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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 maintain this website to provide fresh ideas and lessons for teachers.

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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 pre-write in their Writer's Notebooks for ideas that will become Writing Workshop topics, my wonderful wife (Dena Harrison), a fabulous fellow NNWP Consultant (Jenny Hoy), and I conceived and created nine Choice Menus for Notebooks/Workshop during a recertification class we took during Spring Break of 2012. In August of 2012, we will make available for the first time the entire set of nine menus which we will begin using this September. Each culturally-themed menu (the Italian menu is freely posted below) comes with five sections, each with three choices: appetizers, soup, salad, entrees, and desserts. Students can earn a special notebook sticker by making a complete "meal" using the different sections of the menu.

Want more than a sticker, you say? The "Salad Section" for each month's menu is actually an "extra credit" notebook option. Inspired by a different mentor text that we will display in class, each menu will feature a unique online challenge that comes with a teacher-model to inspire creativity. Students who read through the online notebook challenge below, enjoy the featured mentor text independently, and then peruse my teacher-model to create an original page in their notebooks will also receive a bonus notebook participation grade. The final notebook page must be neat, creative, illustrated, and colored!

The lesson below is featured on our Italian-themed menu!
There are eight more lessons and eight more monthly menus available.

My wife (Dena Harrison) both have had great success motivating our reluctant writers with the Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards we began creating back in 2010. Dena and I both depend on writer's notebooks, writer's workshops, and elements of differentiated instruction techniques to hone our writing lessons. Those Bingo Cards, we discovered, were doing a great job of inspiring our students who were brand new to notebooks and workshop, and they simultaneously provided a very high level of scaffolding for teaching our more reluctant writers to think of unique ideas and writing formats to use in their workshop writing.

At the same time, we also discovered, we both had students who didn't need the Bingo Card topics at all; they were completely competent at exploring independent ideas without the help of the cards' ideas/suggestions.

Finally, we discovered that we also had this "middle group" of writers who were sophisticated enough to think beyond the Bingo Cards but not quite sophisticated enough to come to class with their own ideas or ways to explore ideas that they liked. Each day, during the time we set aside daily for writer's notebook time, we watched this middle goup shrug off the Bingo Cards but not trust their own ideas enough to write about them in their notebooks.

And so, we used our knowledge of differentiated instruction to begin developing a new tool for that middle group of writers, and it has evolved into a much more interesting tool than we had first envisioned. We were lucky enough to be taking a recertification class over Spring Break that allowed us to choose an independent project to work on, and so we dove head-first into this new project. This new set of menus, which we will be using alongside the Bingo Cards, balances a new level of scaffolding with two things: 1) word play and 2) trait-language. Each menu will also offer a link to an extra-credit option that is designed to capitalize on a students' creativity.

On this page, we freely offer access to the extra-credit option that goes along with our Italian Restaurant-themed. Menu:

Purchase the entire set of nine Menus to support our websites this August: We're kind of perfectionists, Dena and I. The menus are done, but we want to let them sit for a month and re-visit them every couple of days until they feel perfect. During the second week of August, we plan to make available all nine of the menus for a small price. It's not free to keep our websites and online lessons posted on the web. All proceeds from the sale of these Menus Cards fund our two websites' upkeep.

Northern Nevada Teachers, NNWP Consultants, and parents of my students: Dena and I will not be charging any Northern Nevada teaching colleagues who've taken any of our inservice classes or anyone who's a consultant for the Northern Nevada Writing Project. If you're a parent of any of my students, I'll happily send you the complete set as well. E-mail either of us and we'll send you the notebook cards to your school district e-mail address.

Contact me (corbett@corbettharrison.com) if you have questions about this product before ordering!

An Extra-Credit Notebook Idea from the Italian Restaurant-themed Writing Menu:
Our Special, Creative "Pasta Salad":
Personifying an Abstract Noun
(or Two) by Sending it on Vacation...

Overview of this Notebook Prompt:

This prompt is based on a funny little book by Robin Pulver called Punctuation Takes a Vacation. In this story, the author imagines that punctuation--like a person--could decide on its own that it was going to pack up and take a vacation. Chaos ensues back in Mr. Wright's classroom with no punctuation to be found anywhere. The punctuation marks are further personified when they take up the very human action of sending postcards from their vacation destination to Mr. Wright's struggling writers.

When authors personify creatively, I always pay attention. See, people go on vacation, not punctuation marks; I found this story did something pretty darn unique with personification. I thought of other abstract nouns (like happiness, misery, honesty, death and creativity), and I wondered, "Where would they go on vacation?" and "What would their vacations be like?" and "What would happen to the rest of the world while they were away on vacation?"

It's not a completely original thought because movies and plays have played with this idea many times over the years. In an early example, there's a classic movie called Death Takes a Holiday (based on a 1929 play of the same name) where the character Death, bored with his job as the Grim Reaper, takes both human form and a holiday, posing as a vacationing Prince at an estate. The play attempts to prove that even Death can find someone who completely understands and loves him. But can he love her back? Go rent the movie! Or you can see the Broadway musical they wrote based on the original play many years later.

The mentor text that inspired this notebook idea:

Punctuation Takes a Vacation

Your creative challenge for your notebook...Choose any one of these questions:

  • Other then Death, what personified abstract noun would be fun to encounter on vacation?
  • Where and with whom might your personified abstract noun take its vacation?
  • What would happen to the rest of the world while your abstraction was on holiday?
  • What might your abstraction do for fun while on holiday?
  • Or...? See me if you have a better question to answer based on this personification technique. Please, only select this option if you actually have thought of a creative idea for what your answered question would look like if it was a one-page (or more) addition to your writer's notebook.
For extra credit, in your Writer's Notebook:
Create a one-page combination of writing and illustration to answer the question you've chosen from above.

An extra resource: If you need an idea for a good abstract noun to personify, you can consult this page of emotionally abstract faces or this ABC list of abstractions from my writer's notebook.

Need an example? Below is the page I created for my writer's notebook. What do you think? Let me know by telling me in class or--if you're not one of my own students--by e-mailing me at: corbett@corbettharrison.com. Can you create a writer's notebook page that's more original than mine? I'll bet you can...

Click the image to be able to zoom in on details.

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