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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.


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.

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

I adore the way Lewis Carroll played with words and language in his stories and poems. In my retirement, I have adopted his quote below as one of my personal mantras. I am also going to find ways to play with language in a very Lewis Carroll-like way.

A good message about life to you from a couple of retired teachers:
"One of the secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others."

--Lewis Carroll, lover of language and user of portmanteaus

The goal of the write-up found on this page is to encourage word-play from your students who are ready for to think about worrds at that level. When students learn to enjoy word-play and are taught it thoughtfully and well, students will take more risks with their writing. A writer's notebook and Sacred Writing Time are the best time for word-play from my students who crave it.

An Adaptable Lesson from the Harrisons' Classroom to Your Classroom:
How this free-to-use lesson came to be online: My wife, Dena, and I taught English, reading, and writing for 56 combined years before both retiring at the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year. We've had a lot of years to develop passion about certain teaching topics, and focusing on unique ways to teach writing has become a combined passion for both of us. After I earned my Master's Degree in Educational Technology way (way!) back in 1999, Dena and I decided to establish a website together and to begin freely posting our favorite lessons and resources that we created and successfully used during our time in the classroom.

We began this online task by--first--creating WritingFix in 1999, and there we began posting writing methodologies and techniques from our own classrooms. Two few years after WritingFix had been established, we teamed with the Northern Nevada Writing Project for a half-dozen years, and through their popular inservice courses, we began adding the ideas of many Nevada teachers who enrolled in those classes for recertification credit to the WritingFix website. When the federal budget floundered in 2008, the NNWP was no longer able to sponsor WritingFix in any way, shape or form, but Dena and I keep the site online through user donations and our own volunteering of time.

In 2008, we began creating this newer website with writing lessons that specifically focused on our favorite topics and techniques for writing instruction: 1) the six writing traits; 2) writing across the curriculum, 3) writing lessons that differentiate, 4) writer's notebooks, and 5) vocabulary instruction. Our "Always Write" website has been growing--month by month--since the summer of 2008. Below, you will find a lesson idea we freely posted to inspire a unique type of writing.

Thanks for checking out this month's lesson, and if you have any questions about it, don't hesitate to contact us using this email address: corbett@corbettharrison.com

creating new words that would make Lewis Carroll proud...
Notebook Portmanteaus

a practice session with potential portmanteaus, followed by an invitation to continue making original portmanteaus in their writer's notebooks

Giving credit where credit is due: My wife, Dena, and my older brother, Roo, both contributed to my love of Lewis Carroll's oft-odd writing style, so I dedicate this lesson idea to you both. Also, to author Richard Lederer who made me love finding the trivial fun in language; I take more risks as a writer because I admire the work of authors who take risks. And to a poetic hero: Jack Prelutsky.

Lesson Overview: Students work with a partner to:

  • Create three humorous notebook write-ups from a list of potentially funny portmanteau words we have provided.
  • Create an original portmanteau word inspired by the other three write-ups they've done. Write a story behind the portmanteau to share with a partner.
  • Share their original portmanteau with partners. Challenge partners to continue creating new portmanteaus in their writer's notebooks to contionue fostering risk-taking in writing.

There are plenty of on-line lists of portmanteau words if you can use search engines well, and it's important for you to be able to show your own knowledge of words that are created through this method of etymology. Portmanteaus are different than acronyms, compound words, and blends, and before teaching this lesson, be sure you're aware of those differences too.

When it comes to etymology--the study of word origins--in school, we focus mostly on what's called "Root Creation," which is when words are created by using derived roots from other language. Greek and Latin are the languages that contributed the most to English. That's appropriate since most of our language's words were created through "Root Creation," but there are ten or so other ways words become words. I think it's important to introduce students to these other methods, and since "portmanteau" is not a word I find in most curriculum standards, I know the value of teaching this language function to my students while looking at my writing standards: my students learn to take risks and take more interest in words once I start showing them how the words they know came to be.

Essential Questions/Objectives/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • How is a portmanteau word formed? How do you suppose a portmanteau word becomes popular enough, or part of the mainstream, so it enters our language officially?
  • When would it be okay to create a portmanteau word for writing? When would it not be okay?
  • What's an original portmanteau I can create based on something in my own life?

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.*.4 -- Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.*.5 -- With some guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach. 
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.*.3.D -- Use precise words and phrases, relevant descriptive details, and sensory language to convey experiences and events.

    Don't use CCSS where you teach? No worries. Every skill above is a valid skill to teach, no matter what objectives-based document(s) your district/state uses.

Teach/Review Portmanteau: I own three wonderful books that help me teach the portmanteau word; they are pictured at right. My favorite remains the Prelutsky book, but my kids prefer Roald Dahl's take on making great words. Portmanteau has two meanings, which--believe it or not--are related to each other:

  1. (noun) a large, older suitcase, typically leather and when it folds over to lock, the two compartments are relatively the same size. See picture below.
  2. (noun) a word that combines the sounds and meanings of two words, usually taking the first half of one word and the second half of the second word.

I explain the two words' connection/relation to each other is probably in the fact that the suitcase version splits the case into equal halves, and I believe original portmanteaus tried to be the same. Modern word portmanteaus often break this rule, with things like Brangelina (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's portmanteau does not represent a suitcase with two equal parts to me.)

Share some famous portmanteaus with your students. Here are ten EVERY student should realize are made from the halves off two different:

  1. motel = motor + hotel
  2. spork = spoon + fork
  3. telethon = telephone + marathon
  4. dramedy = drama + tragedy
  5. brunch = breakfast + lunch
  6. emoticon = emotion + icon
  7. splatter = splash + spatter
  8. cronut = croissant + doughnut
  9. anklet = ankle + bracelet
  10. cremains = cremated + remains
I am a believer in first teaching "true" portmanteaus; by my definition, that means the word is1) formed by the front half of one word, 2) the back half of another, and 3) the two halves of the word can be generally considered equal in number of letters. Those are a true portmanteau's 3 criteria in my class.

My classroom mentor texts that encourage my students' "What If" imaginations...

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant
by Jack Prelutsky

Rotsome and Repulsant Words

by Roald Dahl

The Portmanteau Book
by Thomas Rockwell
(out of print; otherwise, this
would be my main mentor text. I
am always looking for a used copy!)

If if doesn't follow the three criteria cited above, I tell my students it's more likely a "blended" word or a compound word, not a portmanteau. Here are some "blends" and other weird words that are commonly mislabeled as portmanteaus; I argue they are not true portmanteaus:
  • guesstimate = guess + estimate -- in my eyes, entire words, only chunks of them, appear in "true" portmanteau words. This word is a blend.
  • shopaholic = shop + a [lco] holic -- you take only one chunk from a word in a "true" portmanteau, not two, so I consider this a combination of a blend and a compound word.
  • romcom = romance + comedy -- a "true" portmanteau takes the front half of one word and the back half of the other, not two fronts of words. I would consider this a special type of acronym before I considered it a portmanteau.
  • netiquette = Internet + etiquette -- like romcom, this word takes the two backs of two words, so I don't consider it a portmanteau.

Not all etymology teachers try to start debates about such things, but I do. I leave it to you to choose if you want to follow looser rules of what makes a portmanteau than I do.

Part one of Lesson...Creating definitions and sentences for portmanteaus with a partner: I show the following list to my students; none of these are real words...not yet anyway. You should find two words in each word below, a different word starting and ending each of my attempts at portmanteau word creation:


The bottom row above purposely contains five words that are a bit more difficult; save these words for your students who like a little challenge.

With partners, they must do the following:

  1. Select any three words from the twenty choices above. Partners will both select the same three words to work with.
  2. Partners first write a definition for the word they are creating. Because it's a portmanteau, their definitions must acknowledge both words found in the single word; they don't just invent random definitions for crisscrosswalk. They create a fake definition that has something to do with crisscross's meaning, and something to do with crosswalk's meaning.
  3. Correctly identify and record their word's part of speech based on how they defined it.
  4. Create three "context clue" sentences that use the portmanteau word in them.
    • A "context clue" sentence is one that contains an indirect clue to the word's meaning. Usually the context clue is something else that happens or appears in the same sentence that would help a reader make a logical guess at the word's definition.
    • If I ask for three sentences, they must use a completely different context clue in the next sentence. All three sentences can't be based on the same occurrence or item appearing in all three sentences; the sentences' content must all be different from each other.
  5. Partners share their three sentences with another set of partners, and they ask the other set off partners to guess their portmanteau's exact meaning (and its part of speech) based just on their sentence's context clues. The other set of partners shares next.

Below is a sample from my own notebook as well as two "rough draft" examples from my students:

Teacher Model:
Student Model 1:
Student Model 2:

Part two of Lesson...Creating an original portmanteau on one's own:

I created my twenty examples by mostly looking at compound words. Tail + light, for example. If I can think of a longer or a compound word that ends with tail or starts with light, then I can make a simple portmanteau. Like: detaillight or ponytaillight, or taillightning or taillightweight.

For my teacher model, I use the word dustpanic, a portmanteau-styled word I believe should exist but doesn't. If it ever becomes a word, I hope everyone remembers where the word originated! Here at Always Write! Trademark 2008! Woo-hoo!

Just as we did when we were safely working with our writing partners, now we do the following as individuals:

  1. Write a definition and identify one's original portmanteau's part of speech.
  2. Write three "different context" sentences, where the student hints at the word's meaning in the sentence without directly giving the word's meaning away.
  3. Share the sentences with a partner or two, asking the partners to try to guess the portmanteau's meaning and part of speech.

Part three of Lesson...Continue to create original portmanteaus during Sacred Writing Time: The goal of a lesson like this one in my classroom is not to expect all my students to fall in love with how words are created and come to be. There are a lot of kids whose learning style doesn't allow them to necessarily connect with words' historical journies over time. This lesson was designed to inform all students about a single technique for word creation--the portmanteau--, then further challenge those who dare to continue making newer ones long after our in-class writing practice has ended.

I do this type of lesson a lot--one that I hope catches on as a writer's notebook practice.

I consider this a valid writing lesson that asks students to insert context clues into original sentences. We teach our students to read for context clues, but the bigger goal in my classroom is to teach my students to write context clues for sentences they will share with each other. My students take ownsership of their writing and its purpose.

Once they have done this type of writing in class successfully, I have students who will desire to continue trying this practice in their writer's notebook time. That is why we have Sacred Writing Time set aside each day; it gives my students the time they need to work on ideas their brains should always be hatching. Small lessons like this one help me create a roomful of independent and critical thinkers.

Once I've introduced a lesson like this, the invitation to the class is always the same: "If you liked this type of writing, you might continue it or start a new one in your writer's notebook the next time we have Sacred Writing Time." I show them my two examples below, and I ask them to try out something similar, if they're inspired.

Two Original Portmanteaus from my Writer's Notebook
Student Samples?

grow + romance

robot + body

Want a PDF of this 144-resource?
Tweet us a student sample from this lesson.
This is one of the lessons I taught many times but never kept student samples from the students who independently started making original portmanteaus in their writer's notebooks. If you have a student sample, I have a PDF version of the 2008 Going Deep with Compare and Contrast Thinking Guide, which is now out of print and selling for ridiculous prices at Amazon. I'll send you a PDF file of this resource in exchange for a student sample of an original portmanteau I can post here.


from Corbett & Dena Harrison to you...
Unique Notebook/Journal Ideas
Your best notebook keepers are always imagining unique ways to present their ideas. Can you encourage unique notebook approaches inspired by my attempts to be different in my notebook?
Start planning ahead!
March 14 is Pi Day,

and we have a Sacred Writing Time slide for that!

Open/Retweet our #PiDay Sacred Writing Time slide by clicking here or on the 3-14 slide above!

You can order all 366 Sacred Writing Time Slides by visiting our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

"Such a time saver! Thank you!"

--Teachers Pay Teachers purchaser

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.

"This is one of the best school supplies I've ever purchased! Thank you."

---Teachers Pay Teachers purchaser

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.

An inspiring 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

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

Word play begets word play
Share Punny Books, then
Challenge Word Play in Notebooks

Four Homophone Notebook Comics
inspired by Fred Gwynne's
A Chocolate Moose for Dinner

Writer's Notebooks allow Word Exploration:
Teach your Students to
Make Original Oxymorons!

Develop an Ear for Oxymoron
inspired by Jon Agee's
Who Ordered the Jumbo Shrimp?

Here's another of our free-to-use writing lessons:
Make an Alphabet-inspired List of Genres or Topics for Writing

Alpha Genres, Tones, and Topics
inspired by Susan Allen and Jane Lindeman's
Written Anything Good Lately?


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