Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator since 1990, and a teacher-trainer 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 steps of the writing process. Every year, I challenge myself to improve my writing instruction even more, and this website is where I post my most successful new ideas.

I have been on hiatus from doing out-of-state teacher trainings recently for two reasons: 1) I'm writng a book on teaching writing, and 2) I'm preparing to retire from the classroom at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Beginning in the summer of 2019, I will be available once again to train teachers your school or district if you would like to hire me. You can find general information about my workshops here.

If you would like to verify my availability for a specific date or dates starting in June of 2019, 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

Big news from the Harrison household: Dena said farewell to her classroom of 26 years in August of 2018, and Corbett will be joining her in retirement from his school district for the past thirty 30 years in June of 2019. The Harrisons are thrilled about this life change because it will allow them to work from home on this website and its resources. Starting in mid-June of 2019, Corbett will also be available to come do personalized 1- or 2-day workshops for your school, district, or regional educational center.

In the meantime, Corbett will continue to post these monthly free ideas, all based on techniques I am currently using with my 30th and final group of students. These final postings before retirement may be a bit shorter than usual as I have promised my sixth graders this final semester with me would be their best yet, and that's keeping me busy. I am also--in what little spare time I have--still working on my book on NOTEBOOK STRATEGIES that I'm having incredible success with during this final year.

Thanks for checking out this month's lesson (originally posted in November of 2018), and if you have any questions about it, don't hesitate to contact me: corbett@corbettharrison.com

unique acrostic poems for 6-8 letter vocabulary words...
Vocab Example/Non-Examples

teaching students to create vocabulary riddles for each other to build more student-centeredness in your classroom

One of my best original classroom routines is called Vocabulary Workshop. Twice a month, my students bring in materials and original writing they've prepared based on four vocabulary words they've found and explored in our weekly readings. The materials/writing they prepare force them to write about the vocabulary word in a different context, and then students are required to teach their partners the word they wrote about, helping their partner to compose a perfect sentence or description that uses the word they taught to another during Vocabulary Workshop.

It's very student-centered. Vocabulary Workshop also develops some pretty solid writing skills.

My students have multiple writing tasks they can choose from when they select a word to include in their vocabulary workshop. At present, I have sixteen different options they can use. All can be found on my Vocabulary Workshop materials page here at Always Write.

This page contains my much-needed revision to one of my writing-about-vocabulary-words activities: the antonym/synonym list. I used to accept Vocab Workshop entries like this one from my students, but I realized completing this list wasn't really teaching much because kids were mostly copying--blindly--from the thesaurus rather than really planning an original piece of writing.

I thought about simply changing the antonym/synonym task to an acrostic poem based on the vocabulary word the student had chosen, but I wanted the writing to be more thoughtful than a typical acrostic poem is, from my experience with acrostic poems. I decided to invent the "Vocabulary Acrostic Riddle," which is the technique shared on this page. Enjoy.

Essential Questions/Overview/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • What resources work best for me when I am searching for ideas for my example/non-example vocabulary acrostic poem?
  • What descriptive elements can I add to my acrostic to ensure my audience can make the most intelligent and informed guess to answer my riddle?
  • What "word-smithing" skills do I need to use when creating an acrostic's line, based on an often-random letter?

    CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.*.4 --Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    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.L.9-10.1a -- Use parallel structure (possible acceleration standard/skill for your advanced writers)
  • An even deeper EQ: How can parallel structure and interesting sentence structures be used to create a piece of writing that's interesting to read and poetic in structure?

Introducing/Reviewing Acrostics -- My students crack me up. If I call them just acrostics, the students don't groan; however, when I call them acrostic poems, they groan like ancient ghosts suffering in some sort of purgatory.

I don't consider acrostic "poems" to really be poetry. I consider them to be more of a word game or a word challenge. Be careful not to scare your kids who shy away from poetry by calling these poems. In my class, we called them "riddles," and that kept everyone excited.

I start with a compare and contrast of a typical acrostic "poem" versus the vocabulary-inspired acrostic "riddles" we are learning to create.

A typical acrostic "poem"
A vocabulary-inspired acrostic "riddle"

This came from this free download at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Click image (or here) to see a larger version.

Which three lines from the acrostic describe a potentially jocose situation, and which are non-examples of a jocose situation?

That's the "riddle" part when students share in class.

Set the mood for acrostics with these excellent mentor texts:

by Bob Raczka

Animal Acrostics
by David Hummon

Bow-Tie Pasta Acrostic Poems
by Brian P. Cleary

There are a lot of obvious differences and similarities between the two acrostics above that I share. Here's what I want my students to absolutely notice when they compare/contrast these two examples:

  1. The vocabulary-inspired example above uses more than one word in each line to create a question for the reader.
  2. The vocabulary-inspired example requires the reader to apply their knowledge of the vocabulary word to each line of the riddle.
  3. The vocabulary-inspired example uses different contexts to think about the acrostic word instead of simply finding a descriptive word that matches the acrostic's required letter.

I also demonstrate creating an example in front of the students before asking them to work on their first acrostic riddle. I used the vocabulary word phobia to model on the white board, and I asked students for input at times. Feel free to use this model when modeling for your own students:

A phobia is a fancier word that means fear of something.
Which three of these probably indicate a phobia?
Picking one's skin until it bleeds while worrying about germs?
Having a panic attack when seeing a lightning storm through the window?
Opening a door without being scared of what's on the other side?
Bravely facing a nest of spiders in the garage corner?
Ignoring the bees that were on the nearby flowers?
Angsting about being in wide open spaces?

I have students try writing these riddles first with words that aren't vocabulary words: cereal and slimy. Here is a handout that features the two non-vocabulary words we practiced writing acrostic riddles for.

If your students have trouble with these first two, here are some examples you can select to share with them if they have a letter that stumps them. These suggestions come from my sixth graders from 2018!

Two Practice Words my Students Helped Turn into Acrostic Riddles
Corn Flakes? (Example)
Snails and their cousins, slugs? (Example)
Corn Cob Pipes? (Non-example) Sandpaper fresh from the box? (Non-example)
Energy-supplying Cheerios? (Example)
Lettuce that's rotting in the fridge? (Example)
Elf on a Shelf ? (Non-example) Long, dry sticks of wood? (Non-example)
Raisins with Bran Flakes? (Example)
Inchworms climbing in the compost? (Example)
Remarkable Breakfast Radishes! (Non-example) Igloos up North? (Non-example)
Eggo Breakfast Bites? (Example)
Maggots on rotting meat? (Example)
Eggs with fresh bacon? Mountaintops above 10,000 feet? (Non-example)
Apple Jacks swimming in fresh milk? (Example)
Yogurt spooned into your palm? (Example)
Anchovy Flakes? (Non-example) Yarn fresh from the wool store? (Non-example)
Low fat granola? (Example)
In these samples, we tried NOT to use the words CEREAL or SLIMY in my descriptions.
Logs of wood? (Non-example)

It's important to share and have students hear one another's riddles. Students enjoy sharing their CEREAL and SLIMY acrostic riddles with each other. I find when they are creative with their non-examples, I hear a lot of laughter, which encourages even more sharing of these riddles. My students always pick up new ideas for the next riddle they will write through the sharing of non-threatening examples, like the CEREAL and SLIMY examples.

Assign Vocabulary Acrostic Riddles as an option for Writing about New Words: In my classroom, we see 10-12 different acrostic vocabulary riddles every time we have a Vocabulary Workshop.

If you don't use Vocabulary Workshop, t here is no reason this learning/writing task can't be taught during any vocabulary instruction that you do with your students. When I want to build a learning task that is student-centered, I often require the students to draft riddles and fake quiz questions for each other. This type of riddle is different than most of the other writing tasks, and I like using it because it feels so different when students go through the process and have riddles to share with each other.

Student Samples of Vocabulary Acrostic Example/Non-Example Riddles
Example/Non-example riddle from my 6th grader Kayla

imprudent (ad.) -- not showing care about a consequence of an action, perhaps because of a lack of wisdom or judgment

Which of the following descriptions could be applied to someone who is imprudent?

Incautious of your surroundings?
Minding of your actions?
Perceiving others' actions?
Reflecting on your behavior?
Unobservant of other people?
Deliberating or reflecting?
Examining people's feelings?
Negligent of other people?
Thoughtful of your consequences?

Example/Non-example riddle from my 6th grader Lucas

profusion (noun) -- a large amount of something

Which of the following are examples of something that we couldn't say, "There was a profusion/profuse amount of _____"?

Prices for candy?
Rice grains?
Outer space?
Food in the loaded fridge?
Urchin spines?
Speck of salt?
Insects on earth?
Oceans on earth?
Nothing at all?
Example/Non-example riddle from my 6th grader Ava

indulge (verb) -- to allow oneself the pleasure of

Which of the following do you enjoy enough to indulge in?

Ice cream?
No school?
Doing the dishes?
U Having to clean your room?
Laughing at a joke?
Getting out of bed at 4:00 a.m.
Enjoy summer?
Example/Non-example riddle from my 6th grader Selina

Humdrum (adj.) -- lacking excitement or variety

Which of the following are examples of something that is or isn't humdrum?

House filled with nothing and that has no people inside?
Uninteresting wall with no exciting features at all?
Magic show where a rabbit is pulled out of a top hat?
Drab-looking wall paper that's colored a sickly green?
Red title car with different colored flowers all over?
Umbrella that has wonderful, colorful patterns on it?
Moor that's filled with boring, wet swamps?

Example/Non-example riddle from my 6th grader Julianna:

seafarers (noun) -- people who constantly travel by sea; also know as a sailor.

Would you be a seafarer be a person who is/has...

Seen on or by the sea?
Ever traveled by sea?
Always on land?
Far from the sea?
Always on the sea?
Runs away from the sea?
Easily gets seasick?
R Rides on water?
S Spends a lot of time away from home?

Example/Non-example riddle from my 6th grader Martin:

temperance (adjective) -- abstinence; the practice of restraint with, for example, alcohol.

A person who practices temperance might ask ____ because ___...

"Tired of wine?"
"Exhausted of vodka?"
"Milk for me?"
"Predilection for margaritas?"
"Eager to try sake?"
"Rest from rum?"
"Ache for tequila?"
"No need to drink?"
"Craving for cider?"
"Enthusiasm about beer?
More samples coming soon from my students! If you have student samples to share, feel free to post them in the "comment" window of our original post that announced this lesson: Blog/Posting Link for this lesson Student samples can be typed into the "comment" window or attached as a photo or file.


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