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

This page contains some original ways I prepare students to write with persuasive or argumentative voice. Whether you're using Common Core or a state-specific set of standards, you'll always find this commonality in those educational documents: they push for teachers to assign just as much expository and persuasive/argumentative writing as they do narrative writing. In fact, many standards downplay the value of narrative writing, but my students are actually always narrating in their writer's notebooks, so even if we're working on a persuasive writing unit for our writer's workshop, they always have a narrative they're allowed to have fun with in their daily bout of Sacred Writing Time, which remains their favorite part of class when they're in my classroom.

Below you will find a few common-themed lessons. The first, I developed two years back for my sixth graders around Thanksgiving time, and the second is a lesson I have been using every March with my seventh graders for about eight years now. Students' work they do for these lessons teaches them techniques of good persuasive or argumentative writing, and they have fun doing these tasks. So...take that, Common Core!

This Lesson Comes with a Contest! Based on the continued success of our annual September Writer's Notebook Metaphor Contest, Dena and I are committed to eventually sponsor twelve different monthly contest for students writers at this website. The lesson on this page is our website's November contest. Each fall, teachers can submit up to three student samples per class for this lesson to be entered in the annual "Rhe-TURK-ical Triangle" contest.

Click here to jump to the bottom of this page to learn about the rules and to see past winners.

A Writer's Notebook Lesson and a Mini-Lesson That Work Well in November:
teaching voice, rhyme, and rhetoric while critiquing carnivores:
Building/Reviewing "Rhe-TURK-ical" Skills
a silly but solid writing task your kids'll need if they ever plan on winning arguments intelligently

Overview of this Writing Task's Origins and its Purposes:

A few years back, my 8th graders started calling me "Harris-totle" because they have heard me incorporating Aristotle's ideas every year since they were stuck with me in sixth grade. In 6th grade, I introduce them to his "Rhetorical Triangle" in November as we begin our unit on persuasive writing. In 7th grade, we do scientific debates when we read Flowers for Algernon, so we review that rhetorical-planning tool, and we also apply Aristotle's theories of ethics and virtue and vice as we analyze Charlie Gordon, the protagonist. Early in 8th grade, we talk about Aristotle's theory of catharsis as we do a quick study of the play Oedipus Rex right before we read Richard Peck's The River Between Us because I enjoy asking my students to find interesting parallels between those two great works of writing. I'm not sure if Peck intentionally put mythological allusions into his Civil War novel, but there are some pretty solid connections the students will discover if given the opportunity to discuss.

The most valuable Aristotelian framework we study and review in depth is his rhetorical triangle, which stresses the importance of balancing your arguments using all three of these: ethos (credible sources' arguments) , logos (logical arguments), and pathos (emotional arguments). I challenge my students to brainstorm potential arguments in all three categories before they ever begin writing any argumentative piece, and they aren't allowed to begin drafting until they have enough arguments to choose from that can be balanced. They also must have discussions before drafting focused on what order to present their arguments to maximize their writings' effect.

They can't have those great discussions without some basic preliminary experience with the basic academic vocabulary. My take on academic vocabulary is that you have to apply it to a fun writing assignment (instead of a worksheet or a note-taking lecture) in order to "make it stick." By the time they're my eighth graders working on argumentative writing, I can say, "Turn to you neighbor and tell them everything you know about Aristotle's rhetorical triangle," and they will talk for five straight minutes. I just had a former student return to visit me and he said, "I told my English teacher that I already learned the rhetorical triangle in middle school, and she couldn't believe it!"

After this turkey and persuassion lesson, my students remember exactly what the rhetorical triangle is for the rest of their days with me.

My two mentor texts for this lesson:

My Lucky Day
by Keiko Kasza

My Brother Dan's Delicious
by Steven L. Layne

Task One: Introducing Rhetorical Terms in time for Thanksgiving

In My Lucky Day, a fox is visited by a very manipulative pig. The fox thinks he's been blessed with a delicious meal, but the pig uses persuasion and trickery to outfox the fox. My students enjoy the idea behind this fast-paced story. I ask them to pretend it was about a turkey knocking on a farmer's door during the first week of November. "How would the story slightly shift?" Many of my students begin writing to this idea in their writer's notebooks, especially when we spend a few minutes at the end of a class period tracing our hands on brain paper and cutting them out like we did back in second grade. We save those hands for later writing in our writer's notebook pocket folders.

A few days later, I explain that I want to return to the idea behind My Lucky Day, but I want them to learn some important, smart-person words in the process. I briefly cover the basic definitions of ethos, logos, and pathos, then ask students to imagine they were trying to convince their parents to pick up a pizza for dinner that night.

  • What would be a pathos (emotionally-fueled) argument for eating pizza?
  • What would be a logos (logically-based) argument for eating pizza?
  • What would be an ethos (research-backed) argument for eating pizza?

After they try their hands at applying these three terms to the "pizza for dinner" context, I show them this Bruce Goodner YouTube video, which gives them a few new ideas and reinforces ideas they already had. There are numerous other videos on YouTube about teaching the concept of the rhetorical triangle should this one not appeal to your students. I like the pizza idea because my students can apply their own experience to that one pretty easily.

We bring out our hands out and we prepare to make a Rhe-TURK-ical triangle that shows we know the difference among ethos, logos and pathos arguments. I share with them my teacher model first, and I stress that they are NOT to borrow my turkey's arguments; instead, they must create their own. Each student needs a piece of paper to compose their arguments' rough drafts, a piece of typing paper on which they will glue their turkeys, and access to colored pencils. My students are NOT allowed to work on their typed paper version until they have shared and finalized their three arguments with the group I place them in for this task. I also stress that no two members of the same work group should have two arguments that are too similar.

Examples of Published RheTURKical Arguments from my own Students. Click here to see more.

My original teacher model

Amika's RheTURKical Arguments

Alden's RheTURKical Arguments

Peter's RheTURKical Arguments

These are great to hang up (to review the three argument types) for all of my students. I save these, and every time we begin a persuasive or argument writing piece, they are easy enough to pass out randomly and have students remember this brainstorming tool.

  • This is the brainstorm sheet we use every time we plan a persuasive or argumentative paper.

If your students enjoy this Thanksgiving-based writing task, we suggest you spend a little extra time revising and prearing to publish these. If you do and your students have some great arguments and a great layout, you can enter them in our annual November Rhe-TURK-ical Argument contest. Click here to see last year's winners and to read the rules.

Task Two: Reviewing Ethos, Logos, and Pathos through Rhyming Couplets

I bring out this notebook activity as review of rhetorical strategies in the spring, but it can be done any time. I have a teacher-friend who combines this idea with the above-idea about the turkeys asking not to be eaten. Adapt everything I share with you, if you think it might be a useful writing task...please. Adaptation is the first thing I look for when I am analyzing another writing teacher's skills. I became a great writing teacher by adapting other people's good ideas, not by following someone else's outline to the letter or--even worse--following the script that some for-sale writing program has given you.

In My Brother Dan's Delicious, a young student comes home from school to find he's alone in his house, his older brother not yet home from school either. Convinced there's a boy-hungry monster in the shadows, the narrator provides a delightful, persuasive argument that details sound rhetorical reasons why the monster should wait until his brother returns. His titular argument is logos: his brother is more delicious than him and is, therefore, worth waiting for. I bring out this book in March for two reasons: 1) we begin our second writer's workshop focused on persuasive writing in the spring, and 2) it's the center-square lesson on our March Writer's Notebook Bingo Card. I'll share with you below the introductory activity to the March Bingo card lesson, which is inspired by Mr Brother Dan's Delicious, but if you want part two of the lesson, which focuses on using rhyming couplets in a writing across the curriculum challenge, you'll have to purchase the whole set of Bingo Cards.

I enjoy giving students new formats and unique challenges to incorporate during their ten minutes of daily Sacred Writing Time; I don't want them to just write block paragraphs all the time. The My Brother Dan's Delicious mentor text gives them a new challenge to try: rhyming couplets. The most famous rhyming couplet heard in school? "In fourteen-hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. I have yet to meet a kid who's never heard that one.

After enjoying Steven L. Layne's picture book, we go back and analyze the protagonist's arguments. Which ones are ethos arguments? Which ones are pathos and logos? Which arguments seem to borrow from two of those categories? What arguments didn't he try using, and which of those invented arguments are ethos, logos, and pathos? I have several of the pages from the book scanned and copies, and I move them around class from group to group to foster these discussions.

We begin the process now of setting up an initial writer's notebook page inspired by this picture book called "Reasons not to Eat Me," and it must be built used rhyming couplets. First, students start brainstorming classroom-appropriate body parts for these rhymes. Then they create rhyming couplets using items from their body part list to make a rhyme that explains to a monster (or zombie or carnivore of any type) why they wouldn't be worth eating. Finally, they draft a one-page layout for their notebooks that features a self-portrait of themselves (or of a character they create, which several of my students do), with arrows pointing to the various parts of their bodies from the couplets. At the other end of the arrows, they place their rhyming couplets. I require 8 couplets from my students, but that could certainly be adjusted for your students' grade and ability level. Differentiate!

Be sure, as they're drafting, to remind them that they should try to have arguments that cover all three rhetorical strategies: ethos, pathos, and logos. It's do-able, which I think my teacher model at right demonstrates. Be sure, as the weeks following this task occur, to remind students that writing using rhyming couplets is a great 10-minute challenge when we are doing our daily dose of Sacred Writing Time.

With rough drafts completed and shown to the teacher, students can then begin working on the final draft layout for their rhyming couplet page in their notebooks. This becomes one of their "stand-out pages" because of the extra care and the writing style they used to convey their message, and I am a huge proponent of students having lots of stand-out pages in their notebooks by year's end; these pages make the notebooks "keep-able," which is one of my main goals of my writer's notebook program.

Examples of Published Rhetorical Rhyming Slogans
(Click images to see them full-size)

Josh's rhetorical rhyming slogans

Danielle's rhetorical rhyming slogans

Kage's rhetorical rhyming slogans

Keely's rhetorical rhyming slogans

I hope you enjoyed these ideas. In addition to notebook pages, I think they can become "send home" assignments when they're completed to serve as a great, intelligent Thanksgiving project for students to decorate their November refrigerators with!

Have a great November, everyone!

November's Argumentative Turkey Contest: Send us your Students' Top Samples!

I truly believe that having great student writing samples that your students can analyze and discuss intelligently before they pre-write or draft, before they respond to each other's draft, and before they create a personalized revision plan, well, if you have a great student sample collection, you will always end up with a great new set of samples too. Great writing samples beget more great writing samples, and great writing teachers are always trying to find new ways to foster smart analysis discussions among their students. If you've not seen our Trait-inspired Sticky Notes, those came about because we were developing tools to promote intelligent conversations that would inspire better writing from the get-go and better writing during revision. Anyway, I digress...

Dena and I really wanted to begin hosting contests like this one because--quite frankly--we never wanted this website to be a huge digital collection of just our own students' work. We want to be able to peruse the different student takes on the assignment, different adaptations from creative teachers, and the different grade levels' writing--because we know what the writing should look like for our grade-level. How fun it is for us to see what other grade levels can come up with when faced with the same writing idea!

Every November, we want to see your students' best new set of Rhe-TURK-ical Arguments. By midnight, one week before the Thursday that will be Thanksgiving, you can send us digital photos or scans of your students' best three final products to corbett@corbettharrison.com. If you have more than one class doing the assignment, I will accept more than three from you, but please don't send me more than six samples. If need be, have your kids vote and send me just the ones you think have a chance in our contest that we announce to over 30,000 teacher followers.

On the Monday before Thanksgiving, we will post the three best samples--a.k.a. the winners!--from all that we have been sent that school year. The winning students will have the honor of having their work displayed on this page and our Pinterest Board, where their turkeys will likely be digitally available to others for a dozen years after they graduate college. The teachers who've submitted the three best will each receive a free product from our Teachers Pay Teachers store.

2016 Rhe-TURK-ical Winners!
(Click images to see them in larger form.)
Eighth grader Caiya
submitted by Ms. Wilson (Texas)
Repin/Like at Pinterest by clicking here.
Fifth grader Evelyn
submitted by Ms. Gonzalez (California)
Repin/Like at Pinterest by clicking here.
Fifth grader Mariska
submitted by Ms. Estrada (California)
Repin/Like at Pinterest by clicking here.

2015 Rhe-TURK-ical Winners!
(Click images to see them in larger form)
Seventh grader Abbie
submitted by Ms. Hawk (Ohio)
Sixth grader Emila
submitted by Ms. Gruenhagen (Michigan)
Seventh grader Marisa
submitted by Ms. Hancock-Webb (Texas)

Contest Rules: 1) Photographs or scans of entries must be received by midnight one week before Thanksgiving to this email address--corbett@corbettharrison.com; 2) students' first names can be visible, but there should no last name showing anywhere on the final product; 3) teachers need to let us know what grade the students are in.

Contest judging...the following four elements will be equally weighed to determine the winners: 1) the ethos argument needs to be thoughtful, well-written and actually demonstrate ethos; 2) the pathos argument needs to be thoughtful, well-written, and actually demonstrate pathos; 3) the logos argument needs to be thoughtful, well-written, and actually demonstrate logos; 4) the final product needs to have visual appeal.

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