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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.


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One of my most-often requested half- and full-day workshops when I present in other states is my writer's notebook/journal presentation. When I display my students' voice-filled samples (check out my Pinterest boards to see what I mean!) with other teachers, the idea of a starting writer's notebook routine seems both feasible and important. On this page, I share a new type of writer's notebook resource we're developing for the Always Write website. If you use it, let us know, and we will consider continuing to post ideas like this one.

Happy December 2017, which is when this writer's notebook challenge was originally written up and posted! in January of 2017, I found out I would be presenting a session at the NCTE Conference on writer's notebooks/journals with two of my favorite mentor-authors: Gretchen Bernabei and Aimee Buckner. That session was presented on November 17, 2017, to a group of wonderful teachers in St. Louis. Because we use sacred writing time in my classroom, and because that routine is being used in so many fellow teachers' classrooms these days, I spoke about the importance of establishing a routine for this practice and the rationale you should share with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students. If you missed the presentation In November 2017, here is a link to the materials for you to access and use: Journals and Writer's Notebooks: a resource for writers.

celebrating great nouns by paying tribute
TRI-bute Pages for a Notebook

a three-part notebook strategy that teaches
idea development, word choice, and organization skills

Essential Questions/Overview/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • How does one pay proper tribute to a PERSON, PLACE, THING or IDEA to show respect or admiration? What word and idea development skills need to be used when writing a tribute?
  • How does creating a three-part TRI-bute page help me as a writer with organization? Can I create a tribute page that's organized in a way that I think makes more sense to me?
  • If I were to create my own original concept of what a tribute page should look like in my writer's notebook, what unique ideas would go into my creation?

Overview: In ten minutes of daily sacred writing time, students have more than enough time to write tributes. They can write tributes about people they like, places they are fond of, and things that hold special meaning for them or things they respect or admire. This online write-up suggests creating a three-part TRI-bute page that has three distinct purposes/sections that help the writer pay thorough tribute. The lesson below provides suggestions for those three different purposes/sections, but ultimately your students should be encouraged to create their own categories and ideas as they thoroughly pay tribute to someone or something. Ultimately, planning and then creating a three-part notebook page allows students to practice organizational skills, so don't forget to have your own tribute page you can show them so that you can discuss your organizational strategy with them before they decide on one for their own pages.

Two lesson disclaimers:

  • Dividing the task into three and calling them TRIbutes is not evidence of my ignorance of etymology. I completely understand that the word tribute does NOT etymologically use the Greek root for three (tri-) but instead comes from the Latin root for tribe (tribus). Please don't write me angry letters; I explain to my students that the word tribute does not actually come from the root for three, but what a good lesson this is! Some roots are very similar, and they produce similar sounding words that aren't necessarily related: novus (L. for new) and novem (L. for nine), for example.
  • I must pay respect to the very first "Tribute Poem" I ever encountered; it is this untitled Poem by Peter Meinke. When I became a consultant with our Northern Nevada Writing Project, this was one of the assignments they had us do: write our own tribute poem inspired by Peter Meinke's poem. It was hard to find this poem online as a stand-alone poem, so the best I can do is link you to this Blog where the poem is both shared and analyzed by the blog's author. I am sharing the poem; I leave it to you to decide to read and agree with the author's analysis or not.

Practicing writing TRI-butes with Mentor Texts: Any mentor text or article or poem that pays tribute to a person, place, or thing can be used during a practice session where learning how to write a TRI-bute poem is the objective. I make sure we do two practice sessions as a class before I suggest my students use their ten minutes of sacred writing time to write their own TRI-bute pages. Luckily, I have found that TRI-bute pages make great 30-minute processing tasks for small groups as well as a great idea for a page in a notebook, so my students have had lots of exposure to this type of page and its organization.

Here are a fiction, non-fiction, and persuasive mentor text that I have used recently to teach students how to write their own three-part TRIbute page about a person, place, or thing.

  • Duke Ellington is colorful journey into the world of jazz that focuses on a legend. If you're studying history or music or enrichment, having students create TRI-bute pages to musicians is a great way to make use of the TRI-bute format I share on this page.
  • Tornado is from the Nature in Action series, which I love because they are well written. It's nice to have non-fiction written in an interesting way, and Stephen Kramer's books have never disappointed me. I used this page to create a TRI-bute to tornados.
  • Should There Be Zoos? -- I was lucky and found an affordable used copy after this book went out of print. With the help of author Tony Stead, a group a fourth graders objectively weigh the pros and cons of keeping animals from the wild enclosed. This is a good mentor text that leads to interesting TRI-bute pages about zoos.

These are designed to be printed, trimmed to size, folded together (with maybe some glue stick to hold it together), written on, then taped to the edge of a notebook page so it can be flipped from one side to the other without becoming unattached from the notebook.

Mentor texts for making practice pages:

by Stephen Kramer

Duke Ellington

by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Should There Be Zoos?
by Tony Stead

In a Nutshell: What's a TRI-bute Page?

My number one goal with my writer's notebook routine is that I want students to start taking risks as they write during their ten minutes of sacred writing time. One risk I challenge them to try: instead of always writing block paragraphs (aka 'prose'), try writing using different formats! Ten minutes of haiku writing based on what's outside my classroom window, for example.

During the month of October, as another example, I teach my students to write "unlikely recipes" as a different format in their notebooks; I explain my own thinking when I created this "Recipe for a Perfect Summer Day" over three 10-minute rounds of Sacred Writing Time. I later added the color. I also later added the recipe for "Soil Pollution." I added that recipe the year we took a field trip to some diminishing wetlands, and I wanted my students to process what they'd learned in the form of a recipe: a recipe for sustaining the wetlands, for example.

For several weeks after sharing my unlikely recipe page and my metacognition in creating it, I say, "Hey, someone should try writing an 'unlikely recipe' like I did, if they don't have a topic for Sacred Writing Time today." In each class, I always get at least one taker, and once I celebrate that brave writer's recipe, I start seeing others try the same format. You have to be careful. I once had a wonderful student interpret my suggestion to try a recipe as "Write a recipe every day." He kind of exhausted himself from ever wanting to try the 'unlikely recipe' format again by making too many of them.

My ultimate goal with my students' notebooks: try different formats when you write. When I suggest a different format every month, like the recipe write in October, I first start seeing imitation of my format, but then I begin seeing students feeling brave enough to design their own formats. Some formats I know they learned from other teachers (I see a lot of Acrostic Poems, for example) while other formats feel completely original to me (like when they invent a fake phone app during their ten minutes of writing every day in their notebooks).

A TRI-bute page is simply an original format I have created in my attempts to give my more logical students and my mastery learners a new format to try during ten minutes of daily Sacred Writing Time. The format of this TRI-bute page provides a beginning point and an end goal, which my "left-brain" thinkers appreciate as a piece of scaffolding when they write. My mastery learners thrive on seeing and hearing about my own process in the form of my models, which is why I make so many models.

In a nutshell, a TRI-bute page has a writer celebrate a person, place, thing, or idea that the writer knows about and respects, and the task comes with this suggested format: divide your notebook page into three sections, and find three different ways to pay tribute (through a write-up) in those three sections. If you don't have an idea for three things to write about, then you must:

  • Base your first celebratory write-up on a word or phrase that starts with the letter 'T'.
  • Base your next celebratory write-up on a word or phrase that starts with the letter 'R'.
  • Base your last celebratory write-up on a word or phrase that starts with the letter 'I'.

There are three sections on a finished TRI-bute page (or on a two-page spread, if the topic is worthy of that tribute). The three sections' initial letters spell out the root for "three." That's the whole idea. Here is the brainstorming worksheet (also shown at right) I designed to teach the format of a TRI-bute page in class one day; typically, when I am teaching new writing formats like this one to students, I have them working on a topic in small groups or partnerships. In these groups/partnerships, they are required to create roles for themselves and explain their thinking and metacognition any time the invitation for such a talk is made. I like to shout in the middle of work time: "PAUSE & LISTEN! Everyone in the group take 45 seconds to explain what it is they're doing for the group's project, and explain tell the group something specific your brain is doing to help you complete the task you're working on for the group." Spy on your groups as they share amongst themselves; you'll hear some interesting ways that students think when they are creating something they are interested in."

Below is an example TRI-bute page from my writer's notebook and a video that gives an overview of this structured writing assignment that can be easily manipulated by students who need less scaffolding. A TRI-bute page can be used in a writer's notebook/journal, or it can be used as a stand-alone assignment or as one assignment in a larger project on a topic of study.

A TRI-bute Page from my Notebook:
Look, Ma! I'm on YouTube!

In November of 2017, at the NCTE Conference in St. Louis, I finally met and then presented with two of my favorite teacher-authors: Gretchen Bernabei and Aimee Buckner. I created this TRI-bute page to celebrate this new friendship.

Click here or on the image to see it in larger form.

Too busy to read my long-winded sentences below? Just have time for a quick & visual overview of this lesson? I know how busy teachers can be, so I am working on creating these short videos to accompany these ideas and resources I post monthly.

Click here or on the image to view the video at YouTube.

Remember, I don't share these teaching ideas for you to imitate word for word, play for play; my hope is that you'll find an element or two in each idea I suggest and adapt that element to work for your classroom and your content and your students' needs. Adaptation is a skill all above-average teachers I've ever met have in common!

Step #1: Create a Whole-Class, Group, or Partnership TRI-bute Page Assignment

I try to run a student-centered classroom. I hope you do too. In my daily effort to do less talking than my students do, I often assign small group tasks to my writers as my means of teaching them to talk productively while simultaneously learning a new writing format...like the TRI-bute page featured here. In small groups, especially if you build a class environment where students share their metacognition as part of the learning, my students tend to teach each other better writing tricks than me...sometimes. So I assign this to small groups the first time we learn the format.

I find after two practice sessions with TRI-bute pages designed by writers in small groupings, my students' level of confidence in designing and creating their own TRI-bute pages increases significantly enough that I can start hinting that maybe they might start appearing in notebooks and journals.

The first TRI-bute page I assign is not meant for the notebook or journal. It's meant more to be a final product that a small group creates on--perhaps--11 x 17 construction paper that can be shared and/or posted around the room. Only after I have my students create a TRI-bute page with others do I suggest they consider the format for their writer's notebooks during sacred writing time. My examples below all come from notebooks, but I am certain you--as teacher--can visualize these examples on 11 x 17 paper as a small group's final project.

Here are the steps I have student groups go through when first learning about the TRI-bute page format:

  1. Students learn new content about an easily-respected person, place or thing. They will pay TRIbute to the noun they research in the form of a specialized page. The mentor texts I use are listed above, but I am guessing every teacher has a chapter or an article or an essay or a picture book that is paying tribute to a noun that fits your own content or standards.
  2. Students work in groups to process content using this advance organizer/brainstorming sheet.
  3. Students work with their groups to design a draft of their TRI-bute page. I like groups of three for this because then you can have two writers and an artist as easy "group roles," and you can rotate the students in and out of the artist's role every four or five minutes.
  4. With teacher approval, students create a final version of their TRI-bute pages based on their drafts. Only in the final stage do I allow students to use computers to type their words or use on-line pictures.

At right, you can click on my own notebook's example TRI-bute page that I based on the non-fiction picture book Tornado, written by my teacher-author-friend Stephen Kramer. My wife, who took Spanish in high school while I was taking French, fought me (and Stephen) on my spelling of Tronado as my 'T' portion of the tribute page, but Google Translate proved me and Mr. Kramer correct.

With my TRI-bute page to a Tornado, I used words found the content when I was choosing my 'T' and 'R' and 'I,' not the suggested words on the advance/graphic organizer this lesson comes with. I also wanted to create a model in my notebook that was more dependent on the words from the advance organizer, so I did a little research on the Dred Scott case, which I had become interested in recently because of my trip to St. Louis, a city that played a big part in Dred Scott's life. So based on my own field trip to the St. Louis courtroom where Dred Scott's case was originally heard, I created a new example to show my students. Because the courtroom was so close to the St. Louis Arch, I created another variation of a TRI-bute page based on the short field trip I made to that landmark:

My TRI-bute page to Dred Scott
My TRI-bute page to the St. Louis Arch
With this example, I was mostly faithful to the suggested words on the graphic organizer. If I remember my process, only the work impetus in the 'I' section is one I came up with myself. With this example, I used the "Extra box" in each section of the graphic organizer that permits writers to insert their own word for the 'T' the 'R' and the 'I'. Actually, I was making a two-page spread this time, so I brainstormed three words for each of the three sections. Click on the image to enlarge it, and you'll see what I mean.

Step #2: Invite students to design and compose TRI-bute pages in their own notebooks during Sacred Writing Time.

This is a pretty simple step in the teaching process, if you did a good job having your students create stand-alone TRI-bute pages, which was what I suggested you do in Step #1 of this lesson write-up. If your students have learned the format of a TRI-bute page, a teacher can easily say on the day following the completion of Step #1, right before that day's Sacred Writing Time begins:

  1. Teacher: "Here's an idea: why not create a TRI-bute page during sacred writing today on a topic you think deserves some sort of written tribute. It may take you two or three days to finish the page, but that doesn't mean you can't start one today."
  2. On day two, say, "Don't forget about TRI-bute pages. Can you create one totally on your own for your own notebook?"
  3. Repeat saying #2 every day for--at least-- two weeks. Celebrate your students who try out the different format.

I'll say it once more: I ask my students to try different writing formats in their writer's notebooks because I think it's good for their thinking. If you do the same thing every day--like write in a notebook--and you do it in the same way every day, you stop paying attention. I ultimately want my students to pay enough attention to create their own original formats and their own ideas to use within those format. I believe this page's TRI-bute format is one I can share with all my writers to have them begin to explore different formats.

Step #3: Tribute pages belong in Writer's Notebooks, but they don't have to follow any set format...

As I said earlier, I created the TRI-bute's page format as a way to invite my more logical and my mastery learners into the notebook page-design conversation. I want every student to use logic and creativity simultaneously later in life, and a notebook is a perfect place to be both logical and creative. To practice those skills and to try to see how they work

Remember, you'll have students who don't need a formula/format to create a TRI-bute page like those I have presented them on this webpage; sometimes, in fact, asking creative students to follow formulas can squelch their creativity. At the same time, a notebook in my class cannot be allowed to have zero structure or logic to it. So I invite you to this professional debate that I still am having twenty-eight years into teaching: How do you balance logical support for students who need it with the creative support that many other students need? When I'm differentiating during writing instruction, that question is often my driving force.

And I don't have the answer to it.

All I can tell you is that I can easily look back through my own notebooks and find that I have paid honorable tribute to persons, places, and things in ways that had no assigned format; in fact, each format was "invented" by me as I paid tribute. That's the skill I hope this practice gives all my students.

Tribute to Joyce
Tribute to Alcatraz
Tribute to Pudge
My step mom, Joyce, passed away in late summer of 2017. I was planning to visit her in October of the same year, and I was crushed. I wrote this tribute page. For four years in a row, we took our eighth graders on an overnight field trip to San Francisco. The Alcatraz tour guide's voice always amused me, so I created this tribute. Pudge was Dena's dog when I met her, and he became mine when I married her. When he passed away of diabetes, I created this list of his best attributes.


If your students like the idea of using TRI-bute to inspire writing on a notebook page, I would love to see you post a picture/scan of their writing at this posting link: Better still, if your students invent a new way to uniquely inspire writing in their writer's notebooks, we want to hear about it: corbett@corbettharrison.com


from Corbett & Dena Harrison to you...
Twelve Unique Notebook/Journal Ideas
A writer's notebook keeper is a person who is always seeking unique ways to present his/her ideas. Can you invent your own unique notebook approaches inspired by my twelve examples?

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.

If you're a teacher who is just getting started with classroom writer's notebooks, welcome aboard. We fund this website--Always Write--by selling just a few of our products from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Before buying, kindly take advantage of the free preview materials we share so you know if the resources will work with your grade level and teaching style before you purchase the entire product.

Our FIRST Product!
Beginner Prompts, Thoughtfully Presented:

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --
-- Free Preview of August & September --

-- short video about SWT & Bingo Cards --

365 Ideas for Writing/Discussing:

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --
For Writers Needing a Guided Challenge:

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --

Did you miss this freely posted lesson?

RheTURKical Triangle -- Lesson Link

Never miss another FREE lesson! Join our Lesson of the Month email group here.

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --

Mentor texts to inspire Vocabulary Collectors:

The Boy Who Loved Words
by Roni Schotter

Boris Ate a Thesaurus
by Neil Steven Klayman

Did you miss this freely posted lesson?

Primary Source Picture Books -- Lesson Link

Never miss another FREE lesson! Join our Lesson of the Month email group here.

Notebook Mentor Texts that Inspire Student Writers:

A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You by Ralph Fletcher

Marissa Moss's entire Amelia's Notebook series is great, and I have them all. My favorite titles include:

Notebook Know-How: Strategies for Writer's Notebooks by Aimee Buckner


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