Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator and a teacher-trainer since August of 1990. I specialize in teaching writing using differentiated instruction. I also focus on critical thinking techniques, especially during the pre-writing and revision steps of the writing process. Every year, I challenge myself to improve my instruction: I am curretly developing grammar and vocabulary lessons so that they're differentiated and promote deep, critical thinking skills, and I incorporate them into my classroom routines to promote a student-centered classroom environment.

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.

The winter and spring of 2017 are mostly booked up at this point. Beginning in mid-June, I will be available to present at summer workshops in your district or state.

You can find general information about my workshops here.

If you would like to check my availability for summer of 2017, please contact me at this e-mail address.


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

the "always write" homepage | email me | writingfix | pinterest | facebook | teachers pay teachers | twitter | youtube | lesson of the month  

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

Happy February 2017, which is when this lesson was originally created! As a writing teacher, I have made a 2017 New Year's Resolution: Each month this next year, I will be creating and posting a brand new challenge I have tried out in my own writer's notebook. When I create interesting new techniques to try in my own WNB (writer's notebook), I immediately share these finished page(s) with my students. I explain my own metacognition in completing my notebook challenge, and I "dare" my students to imitate me or to find something original to do--perhaps inspired by what they have seen me try. When my sacred writing time class routine is running like a fine-tuned classroom routine, I have plenty of students who take me up on "dares" like these because they recognize me as the person in the room who has the best writing "dares." And my notebook is one of the most enjoyable ones in class to flip through because I dare myself to try new things. This year, I am committed to posting twelve new techniques for WNBs, and they will become 2017's twelve Writing Lessons of the Month. If you're looking for a writing lesson that isn't focused on using a writer's notebook challenge, be sure to visit this webpage's lesson of the month archive; between 2012-2016, we posted dozens of lesson ideas for different writing projects for your classroom that aren't connected to one's WNB, and you can access them from the archive link.

When complete in December of 2017, I will have a new collection of twelve clever ideas for a WNB that come with the teacher models I shared with my own students. Should I inspire my own students to create a new page in their own WNBs, I will share those student models here for further inspiration. I will also be asking for teacher users of our website to share their teacher/student models with us in exchange for free access to materials from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. So if the ideas below inspire you to inspire your student, share with me, and I'll send you something in return!

My Twelve 2017 Writer's Notebook "I Dare You to Try this..." Challenges:
These are the lessons/write-ups I have planned or finalized during this 2017 year that challenged me to create more unique writer's notebook ideas to share with my student. These are the lessons/write-ups I have planned or finalized during this 2017 year that challenged me to create more unique writer's notebook to share with my students:

January 2017's Notebook Challenge
Use a Fortune Cookie's Fortune as Inspiration
February 2017's Notebook Challenge
Create a Fake Notebook Campaign/Election
March 2017's Notebook Challenge
Explore Unusual Nightmares and Utopias
April 2017's Notebook Challenge
Vocabulary Friends, Enemies and Frenemies
May 2017's Notebook Challenge
Human Nature, Page-Corner Haikus
June 2017's Notebook Challenge

Thanks--as always--for showing an interest in my classroom ideas that inspire my students to become fearless and thoughtful writers!


A Student-Created Option for "Publishing" a Word for Vocabulary Workshop:
this is really great idea for your writer's notebook...
Establish a Weird Notebook Election/Campaign

establish two unique opponents and a weird office to run for, then create their campaigns

Notebook Task Overview/Mentor Texts that will Inspire Better Writing:

Possible Essential Questions for these strategies/learning tasks:

  • What elements of propaganda can I review/show mastery of with my notebook campaign ads?
  • What creative points of view or real world p erspectives can I explore as I create a fake campaign in my notebook?
  • How does word choice combined with visual elements add to a campaign ad?

Notebook Lesson Overview/Mentor Text Suggestions: Students establish an interesting idea for a fake election in their notebooks. Every few weeks, they use their allotted ten minutes of sacred writing time to create a new campaign poster or commercial script for the campaign. Who can keep their fake election going the longest? Who can create the cleverest ads? Can the election ultimately be decided upon? Here are some ideas for fake campaigns/elections that my students brainstormed after I shared my example that's documented below:

  • Who would win the best season of the year election? Spring, fall, summer, or winter?
  • Who would win the Oscar for novel-inspired categories? Best noble deed by a character in a novel we're reading, perhaps?
  • Who in class should be elected President of Losing Homework ? Or Vice-President of Knock Knock Jokes?
  • Who should represent the class as Vocabulary Ambassador? As the Senator of Spelling?

The following mentor texts can be used to set the mood of an election that is a little bit unusual or out of the ordinary, which is what the students will be asked to create for their notebooks.

Duck for President by Doreen Cronin. First off, all of Cronin's books are delightful, and they tickle my students' funny bones with wonderfully silly ideas they might write about. In this book, on Farmer Brown's farm, the animals do chores for the farmer, and duck doesn't like his assigned chores. So duck coordinates an election, and Farmer Brown is voted out! Duck then goes on a journey that has him running for governor and president. This book and its illustrations capture in a wonderfully nonsensical way all elements of an election, from registering to vote to kissing babies. At the end of this book, simply say, "See? Anything can run for 'president'. You should use your notebook as your place to campaign for something--like a duck--as it seeks more power." This book will inspire, especially if you share an example. My model is below, but I think you would have a fun time creating your own "election" in your notebook to show off.

LaRue for Mayor by Mark Teague is an epistolary story (much of it being told in different forms of correspondence) about a dog running for office when the current mayor's campaign irks him. As the story unfolds through letters and newspaper clippings, we are shown two different campaign strategies in action. The idea of using primary sources (letters) and secondary sources (newspaper clippings) to tell a story also is a fun strategy for a writer's notebook challenge. If you've not seen my Epistolary Story lesson, click that link to see some of my students' samples of this strategy for telling a story.

Otto Runs for President by Rosemary Wells. The idea of creating a fake election or campaign means you have had some exposure to elections and campaigns, and our littler students usually have not. When I've done election-inspired persuasive writing tasks with students younger than fifth grade, I find this book shares enough election elements (campaign promises, bribing the voters with cookies, etc.) that students can imitate if their teacher helps them to a topic where two weird things are campaigning against each other in a weird election. There is a lesson at WritingFix where younger students hold a "Most Nutritious Fruit" Election, and each pair of students create and promote their own candidate. Fun stuff. Oh, and finally, there is a great use of sticky notes in the middle of this book: mysterious notes on lockers. Could inspire a fun writing assignment at your school.

Mentor Text Suggestions:

Duck for President
by Doreen Cronin

LaRue for Mayor
by Mark Teague

Otto Runs for President

by Rosemary Wells

If your students are inspired by any of the fake campaign ideas on this page,
consider posting photos/scans of student/teacher notebooks here at our Blog/Ning.

Teachers who successfully use any part of this lesson and shares a quality student sample or two at our posting page become eligible to earn a complimentary product from our Teachers Pay Teachers site.

Share an Original Idea from an Actual Notebook:

You should make your own silly notebook campaign, you know: Ideally, if you're going to try to encourage creating a fake election/campaign in your students' notebooks, you would have an example that you created in your notebook to share. If you don't have the time or an idea to create and inspire your own and need to use my examples below, then you can call me "My teaching friend from Nevada" when you share my models below. I will say this, and I know I say it a lot at my website, but it's important: I teach these ideas well because I take the time to go through the writing process it requires to create an original example; by going through the process myself, I have the ability to share my metacognition and I can better anticipate (and prepare for) stumbling blocks that students may encounter. I am a good writing teacher because I have my own examples to share.

The exposition for the notebook "campaign" I created: For Christmas in 2015, we got ourselves a puppy--Boone--taking our dog count to three. We had a one-year old Westie, a three-year old Westie, and a nine-year old Westie. I wanted to get Boone so that our energetic middle Westie--Tucker--had a playmate closer to his age. Our oldest terrier--Bentley--is his mama's lap dog, and it's been interesting to watch Boone decide if he wants to be a lapdog like his oldest brother, or if he wants to be a hunter like his older brother Tucker. In December of 2016, we began to see that Boone might be inclined to de-throne Tucker as the house's alpha dog. On Christmas day, our two younger Westies got into such an alpha fight that we had blood--lots of blood!--all over the carpet and tile to clean up. The alpha skirmishes continue, though we've had no more bloodshed, and I honestly don't know which dog might end up winning the fray. So, I've decided to create a fake election and campaign for alpha dog in our household.

You can teach or reinforce organization skills to or with your students by requiring them to plan a layout for certain pages in their notebooks. Before I wrote anything, I wanted to design my page by organizing it ahead of time. I have three dogs who will all play their part in this election, so needed three sections. Two of the sections would be about the two separate campaigns for alpha dog, but the third section would represent the single canine voter who isn't running in this election--the oldest dog--and I thought he would be the perfect electorate college. That said, I created the following two-page layout that breaks the two pages into three sections.

With the page set-up in sections, I began to brainstorm specifics for each candidate. I came up with four sub-categories, which I point out to my students because it demonstrates thinking about organization while creating a piece of writing. The four categories I wrote on a Sticky Note were: 1) Education/Experience; 2) Platform/Promises; 3) Ways to Describe Him; 4) Biggest Planned Change if Elected Alpha. From those four categories, I began using sacred writing time to create the words that now appear on my "Campaign Kick-off Page" in my notebook. If I was sitting next to you and you asked me a question about any fact on the page below, I would have an out-loud story to tell you. That's what writer's notebooks hold: memories of moments that can be talked about later, perhaps even worked into a great story.

Follow-up plans for this page: In America, we've recently endured a pretty intolerable election cycle, and I will continue using this fake notebook campaign as my way to heal from the ugly rhetoric that was thrown at us throughout 2016. Throughout this writer's notebook wherein I've established this fake election and campaign, I am going to continue to create ads and other rhetorical devices about the campaign as I continue to watch my two dogs duke it out for the alpha position in our household. I will be posting those additions all year long in the gallery below.

In addition, with this current writer's notebook that I am developing (I proudly boast to having seven notebooks now), I am trying out a new strategy: skip pages ahead and leave an artifact that reminds you to revisit an original idea. In January, I established the idea of using fortune cookie fortunes as writing prompts and as inspirations to write. I collected fortunes from cookies for a few months and left pages ahead for myself in my notebook that would require me to think as a writer about the fortunes. By "reserving" a page ahead in your writer's notebook (by taping a fortune or a fake political ad on a page five or ten pages ahead of where I currently am in my sacred writing time writing), I am required to return to the creative idea I established on the page just above.

On the page just below, you will find additions I have created to keep the election and campaign theme alive in my notebook.

Continuing my Fake Campaign in my Writer's Notebook:
First, I created this fake campaign ad:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, I taped it on a blank page coming up in my notebook:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, when I got to that page, I recalled my fake election:

(Here, the campaign ad inspired the previous page but what I wrote on the actual page with the ad had nothing to do with the election.)
First, I created this fake campaign ad:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, I taped it on a blank page coming up in my notebook:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, when I get to that page, I recalled my fake election:

(Here, I decided to write out our latest dog tale, inspired by the fake ad for the campaign on the page. Click to enlarge)
First, I created this fake button:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, I taped it on a blank page coming up in my notebook:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, when I get to that page, I may revisit my original idea:

(Here, the election button adds a decoration to the page even though the topic I wrote for during that ten minutes was not abou the election.
First, I created this fake campaign ad:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, I taped it on a blank page coming up in my notebook:

(Click to enlarge)
Then, when I get to that page, I may revisit my original idea:

I'll post update when I get to this page!


Giving credit where credit is due: In late 2008, while I was becoming the outgoing Director of the Northern Nevada Writing Project, I helped our new incoming Director with a project: The Going Deep with Compare/Contrast Thinking Guide. We created a three-part guide and distributed it at dozens of trainings, and we showed teacher learning groups how to use the guide as a--well, guide--when they were creating professional development goals for themselves.

I helped create the guide's middle section. This middle section contained different writing challenges that required comparative thinking from the writer. One of those ideas came from my Northern Nevada colleague, Holly Young. She helped us create a writing challenge based on a fake smear campaign between two things that would never run in an election against each other. The idea was "How would your opponent use your qualities against you to make him/herself look like a better candidate?" It's actually a pretty good learning task, and I thought about it a lot as I created my ads above that attempt to smear the opponents' reputations.

I wanted to share that assignment that Holly and I created together for the middle section of the guide.

Click here to open this two-page lesson write-up from the Compare/Contrast Guide.

At present, you can order a copy of the Going Deep with Compare/Contrast Thinking Guide through Amazon.


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