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WritingFix lessons--
traits and mentor texts

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 right--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, we created this website to provide fresh ideas and lessons for teachers.

our "always write" homepage | our "Writing Lesson of the Month" | email me | writingfix | pinterest | facebook | teachers pay teachers | twitter | youtube | linked in  

I retired in 2019, but I remain a K-16 educator, teacher-trainer, and self-taught webmaster who wants classroom writing to be differentiated and learner-centered.

Please Teach Writing with Passion, not through Programs. If your students hate to write, change your approach to teaching writing. To my teaching friends who are stuck in districts or regions with some prescribed writing "program" in place, well, first of all, I'm truly sorry about that. Most writing programs continue to make promises they do not keep, they are formulaic, repetitive, boring, and for some reason districts keep buying these expensive programs as a fix-all. Rest assured, there are ways to be clever and find ways to insert better writing assignments in to any prescribed teaching tasks so that it doesn't interfere with your school's "program" and its requirements. Do you have enough passion about how important writing is to commit to the passion needed to teach writing well in all grades.

Despite our 2019 retirement from the classroom, this website will remain online, a resource for teachers who want to explore how their established writing routines might have wiggle room to include an iota or two of fun back in writing assignments. There is no reason a fun lesson can't also teach a useful writing skill, and this website is full of fun, skill-focused lessons.

Despite our 2019 retirement from the classroom, the website will also remain on-line to challenge teachers who are independently learning to become better writing teachers; I was one of those teachers for all thirty years of teaching, but I never stopped looking for the perfect writing lesson. Not once. Teaching is boring if you always teach it the same way. Adapt and have fun with our lessons. Having passion for teaching writing comes from having a lot of writing lessons you know are useful yet fun to teach.

And despite our 2019 retirement from the classroom, Dena and I pledge to keep this website online as long as we are able. We hope you'll help us do that by recommending our our Teachers Pay Teachers Store to your colleagues. This Always Write and our WritingFix websites contain nothing but free-to-use resources because we have educators who also support as at our Teachers Pay Teachers site.

Upcoming Workshops and Presentations
I am available for 1- and 2-day workshops, and I present at conferences if I am asked or I have something new to share. Here are materials for upcoming places I'll be.

Pomona, CA
Friday and Saturday, October 11 and 12, 2019
Baltimore, MD (NCTE Conference)
Thursday, November 21 (D Session Presentation), 2019
I conduct workshops for districts or for individual schools. I've been invited to do a two-day workshop on differentiating writing instruction, writing across the curriculum, and vocabulary. Sorry, but this is a closed session; however, I always make my handouts available to anyone. They'll be posted this week!
  • Pomona Teachers: When the handout is ready, it will be posted here. Send me questions to #Always Write
If you're lucky enough to be attending NCTE this year, come to our session on the very first day of the conference.
  • Uncovering Your Teaching Quest: (D Session, 2:30 - 3:45 p.m.) Finding your most Important question through problems, epiphanies, and voices with Gretchen Bernabei, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater and me.
  • My portion of the presentation is accessible here.

"We write to prove that we think." So read the sign I hung above my classroom door on the day I finally became the writing teacher I had set out to become. It took many years of hard work to believe I had learned enough to make that sign and use its words as my classroom motto. Those years of hard work remain the best investment I've ever made in myself as a lifelong learner who was attempting to become the best writing teaching I could be.

Before that sign existed, I very much struggled with the teaching of writing. Using the formulaic structures known by most teachers, I could assign my students and help them produce writing, but writing was a task most of my students strongly disliked because it felt pointless and boring to them. Their book reports, five-paragraph essays, hamburger paragraphs, and diamante poems were spell-checked and edited, but the written ideas showed a depth of understanding that was hardly deep. I remember spending entire weekends grading less-than-stellar portfolio samples from my kids and wondering what I was doing wrong. It became apparent to me that assigning writing was fairly easy, but teaching it was a much harder task. Not one teacher-preparation course from my past had given me the ability to really teach writing. In 1996, starting my Master's Degree, I embarked on a journey that was sponsored by my local chapter of the National Writing Project, and through mentorship and workshops and summer institutes, I learned how to teach writing. And for thirty years in the classroom, I kept honing that skill. Teaching writing well is a skill you can ALWAYS become better at; there is no perfect writing teacher.

This website shares lessons my wife and I created and co-created over fifty-six years of combined teaching, it shares free-to-try-out resources, and it also shares some long-winded -- quite oft verbose -- explanations of the philosophies we've embraced after teaching reading and writing since 1990. We are glad you're visiting. We became a good writing teachers because people shared their best ideas with us, and this is our attempt to share back. Please tell your teacher-friends about anything valuable you discover here for your classroom!

--Corbett & Dena Harrison, Always Write and WritingFix websites

In case you're analyzing my ethos...
How I Transformed from a Formulaic Writing Teacher into an Authentic Writing Teacher and Trainer

My local writing project helped me understand how to really teach writing: After five years of assigning low-level (think Bloom's) writing tasks, I knew what I needed to discover was how writing could be used as both a processing and critical thinking tool. In 1996, I found an amazing teaching organization that completely changed my career. The Northern Nevada Writing Project helped me discover techniques to teach writing in a more meaningful way; even better, they challenged me to step outside the comfort of my classroom's walls and present my new learning and my best ideas to fellow Nevada teachers. Working alongside other NNWP teachers on collaborative projects and demonstration lessons, I learned strategies and analyzed philosophies that were unlike anything I'd learned back in college. I became a writing teacher (as opposed to a writing assigner), and I received my first invitation to become a teacher-trainer during that summer of 1996. I still do both of these, and I remain very proud of both roles.

In 2001 and again in 2002, the NNWP challenged me to take on a third and fourth role for them: webmaster and then Director. I designed and built a resource website for the Northern Nevada Writing Project where innovative ideas from writing teachers all over Nevada were posted, and I wrote for grants to pay for local projects that focused on bettering the writing going on in Northern Nevada classrooms. The WritingFix website, now fifteen years old, features lessons, resources, and entire teacher workshops for any teacher who struggles with the difference between teaching writing and assigning writing, and many of those lessons were built by teachers and students involved in the projects our grants paid for. Between the years of 2001 and 2010, student samples and complete lessons were regularly sent to WritingFix by teachers from all over the world. I'm proud to be the educator who originally created and still maintains this website that freely gives away so many great ideas.

A professional detour...from teaching my students to mentoring their teachers: After transforming my own classroom into a project-based and differentiated environment, the Nevada State Department of Education took notice of my work, and I was offered a challenging new position. Between 2001 and 2010, I served as a Teacher On Special Assignment (TOSA) for Nevada's Northwest Regional Professional Development Program. There, I worked as a K-12 writing trainer and mentor, and as a differentiated instruction specialist in six Nevada school districts. I loved working alongside my fellow teachers in their own classrooms the most, where I successfully co-taught a variety of writing strategies to kindergartners, to high school seniors, and to every age in between. During those years with the Northern Nevada's RPDP, I also embedded myself long-term as a mentor/trainer at seven elementary schools; six of those seven schools' writing test scores increased dramatically during my two or three years of focused work with them. I learned a great deal about the difference between "drive by" teacher trainings and long-term professional development that actually transforms teachers' practices at a school site. Unfortunately, I discovered more administrators than not believed that "quick fix trainings" for writing and differentiated instruction are effective. They're not. As I felt my wheels beginning to spin, and as I continued to be sent to schools that needed more help than a "one-shot" training, I began looking for an escape from the professional development detour I had taken. I missed the energy of a classroom filled with writers.

While I was certainly pleased to be making a difference with my focus schools' test scores, the more important thing I accomplished was was helping a new generation of teachers understand that writing cannot be taught using worksheets, through daily oral language drills, or with formulaic assignments that produce mostly voiceless writing from students. I found myself tossing and turning at night, missing having my own roster of students who were truly my own five days a week. Top off the situation with a highly depressing, unfriendly-to-education legislative session in 2011, I made the decision to leave the RPDP and return to the classroom. I'm proud to say that during my nine years as a full-time trainer and mentor, I never once lost contact with students, and I never once faltered from being an advocate for both teachers and students.

My return to the classroom: As of 2011, I am back among the youthful minds of Northern Nevada; I have my very own batch of student writers again, which is so very wonderful. In truth, it has been a stressful-yet-thrilling experience to learn how to use my "teacher legs" again, if I can force a nautical metaphor into my Nevada-desert experience. My writer's workshop is already thriving (amazing how fast that set of skills comes back to you!), and I have also established a reading workshop for the very first time; I will be posting new materials from this new-to-me structure as my year progresses. I am teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, all of whom I share with the same math, science, and social studies teacher at the middle school where we have set-up shop. I have never "teamed" before, and these three incredible teachers I share my students with are all so willing to use the writing across the curriculum methods suggested in Common Core State Standards. In the past, this website had been focused on the teachers/workshops I created for my fellow Nevada educators, but I have now begun the transformation to focus my website on my classroom, a high-functioning environment where students are allowed to explore themselves as readers and writers.

I invite you to visit me here often this school year on-line...and to see how one single teacher--with over twenty-five years invested in his career--can continually find ways to improve some remarkable lessons and units to be even better than they were. The beauty of teaching writing, to me, is that--like a piece of writing you are working on and really think has potential--a well-crafted writing lesson is NEVER complete. With each re-visit, it can become better, stronger, more creative, and can go to deeper places in my students' amazing brains. At my website, I honor this idea of ALWAYS revising your favorite lessons that invite students to WRITE.

I'm still available to be hired during the summer months for teacher workshops: In Northern Nevada, I am remain an employee of the Washoe County School District for nine months of the year, where I maintain my own classroom, creating a reading and writing workshop as my means of authentic, project-based instruction. Over the summer months, I will continue make myself available to bring my trainings, workshops, and classroom philosophies to any school district that wishes to hire me. If your school or school district is seeking a two-day summer workshop on teaching writing, you should check out my training/workshop homepage to see what I offer and how to contact me.

I invite you to explore this personal website, which I launched in 2007, six years after launching WritingFix. Here, you can link to my best personal lessons, as well as links to favorite lessons from fellow teachers. Here, you can learn what workshops for teachers I am currently offering in Nevada after contract hours, and you can find out how to bring me to your state or district. Here, you can--perhaps--discover something that motivates you to become an even better writing teacher than you already are. I am glad you are here. If you learn anything as a result of your visit, I hope you'll consider sharing it with me.

Three Collections I'm Proud to Feature at my Site:
My Students Know I'm a Writer

To remind them that I too am a writer, I feature a personal writing homepage at this website for my students to examine and critique, which they enjoy doing! I also feature a page at this website that shares my family's writing from the past.

My Students Know Why my Favorite Teacher was my Favorite Teacher

Mike Borilla was my fourth and fifth grade teacher. He was the first teacher who made me feel like a writer. He was also the teacher who most inspired me to become a teacher too. My Mr. Borilla Project Page shares the stories I have told about him.

My Students Know Why I Use Mentor Texts

I've come to believe that having a mentor text to inspire writing is not enough. Your students must understand your purpose of sharing something published with them before they write. My Mentor Text Page shares different purposes of these texts.

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November 2019's Writing Lesson of the Month

Wondering Poems
inspired by Regina J. Williams'

What If...

October 2019's Writing Lesson of the Month

"Rhyme-Time" Riddles
inspired by Andrew Clements'

Double Trouble in Walla-Walla

September 2019's Writing Lesson of the Month

Personifying Vocabulary Words
inspired by David Melling's

The ScallyWags

366 Ideas for Writing/Discussing:

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