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.

I have been on hiatus from doing out-of-state teacher trainings recently for two reasons: 1) I'm writng a book on teaching writing, and 2) I'm preparing to retire from the classroom at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Beginning in the summer of 2019, I will be available once again to train teachers your school or district if you would like to hire me. You can find general information about my workshops here.

If you would like to verify my availability for a specific date or dates starting in June of 2019, please contact me at this e-mail address.

 

Always
Write

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

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

Hands down, the best writing teacher I know is my wife, Dena Harrison. Recently, she retired after giving 26 energetic years to our school district here in Northern Nevada. In her retirement, from her comfortable chair, Dena will be using her laptop to create new adaptations of some of her favorite techniques and resources she used over the past quarter of a century. This lesson is the first of many new lessons she will be posting here.

Dena is the originator of the "Little Red Riding Hooks" handout that gained its best popularity when we featured it at both the WritingFix website as well as using it in our 2005 Going Deep with 6 Trait Writing Guide that we published while I was serving as Director of the Northern Nevada Writing Project between 2003 and 2008. Over the years, we've seen many variations and adaptations from other educations--most of whom gave Dena credit for the original idea, and we thank them for that. Giving credit where credit is due is something both Dena and I have noticed has gone missing from many online teachers' handouts, we've noticed, and we'd like to think that educators are better than that.

At this lesson--originally posted for September of 2018 as part of our Lesson of the Month program--you will find the original Little Red Riding Hooks and Dena's new adaptation based on frog research; this new adaptation is focused on writing leads, hooks or introductions for expository writing.

sharing techniques for expository/informative/introduction writing...
Expository Frog Hooks

Dena has adapted her famous "Little Red Riding Hooks" to help students craft strong leads/hooks when they introduce a research topic

Essential Questions/Overview/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • Why is a great "hook," "lead," or introduction so important to a piece of writing?
  • Why is it important to have multiple techniques for beginning a piece of writing?

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.*.1.A -- Introduce a topic or text clearly, state an opinion, and create an organizational structure in which ideas are logically grouped to support the writer's purpose.
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.*.1.A -- Introduce claim(s) about a topic or issue, acknowledge and distinguish the claim(s) from alternate or opposing claims, and organize the reasons and evidence logically.

  • An even deeper EQ: How would I compare/contrast expository and narrative writing before and after learning the techniques shared in this lesson?

Two weeks before we do our class research on animals, I begin setting the mood for the lesson's frog-focused handout by sharing some favorite picture books on the same topic. How I do this: every two or three days, before we have our ten minutes of daily Sacred Writing Time, I quickly share a book. I also suggest something the students might do for their ten minutes of SWT with each title.

  • Tuesday by David Wiesner is the first book I share. It's wordless, so it's a pretty fast book to share. The book sends frogs flying--literally--through the town one Tuesday night on floating lily pads. I challenge them, if they're inspired, to write for ten minutes about what other odd things might happen after dark in the animal kingdom.
  • Toad by Ruth Brown remains one of my favorite books for teaching WORD CHOICE. The author's use of slimy words is just fun here. After sharing, I challenge my writers to create a Toad-like tale (with excellent descriptive words) during their next ten minutes of daily Sacred Writing Time, or I challenge them to create a word-list based on an animal (other than a toad) they would never want to touch.
  • Finally, Bullfrog Pops! is a book that uses wordplay, so you can surmise that it's one I love sharing with my students. Each page turn reveals a fun twist based on the book's use of compound words. For Sacred Writing Time, I suggest my students list all of the compound words they can for ten minutes, then see if any of them might make a Bullfrog Pops!-like story in their notebooks.

Teaching Narrative? Use the Original Little Red Riding Hooks Handout! Dena's original handout--Little Red Riding Hooks--coincided with her multi-cultural exploration of Little Red Riding Hood tales from all over--versions like Lon Po-Po, Pretty Salma, and Petite Rouge.

Dena had her students plan to create new versions of other fairy tales as their narrative writing assignment. She found it easier to suggest switching genres (in lieu of switching cultures) for students to use to create a new version of a fairy tale; of course, with the addition of cultural research or study, this lesson could easily become a multi-culturally-based piece of narrative writing. In the quicker version of the lesson, Dena has students switch genres: put the story in the old west, in a science fiction futuristic setting, or in a horror story, for example. You can also have students simply switch the point-of-view of the narrator who tells the fairy tale itself, as Jon Scieszka did with his The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, which is also in our mentor text library.

To scaffold the students who need help starting their fairy tales in a more interesting way than "Once upon a time," Dena provides the Little Red Riding Hooks handout. Students experiment with five of the eight techniques, then choose the one they think sounds the best before writing the rest of their fairy tale.

We set the mood for frog research with these mentor texts:

Tuesday
by David Wiesner


Toad
by Ruth Brown


Bullfrog Pops!
by Rick Walton

 

Teaching Expository/Informative Writing? Use the New Frog Hooks Handout! After sharing the mentor texts above--again, to set the mood--Dena shares how she did research on frogs. When doing one's research over the Internet, it's very important to remember to check the ethos or credibility of the source. Dena requires all facts to be triple-checked--or verified by being on three credible websites--before calling them credible facts for their reports, essays, thesis-driven paragraphs, etc.

Show students the Frog Hooks handout, which shares techniques for improving essay beginnings. Discuss how beginnings can make or break an essay. Dena goes over each technique, step by step, and then asks the students to pick three and write an original beginnings for an essay inspired by the frogs from Tuesday and the other mentor texts. Have them work in partners on a first and a second technique, which may require allowing them to do Internet research or having a fact list about frogs that can be shared and read before the students start writing possible frog hooks.

For their third attempt at a technique from the handout, require the students to write it completely on their own. Assist those who struggle. When they are finished and have three techniques, have students analyze all three of their uses of the techniques and select one that they think would make the best hook or lead to their expository or informative piece of writing. Remind them: the first sentence can make or break an essay.

Next, students will work on finding an animal that interests them and that could inspire them to write an expository or informative piece of writing. You may have to reserve your school's computer lab or coordinate with your librarians, but the next step requires students do and write about research they find about their animals on credible sites. Dena always tried to have lots of different informational books from the library for her students' perusal in her classroom.

When students have researched their subjects, they can start thinking about how to begin their piece of writing, and the Frog Hooks handout should make its reappearance. Have them try three different techniques based on their own research topics. Have them ask their peers which lead or hook seems the most interesting or the most effective in introducing an expository piece of writing.

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Links to
Dena's Best Lessons at WritingFix

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.

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Beginner Prompts, Thoughtfully Presented:


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