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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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I have always smiled at the following quote attributed to journalist C. P. Scott:

"Television? The word is half Greek, half Latin. No good can come of it!"

The goal of the lesson write-up on this page, which focuses on Greek and Lain roots, is to help your students understand the above quote with enough knowledge to smile at the quote's deeper meanings. By the way, I'm about 1/10th Greek and 1/20th Latin, and no good has ever come from me either.

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

exploring vocabulary words analytically...
"Root Attack!" Posters

researching a vocabulary word enough to be able to chart an interesting display that shows a word's Latin or Greek connections to other interesting words from English.

Giving credit where credit is due: Back in 2008, I decided to retire my aging approach to teaching vocabulary, and I start anewed. The book that inspired me to teach my vocabulary words differently was Vocabulary Unplugged by Alana Morris. Since then, I have brought many other teachers' ideas into my vocabulary-teaching toolbox, but Alana gave me the first set of tools on a new adventure that lasted eleven years until I retired. This book's ideas proved nascent, and they ultimately helped launched one of my best classroom inventions: The Vocabulary Workshop.

Lesson Overview: Each student researches, designs, and creates a root poster that does the following:

  • Defines the vocabulary word AND shares the Greek and/or Latin Root history of one root found within the word;
  • Accurately locates three (or four) additional English words that share the same root they found in their original vocabulary word;
  • Paraphrases the definitions of all words on the poster so that the root word's meaning is found in each of the definitions;
  • Color-coordinates a visual presentation that shows how all words on the poster/chart are related to each other by root and root meaning.

I used to "Hallway Publish" a lot in all my school, which simply means my students designed projects specifically for hallway display, and their posters had to accurately and quickly teach an idea to most passer-by's who walked by and glanced at their work over while seeing it in passing. This assignment worked well as a "Hallway Publishing" writing task, and I've included a few pictures of some of my students' posters from over the years. I've also included an extension assignment at the bottom of the page, if students all create individual"Root Posters" as their learning task. It can also be adapted to be a one-page assignment the student hands in, or even a computer task of some sort.

In 2009, I began using Vocabulary Workshop full time for the first time, and over the ears it developed into one of my best classroom routines, especially for increasing the student-centeredness of my classroom. Eventually, this very assignment became a "Root charts" assignment write-up here at the website. You can see the lesson I originally posted here. This adapted lesson focuses more on students making interactive riddles with these charts for each other as part of the writing task. That lesson's link: Vocabulary Example/Non-example Acrostic Riddles.

Essential Questions/Objectives/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • How do I find related words to a vocabulary word I want to learn? What resources do I need? How do I double-check for accuracy?
  • How do I design a poster/chart that clearly shows how four or five words are related by one Latin or Greek root?
  • How can I ensure that my poster teaches others without me standing next to it watching them learn? What will I do to implement an element of "self-teaching" in my project.

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.*.4 -- Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grade level reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies.
    -- Use common, grade-appropriate Greek or Latin affixes and roots as clues to the meaning of a word (e.g., 
    audience, auditory, audible).
    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.*.4.C -- Consult reference materials (e.g., dictionaries, glossaries, thesauruses), both print and digital, to find the pronunciation of a word or determine or clarify its precise meaning or its part of speech.

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

If you've not introduced the topic of why it's important to know the Greek and Latin roots, you probably should do that before starting this lesson. Sorry, I can't post everything, but I post this lesson under the assumption that the teacher can already:

  • explain the logical reasoning behind knowing Greek and Lain roots when acquiring new vocabulary;
  • explain how the original Greek and Latin words were "tweaked" (or they derived) over the years so that we only see familiar "chunks" of them today in our words today.
  • explain how to find Greek and Latin Roots for any vocabulary word. When I first started teaching, we did this with the good ol' dictionary. Now, it's a piece of cake to show the same process using Google Dictionary on my classroom's smart board; be sure to expand the window Google gives you to see the word's etymology on most words currently housed there.

This lesson is designed for students who are ready to go to beyond a basic awareness and application of Greek and Latin roots. At the bottom of the lesson, I will share how I turn this logic- and research-based lesson into a creative experience that many of my students--at year's end--told me was one of their favorite lessons during their final conferences with me. "I finally understand why they always teach us root words now!" a student told me after I allowed her to be creative with this type of thining process months before.

There are plenty of ways to use the internet to explore/verify which roots are actually in words the students find when doing this activity. Here are the ones I use:

  • Online Etymology Dictionary: Use this resource, which is limited in the vocabulary it has been programmed with, as a starting point. I use it to trace the root origin and to make possible suggestions for related words.
  • Wiktionary: Be wary of this site's word of the day feature; that's not where your students should be finding words for Vocabulary Workshop. Every word's roots and etymology can be explored here.

If you're an old-fashioned, hard-bound book kind of resource person, I've shared images at right of my two favorite dictionaries of word origins that I keep in my classroom.

My classroom mentor texts that inspire me to use Greek & Latin roots with more verve:

Vocabulary Unplugged by Alana Morris

Dictionary of Root Words: Greek & Latin Roots by Manik Joshi

Dictionary of Word Origins
by John Ayto

Introduce the lesson by showing a well-designed vocabulary root chart inspired by the root novus- I always start this lesson by sharing the chart below and asking, "What other related words might we add to this chart, and how would we have to do to re-write their definitions so they also contain the meaning of the root word?"

"The meaning of the what?" someone usually mumbles from a liminal state, somewhere in between awake and asleep.

"Look at the chart below again," sayeth I. "This chart is more about the root word found within this vocabulary word than it is about the vocabulary word, I think. If you didn't spot that, please look again, and clean up that drool."

innovative (adjective):
describing someone who has new
and original ideas

(comes from the Latin root novus, which means new)
Related word #1:
novice (noun)
Someone who is new to an activity, like a sport
Related word #2:
renovate (verb)
To make something seem new again
Related word #3:
Nova Scotia (noun)
a Canadian province whose name translates as "new Scotland"
Related word #4:
novel (adjective)
describing an idea or concept that is new and original

Did you know you can simply type words with nov in them into Google, and you'll end up with an entire list. Are all the words on that list related by the Latin root novus? Not at all! I share this fact with you as teacher and leave it to your discretion to share it or not with your students.

When many students see a chart like the one above, they often think, "All words with nov in them must have something to do with new." That's great but not true unfortunately, and students need to understand this fact before they can succeed with this poster/chart assignment. So I let them brainstorm, and I am ready to tell them which are related to the Latin root novus/new because I've taken the time to look things up. You might want to brush up on your knowledge of this fabulous Latin root before using the complimentary chart I'm sharing with you above.

Words with nov that are related to new:
  • Novocain
  • supernovas
  • novitiate
  • novelty
Words actually related to novem/nine:
  • November
  • Novemberish
  • novemdecillion
  • novemvirate
Unrelated words randomly having nov in them:
  • turnover
  • rhinovirus
  • monovalent
  • tenosynovitis

The first column of words would be acceptable additions to the chart up top; the other two columns would not. Students who try to use words like those in the other two columns need a whole not more work with the teacher on morphology (the meaning of roots/chunks with meaning that affect our language) before trying this assignment.

By the way, to clear up one final and common misconception, the following words are NOT related; instead, they are four forms of the exact same word: divergence, diverge, divergent, and divergently. In my classroom, that's an E.G.O.T. Vocabulary Word, and the words in an EGOT aren't related because they're the same word just taking a different form. An EGOT is a completely different vocabulary task in my classroom. You can see many student samples at our Vocabulary Resource page.

If we want related words, we look for four words that are different but which share a root in one form of the word: diverge. Latin roots: dis- (away) and vergere (to turn or slant). So a less-challenging list (based on the fact that dis- is the easier of the two roots) of related words to the word diverge might be: discard, divorce, distant, and disappear. A more challenging related root list goes after the "meatier" root, so I propose: converge, vermicelli, extrovert, and versatile. If you can manage to control which students receive which roots to investigate, then using root posters can be an easily differentiated learning task.

You as teacher can take complete control over which words and roots the students research.

Assigning the Poster: The goal of this learning task is to create a poster like the one pictured here at right. Here, you'll see the sample "root attack" poster I always print out and use with this lesson. You can click below to print your own copy. Kindly give me credit to your students as "Mr. Harrison, your teaching friend in Nevada." Thanks!

The final versions of each poster should feature:

  • A vocabulary word with a correctly identified Greek or Latin root that is identified and whose meaning is shared. As soon as a student has "claimed" a root by writing it and its root's meaning on my class list, no other student may use the same root.
  • A paraphrased definition of the poster's main vocabulary word that purposely makes use of the root word's meaning.
  • Four additional words (you can decide if they all need to be vocabulary words or if students can use already-known words) on the poster that are spelled correctly, and whose parts of speech are correctly identified.
  • The definitions of the four additional words on the poster must contain the meaning of the root word; this is the hardest requirement for most students because it requires re-working the words in the definition they find, not just copying the definition.

I will attempt to take you through my modeling process that I go over with my writers below:

  1. I show them a model of the final poster product, asking, "What is the poster trying to teach you with its use of words, colors and images?"
  2. I write the word diverge on the board, and I explain how the dictionary defines the verb: to separate from an expected route and go in a different direction. We practice using it in sentence.
  3. Next, I write the two roots that morphed into the verb: di(s)- (Latin for away) and verge(re) (Latin for turn), and explain how the roots alone could have told me the word meant away + turn, and from that knowledge I might have guessed a correct definition, if I hadn't known one. "Roots recur in our language--over and over again. Learn them. That is the point of this task."
  4. I draw attention to the poster at right again, having students look again at my use of color in the definitions I paraphrased--didn't copy them at all. I ask, "Do you think the dictionary wrote the definitions the exact same way I did?" Answer: no, especially the last two related words. I had to manipulate the definitions to include whatever my word's root meant. That's the bigggest writing challenge, I find, for my students--to paraphrase a definition based on a root's meaning.
  5. I demonstrate for diverge. Its dictionary definition again: to separate from an expected route and go in a different direction. I rewrite the definition, with their input, so it contains both the words away and turn. It usually comes out something like "To turn away from one's expected route or path."
  6. We practice, using partner brains, trying to define my di(s) words, forcing the word away into their definitions: divide, discard, disbar, distant, disappear. They may have to ask about the meaning of "disbar," but with the other words they should be able to find a way to get the word away in each definition. Celebrate their unique answers and other successes.
  7. We then practice--same partners usually--with the harder of the two roots in the word: ver(gere) -- to turn: converge, vermicelli, extrovert, versatile. These are words that will probably require a classroom set of dictionaries, or the ability to look up the words on line. Teach them tricks, like going to Google and search for Latin root vergeres. Or Google search for English words with VERGE in them; both of these types of searches will yield useable words, but they will also locate words that aren't truly related. You must teach students to verify their work, and I find the best way is to make them check in two different dictionaries to verify the truth behind the answer they're selecting. In my class my final year of teaching, our dictionary work was done on-line; I also had a set of classroom dictionaries that I used before there were online dictionaries.
  8. Posters are drafted on scratch paper. Once I see a complete draft, I allow my students to design their posters by hand or by computer; we still don't have a color printer available to our students at the time of revising this lesson (our Director keeps hoarding funds for her own color printer and printing unnecessary things recklessly and finding no toner for our clients!), so make sure your students who design and print on the computer know they will also have to color with colored pencils or markers.
  9. Final copies, after we play the game at the bottom of this page, are hung throughout my hallway so that my students and others can once in a while be reminded that it's important (and logical) to learn about how words are related through their Greek and Latin roots.

A differntiated plea on teaching students to manipulate definitions accurately: Not all students are good with defining words, but many are. Celebrate and make use of your students who demonstrate this skill easily Remember, when students look up their related words in the dictionary, they will often NOT find their base root's meaning already the definition they're provided. I did NOT find the word earth in the definition for the word terrier when I created my teaching poster model, so I had to skillfully manipulate a definition, keeping it both accurate and demonstrating its link to the original base root.

Your writers--like mine--will likely have trouble writing their own definitions for words that match the part of speech they are explaining. Or they will write noun definitions when they feature the verb form of the word, or they describe a verb's action instead of the adjective they have actually written down as their vocabulary word. This lesson is about paraphrassing definitions, and I want students to be able to compose definitions in their own words while maintaining the accurate voice of a dictionary. I, therefore, provide constant support to my students as they write definitions and manipulate them.

Here is a "down-and-dirty" explanation of how I explain the difference between the four main parts of speech students usually find for their "root attack" posters as I wander and assist my students as they create drafts:

  • manipulating noun definitions: these definitions must sound like you're giving information about a person place or thing. These definitions often start with the words a, an, or the, which are followed by a different noun. For example: "terrier (noun) -- a breed of dog who burrows into the earth after game."
  • manipulating verb definitions: these definitions must start with the word to followed by an action word. For example: "renovate (verb) -- to make something seem new again."
  • manipulating adjective definitions: these definitions often start with "describing a person [or place or thing] who/that _______." For example: "novel (adj) -- describing an idea or concept that is new or original."
  • manipulating adverb definitions: these definitions often start with "done in a way that shows _______." For example: "nihilistically (adv) -- done in a way that shows someone has belief in nothing religious or moralistic."
Some of the Student-Made Posters that Hang Outside my Classroom Door
I am so sorry about the terrible quality of these hallway images. The winter I took these, my hallway was darker and harder to photograph than ever. If you do this lesson and send me some better scans/photos of your students' amazing hallway posters, I will reward you with a PDF copy of a wonderful resource I have to share with those who share back with us. Post your students' poster photos/scans as replies to this Tweet please.

Nate's poster for the root carn- (Greek)

Jordan's poster for the root flex/flect (Latin)

Austin's root poster for trans- (Greek)

Like/Re-Tweet this example.
Pin/Re-pin this image at Pinterest.
A Hallway Published!

Here are many samples hung in one hallway.

Like/Re-Tweet this example.
Pin/Re-pin this image at Pinterest.

A final learning task that felt silly to me but helped many students make a connection bovver the years: Before they go into the hallway for the whole school to see, we do a silly-but-fun task that requires the posters made by my students to be used. I am kind of a stickler for making sure if I have the students do some writing, that we honor that writing by using it in class in a way similar to this one:

  1. Students clear off their desks except for their finished Root Posters. With a piece of scratch paper in hand, they walk through the room several times, finding roots that they like and recognize in posters' related words.
  2. Each student must attempt to use two (or three) roots found on classmates' posters to create a brand new word that doesn't really exist. If I used my own aster- and mort- roots from above, I could create astermortiphobic--a person afraid that the planet will be destroyed by a solar flame or exploding star.
  3. Students check potential spellings of their new words with partners, then finalize them with me. When they have created an original, new word from roots found on posters, they must do one of my ten vocabulary writing tasks for the new word, which you can find on our Vocabulary Resource Page.
  4. I will post several student examples after I am able to get my scanner to work again.


What's a "Root Attack" Poster?
Here's one:

For our twice-monthly classroom Vocabulary Writer's Workshop day, a Vocabulary Root Chart is one of the more logical, research-inspired writing tasks from which my students can choose to publish. Each of their four words must make use of a different writing task. Here is an example of a student's "published" four words, ready for presentation on Vocabulary Workshop Day. In the upper right, this student has done a root word writing task as his learning task for that word.

Visit our
Vocabulary Resource Page
for dozens of free ideas to try!

Socratic Seminars!

I created these "formula poems" with two purposes: 1) to build small group cooperation; and 2) to add a strong new word to our socratic seminars. The day or week before our next seminar, students group together to write one of these poems as a team.

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 two of the eighteen Socratic Seminar poetry 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 poems from us, please use the two poems we share freely as a group-writing task in class one day.

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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.

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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!

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An inspired 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

A Poetic Task / A Metaphorical Task
I got my money's worth from this mentor text! Tons of writing ideas!

Four Metaphor Poems
inspired by Mem Fox's
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

Don't get tired of elections. Parody them!
Run an Unlikely-to-Happen Election in Your Writer's Notebook

Unusual Notebook Election/Campaign
inspired by Doreen Cronin's
Duck for President


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