks to have them create potential rough drafts of the dialogue baubles (or other decor) they will then work on in the computer lab. Your kids will waste a lot of time (and do poorer writing) if they create their rough draft ideas directly onto the computer screen.

A word about the bauble versus diamond metaphor I've established. I agree that bauble carries the connotation that it's something cheap, but I have a lot of things written in my writer's notebooks that are cheaper; I, also, have ideas that are more diamond-like. The beauty of a notebook is you have permission to hit-and-miss with topics you try out. Am I saying the dialogue bubbles will be cheap or cheapen the notebook? Not at all; in fact, I suspect these little showy "gems" will enrich the discussions my students have when they share their writing and their writing processes during writer's workshop and if we have time to share during sacred writing time.

Look over the six current strategies I started with as I developed this idea over the summer of 2017. As I add more, this page will lengthen in size, and I hope some of you will share your students' adaptations of these ideas in their own notebooks. Sharing is a critical part of the writing process--not just sharing the writing but sharing the meta-cognition one went through to create the draft or revision or final piece of writing.

If your students respond to this idea, post photos/scans of their notebook pages at this blog page.

Encouraging Dialogue "Baubles":
Meanwhile...
by Jules Feiffer


Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson


Comic Photo Frames

Ideas #1 and #2 -- Demonstrating Two Different Ways to Use Dialogue Baubles to "Get the Ball Rolling," as they say...

Idea #1: Make your Own Notebook "Transition Memes..." If you tell your students they can use memes in their notebooks, they will, and they will find sites that provide them readily or allow them to easily add words to famous memes, or design their own. The latter idea there--making one's own meme--is the better option here since we are teaching writing. For that reason, I tell my students they can use memes, BUT they have to be "Transitional Memes" the students design themselves. Put simply, that means what the meme says must contain a transitional word or phrase.

To explain what I mean by "transition meme," I pull out my classroom copy of Meanwhile... by Jules Feiffer. I'd forgotten how charming this book was, and I had forgotten how much the writing style and the book's ideas appealed to my boy writers especially; I believe in teaching students layout-planning skills because I see that doing so has an impact on their overall organizational skills. I used to use this book as way to have students prepare a story and plan it in six comic strip boxes, much like the photo frame I pictured above.

To start the idea of "creating your own transitional memes," I show them how the cover of Feiffer's book alone, if printed out as a thumbnail and placed in the corner or the pages of your notebook, well, it would serve as a "transitional meme." Its presence requires me to transition from a previous topic to a new one. It adds that visual element to my notebook that provides a simple purpose.

I showed my students how I'd used the cover of the Feiffer book a few times in my notebook as a--and these are the words I spoke slowly and carefully--"Transitional Meme. It does what a meme does; plus, it serves as a transition of some sort. I give them permission to create their own similar memes--as long as they provide a transitional purpose. Below, take note of my process:

Using the Cover of Meanwhile... as my Transitional Meme
Using an Original Meme as
my Notebook's Transitional Meme
I started by printing a copy of the meanwhile cover as a thumbnail that I could affix to a page's corner in my notebook. Here is a photo of an adaptation I made to my Meanwhile... meme. I used a text box to cover it with my own transition words. Here is the first original Transitional Meme I made. I decided to put Dena's head in famous movie scenes. Here is the second original Transitional Meme I made. Dena's head is now in a scene from the movie "Castaway."
Here is the full page from above, and now you can see the Sacred Writing TIme I did around my Transitional Meme. This was a page I dedicated to inventing superlatives. A fun idea! Here is that same page after I came back and did ten minutes of sacred writing time, letting the meme serve as a page visual. Here is the same page from above, but you can see the sacred writing I did on two days accompanying it. One day was spent working on the dialogue in the art dialogue baubles. Here is the same page from above, but now I have done some sacred writing time around the visual. Here the visual did not influence my writing topic.

Idea #2: Comic Strips with Different Word as a Transition to Dialogue Baubles When a notebook is visual, students are more willing to go back and revisit their own ideas, which are often ideas that are worth further development. If a notebook is going to be visual, then I believe it's crucial to make sure students pay just as much attention to the words that accompany the visual they are belaboring over. The following types of comic strips can be easily completed with a student's own words, then taped/glued into the notebook. This not only provides a notebook visual that required zero artistic skill from the student, but it also puts in motion the idea that comic strips that are somehow re-written might become part of a student's notebook strategies.

Here are the wordless comic strips I provide my students when I suggest this strategy as a notebook-keeping strategy they might want to consider for the future.

Always Give Credit to the Great Bill Watterson

My admiration and utmost respect to the talents of Bill Watterson. My two Calvin and Hobbes collections in my classroom library are cherished by my students. I'm not sure which person originally took the words off the original comics below, but I found them and saw a use for them. If you do too, make sure you thank the author by legitimately buying one of his collections for your classroom. Your kids'll love it.

I won't put these images I found online onto a printable document, but you can easily print them yourself by right-clicking on the comic you want, then copying and pasting it from this page into a word processing document for printing.


Driving question: What's written on that piece of paper, Calvin?


Driving question: What's she drawing on the sidewalk, Calvin, and why do you care?


Driving question: What's on that clipboard, Calvin?

 

My Examples of Using Comics to Inspire Original Writing in my Notebook

Here's a notebook page with a Calvin & Hobbes-inspired comic strip at the beginning and end. This page celebrate my favorite ideas from Ralph Fletcher's A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. Here's a notebook page where I used a Goofus & Gallant comic I found online and printed, and re-imagined the captions. I found this writing challenge posted on the Internet, and I thought it was a funny way to remember these dichotomous comic characters from my childhood.

I'm using this two-page final example as a model for what an entry in my weekly "Mr. Stick's Notebook Page of the Week" extra credit award. I started with two stick men that I'd printed and taped into my notebook. It developed into a movie poster starring Mr. Stick.

With this extra credit option, students must do their page decorating at home; only their writing can be done during class.

 


Idea #3
-- Giving Dialogue "Baubles" to Family Photos--or Photos from the News--to Practice Voice

In the first few weeks of establishing your writer's notebook routine, you'll want to set aside some time or make an assignment where students personalize and "reserve" pages they plan to write about later. Before I travel anywhere now, I make sure I reserve a page in my writer's notebook so that I remember to take the time to write while I am on the road. I also reserve a lot of pages in my own notebook using the techniques suggested here at my website, and I show my students how the page has been reserved.

Many students will like the idea of "reserving" a page by attaching a family photo and giving it "dialogue baubles" that can be filled in on the spot, or that a writer can keep coming back to and perfecting the dialogue that needs to be coined. Below, I have documented through digital photos the process I demonstrate for my students with not only family photos, but also with photos from the news that I like.

Family Photos with Dialogue Baubles
Photos from the News with Dialogue Baubles
I reserved this page for my upcoming Anniversary to Dena on August 1. This is a wedding day picture from Maui. My Dad's 13th anniversary of his passing is coming up, so I set up this dialogue page with his favorite photo of his three sons. I heard about this meeting between Richard Nixon and Elvis Presley while watching the History Channel. I set up a page. I saw this picture after this year's Wimbledon tournament, and I thought I would research the tournament's history.
Updated Photo coming soon!
Here is that same page after I came back and did ten minutes of sacred writing time. Here is that same page after I came back and did ten minutes of sacred writing time. Here is the same page from above, but now I have taken the time to do some sacred writing time around the visual. Here is the same page from above, but now I have done some sacred writing time around the visual.

 

Idea #5 & #6 -- Using Dialogue "Baubles" to Critique (Persuasive Voice) or to Present Info (Expository Voice)

In the first few weeks of establishing your writer's notebook routine, you'll want to set aside some time or make an assignment where students personalize and "reserve" pages they plan to write about later. Before I travel anywhere now, I make sure I reserve a page in my writer's notebook so that I remember to take the time to write while I am on the road. I also reserve a lot of pages in my own notebook using the techniques suggested here at my website, and I show my students how the page has been reserved.

Many students will like the idea of "reserving" a page by attaching a family photo and giving it "dialogue baubles" that can be filled in on the spot, or that a writer can keep coming back to and perfecting the dialogue that needs to be coined. Below, I have documented through digital photos the process I demonstrate for my students with not only family photos, but also with photos from the news that I like.

Using Persuasive Voice with Dialogue Baubles
Using Expository Voice with Dialogue Baubles
Here is a page I prepared to hold a movie critique by building this page of dialogue "baubles."
Here is a page I prepared to hold a video game critique by building this page of dialogue "baubles." Art Lessons through Dialogue Baubles. We're working on an Interactive Notebook Resource for Non-Fiction text. Here is a page we set up for our Comparing Two Artists' Styles lesson we're building.
I started this page, but then realized I needed to see the movie again because I forgot some specifics about the rag-tag band of rebels. Check back again to see completed page. Here is that same page after I came back and did ten minutes of sacred writing time. Here, the photo didn't inspire the writing. This lesson will be freely featured this Fall at our webpage as part of our new Interactive Notebooks for Non-Fiction Projects resource we're developing.

 

If your students like the idea of a dialogue bauble to inspire writing on a notebook page, I would love to see you post a picture/scan of their writing at this posting link: Better still, if your students invent a new way to uniquely inspire writing in their writer's notebooks, we want to hear about it: corbett@corbettharrison.com

 


from Corbett & Dena Harrison to you...
Twelve Unique Notebook/Journal Ideas
TBA in September
TBA in October
TBA in November
TBA in December
A writer's notebook keeper is a person who is always seeking unique ways to present his/her ideas. Can you invent your own unique notebook approaches inspired by my twelve examples?

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.


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BONUS VIDEO IDEA for this LESSON:

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Our FIRST Product!
Beginner Prompts, Thoughtfully Presented:


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365 Ideas for Writing/Discussing:

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For Writers Needing a Guided Challenge:

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Did you miss this freely posted lesson?

RheTURKical Triangle -- Lesson Link

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Mentor texts to inspire Vocabulary Collectors:

The Boy Who Loved Words
by Roni Schotter


Boris Ate a Thesaurus
by Neil Steven Klayman

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Primary Source Picture Books -- Lesson Link

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Books that Guide our Teaching of Literacy:

Notebook Connections
by Aimee Buckner


Differentiating Reading Instruction
by Laura Robb

 

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