Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator and a teacher-trainer since 1991. I specialize in teaching writing using differentiated instruction. I also focus on critical thinking techniques, especially during the pre-writing and revision steps of the writing process.

I serve Northern Nevada for nine months of the year (August-May), and during summers and during our two-weeek breaks during the school year, I hire myself out to school districts and professional organizations around the country.

Summer of 2014 is all booked. If you would like to check my availability for the summer of 2015, please contact me at my e-mail address.



       Because writing--when taught right--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, I created this website.

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

Here's one of my original writer's notebook lessons. To assist our students as they maintain writer's notebooks for the classroom, my wife (Dena Harrison) and I created monthly "Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards"; the first card is for September, the last for May. Each Bingo card comes with twenty-four ideas and suggestions for creating a unique notebook page that--once added to the notebook--might very well inspire future writing. Students receive a new Bingo card on the first day of every month; if they create a "Bingo" by completing five ideas "in a row," they earn a special sticker for their notebook, and the same award is applied if they make a "four corners." I have students who choose not to use the Bingo card's suggestions at all (because they have their own ideas ready-to-go), I have others who do a few suggestions from the card but not enough to win a sticker, and I have students who are completely dependent on the card for notebook ideas.

Once a month, we do a whole-class lesson for the notebook; this lesson is featured in the center space of each month's bingo card, where it serves as everyone's "free space." On this page, you will find May's Guided Notebook Lesson from our set of "Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards".

May's Teacher-Guided Lesson for Writer's Notebooks:

A Grammar-in-Context Notebook Prompt:
Interesting Story Title Collection to Inspire Summer Writing!

Overview of this Notebook Prompt:

I am particularly fond of writer's notebook lessons that not only inspire future writing ideas but also allow me to reinforce grammar lessons in small doses. This lesson does both: a) students create a list of potentially-interesting titles for future stories while b) learning how nouns can also serve as interesting adjectives when you explore how noun phrases are created. When you learn a grammatical concept while planning an actual piece of writing (as opposed to simply completing a grammar worksheet) you are learning "grammar in context," and a teacher increases students' potential for understanding the grammar at a deeper-than-apply level on Bloom's taxonomy.

Students have a hard time identifying parts-of-speech, but if you ask students what part-of-speech a "paper bag" is, surprisingly most of them recognize that it's a noun. In Robert Munsch's charming picture book, The Paper Bag Princess, we see the noun--paper bag--used as an interesting adjective in the story's title, and this allows us to discuss how specific nouns can become interesting adjectives in the hands of skilled writers.

For this writer's notebook lesson, students create a page that celebrates examples of interesting & specific nouns serving as adjectives in story titles. After creating a list of interesting story titles they'd be willing to explore further during an upcoming writer's workshop day, students select one or two of their best titles and illustrate a "future scene" from the story they are envisioning in their heads. This all happens in students' notebooks.

On a future writer's workshop day, students can be invited to re-visit this page in their notebooks and use its ideas to begin a new story. Students who really like creating this page of potential story titles can also be encouraged to go through the page-building process a second time, creating twice as many potential story titles in their writer's notebooks.

My mentor text for this lesson:

The Paper Bag Princess

Sharing the Mentor Text/Brainstorming:

A few days after sharing Robert Munsch's The Paper Bag Princess, I like to bring the anti-fairy tale out again and say, "I had an interesting thought about the grammar in the title of this book last night. Normally, I'd say paper bag is a noun; it certainly is if you just say, 'My lunch is in a paper bag today.' But if you put it in front of another noun as a way to describe that other noun--like Robert Munsch does here in his book title--you actually are turning the noun paper bag into an adjective, which is another part of speech altogether. I thought I'd let you work with a partner this morning to see if you could come up with five other possible story titles where paper bag is serving as an adjective in front of another noun."

Here are some examples to get your students started, if they need a little jolt:

  • The Paper Bag Fort
  • The Paper Bag Thief
  • The Paper Bag Government

Have students work in partnerships to create five interesting Paper-Bag-as-an-Adjective Titles. Celebrate their most creative ideas by putting them on a chart that can be brought out again. Challenge students to listen for interesting noun phrases over the next twenty-four hours where a noun is being used as an adjective. Here is some my students brought back to class the next day:

  • Sushi chef
  • Kitchen knife
  • Dog Biscuit
  • Phantom Tollbooth

An Interactive, Choice-Inspired Topic Game:

If possible, share the button-pressing game below with your students. If you can project this screen in your classroom and do a whole class demo, that works nicely, but you can also--on a future computer lab day--have students come to this address and individually press the buttons, recording titles they serendiptiously create on a piece of scratch paper.

What I want my kids to do when they start pressing buttons is to--first--laugh a lot at the silliness of the random words coming together and the to--second--begin to see possible , unique story titles they actually would be willing to write during my writer's workshops. As they press the buttons, I make sure I am throwing out the following grammatical terms and that they are using them with each other correctly: noun, adjective, noun phrase.

A Serendipity Prompt from Corbett's Classroom to Yours:!
Can you start an original story with this title?


Creating/Modeling a Writer's Notebook Page:

In my writer's workshop, most of my students' ideas for their independent writing begins in their writer's notebooks. If you have never established a writer's notebook requirement for your students, be sure to read over WritingFix's Writer's Notebook Resource Page, and if you can, get yourself a copy of Ralph Fletcher's A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. This little advice guide from Ralph (pictured, at right) is a constantly-referred-to text in my classroom, especially in the first few months that we're setting up our notebooks. Unlike a journal, which contains daily thoughts and ramblings, a writer's notebook is a place where students 'save' quality ideas for future writing that occur to them; the ideas they save are specific to writing the students would be willing to do during an upcoming writer's workshop block. I require my students to make their notebooks very visual, incorporating stickers, cut-outs, and original drawings inspired by my Mr. Stick character, which I introduce them to in the first week of school.

This lesson's notebook page is a good opportunity to have students start recording academic language (nouns, adjectives) alongside ideas for writing. But they need to see a model. I believe it so very important to have your own version of this notebook page assignment that you can show your students. Just below, you will find mine, which you can certainly claim as your own, but I'm including it here as my attempt to inspire you to create your own. Your students will be incredibly inspired to do a better job with this notebook spread if they see your creative attempt to do the same assignment.

I usually have my students pencil sketch a rough draft of what their whole-class assigned notebook page will look like, recorded on a piece of scratch paper, before they print it neatly and add color in their actual notebook. This gives them an opportunity to check their spelling before committing their ideas to the actual notebook.

At left, is the frame I used when designing my own notebook page for this lesson. I am not so strict as to say all my students' pages need to look exactly like mine; I encourage creativity provided the students capture the "bare minimum requirements" of the page. In this case, students had to have seven nouns-as-adjectives next to seven nouns, then had to illustrate their two favorites from that list. For this, I asked students to create a "movie in your mind scene" from both favorite titles they chose.

When students have their lists of seven nouns on each side, I really challenge them to cross ideas diagonally as well as straight across. On my example below, I drew arrows diagonally to show my favorite story title ideas that occurred to me as I "crossed ideas." If you click on the image below, you can isolate/print just my page (in black and white or color!) so that it fits on an 8.5" x 11" inch piece of paper, but I seriously hope you are inspired to create your own "Interesting-Sounding Story Titles Collection" page inspired by my model here.

(Click here to open a printable version of this notebook page.)

Sharing/Talking/Planning Future Writing:

The reason why I require visuals in my students' notebook pages is that--when I ask them to share with each other--the visuals always launch a great conversation; when only words appear on a notebook page, my students have a harder time starting a real conversation because it's easier just to read the writing to each other. My students love to share and talk about this two-page spread. I hear a lot of students say, "Oh, that's a good idea" while they speak, and that type of comment does two things: 1) shares one student's good idea with another and 2) reinforces a student's good idea so that the student might be more willing to do something more with the cited idea.

After students have laughed and shared their pages with each other, explain, "Next time we have a writer's workshop day and you're unsure what you can start working on, here is a page that will inspire you. I would like to see everyone use--at least--one idea from this page before the year is out."

An Invitation to Share Students' Story-Title Collection Pages:

You will have students who create awesome notebook pages inspired by this activity--onse that should serve as models for future students who go through this writing activity. I hope you'll consider photographing and sharing any students' notebook page that really are inspirational. Tell your students you're going to choose the three best notebook pages and post them at WritingFix; this is a fabulous way to motivate your writers, and your students could very easily have their pages seen by the tens-of-thousands of teachers and writers who visit our site annually.

The link in the blue box below will take you to our posting page specifically set up for this lesson. And hey, I'd love to see teachers sharing their own models of this assignment too!


Click here to visit our ning's posting page,
where you can post photographs of student notebook pages.