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 February's Guided Notebook Lesson from our set of "Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards".

A Teacher-Guided Lesson from our Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards:

a thinking/processing task that's great for writer's notebooks:
Start & Stop Poems
Non-Fiction Topics Explored and Analyzed through a Simple Poetic Format

Overview of this Notebook Prompt:

This notebook prompt teaches students a format for processing information: The Start & Stop Poem, which is a simple writing format I feel confident I invented. In a Start & Stop Poem, the first and last line are identical, and in really thoughtful ones, a reader usually doesn't even pick up on this structural fact.

This lesson teaches this poetic format by--first--exploring it with language arts ideas, and --then--exploring content topics from other classes using the structure of the poem. A two-page writer's notebook spread is the outcome of this lesson, and--once established--students can be encouraged to make use of the format in future writing and processing tasks.

My mentor text for this lesson:

Twilight Comes Twice
by Ralph Fletcher

Interacting with the Mentor Texts:

Like a "Hamburger Paragraph," I find it difficult to find a published model of Start & Stop Poems in the real world. I am always looking for new ones (so let me know if you know of a published one), but mostly I have to rely on past students' samples and my own model (below) when explaining this structured poem to my new students. Because of this reason, I use a lot of picture books that start and end similarly to teach the structural concept of this type of poetry. Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Pig a Pancake series all start and stop similarly. The Important Book by the great Margaret Wise Brown also has passages that start and stop almost identically. To prepare students for repeating a thought at the beginning and end of a piece of writing, these two mentor texts can certainly be referred to.

I am partial to sharing Ralph Fletcher's Twilight Comes Twice as we learn this type of poem. The subject of the picture book--a poet describing twilight in the morning and describing twilight in the evening--is the sort of real-world event that can be easily translated into this type of poem. Ralph doesn't exactly begin and end his book with the words "Twilight Comes Twice," but he might have; in fact, I have student groups--inspired by the content of the mentor text--create a Start & Stop Poem about Twilight, and their poems begin and end with the three words in his title. So, we borrow the idea explored by Fletcher, and we translate that idea into the structured poetry format I am teaching here.

Between reading Ralph's picture book and assigning the group to its poem, I show them my model poem "In Winter" (at right), and we talk about why it's called a Start & Stop Poem (It starts and stops with the same group of words, if you didn't catch that!). In truth, a Start & Stop Poem could be as short as three lines of poetry, but the goal of the writer should be to include enough details in between the two repeating lines so that a reader might just not remember the last line of the poem is a repeat of its first line unless they go back and look carefully. A good Start & Stop Poem, I always say, also requires a second poetic tool (simile, metaphor, rhyme, onomatopoeia, personification, alliteration, imagery etc.) to fill in those details. In my model poem at right, I used personification, and I make sure my students notice this (as well as review the names of the other poetic options they are allowed to use.

Then--in groups--they compose a poem called Twilight. Borrowing from Fletcher's title, they are required to begin and end the poem with his title sentence "Twilight comes twice." What they do in between those two lines of the poem is up to the poetic element(s) the group has decided to focus on. At this point, they've heard the book just once from me, so they're encouraged to borrow ideas they remember author Fletcher focused on, but they aren't allowed to directly quote anything with the exception of the book's title as their first and last sentence.

We share our group-built Twilight Poems (usually published on chart paper or displayed on an overhead/Elmo), and then we put them away...for a day or two.


A Writer's Notebook Page to Capture to Thoughtful Start & Stop Poems:

I have become such a strong proponent of using writer's notebooks during pre-writing--the kind of tools discussed by Ralph Fletcher (at right) in his A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. There's really no better way to pre-write than to have students create a fun page in their writer's notebooks that invests them in an upcoming writing assignment or thinking task. Fletcher gives lots of advice on turning students into "collectors" of language--ones who save favorite words, quotes, etc.--on dedicated pages of their writer's notebooks; once one of these pages is established, it can be revisited and added to throughout the year. I created this writer's notebook poetry lesson, thinking Start & Stop Poems could be another form of language students might learn to collect. After students create the two notebook pages suggested with this lesson, they can be encouraged to further collect start & stop poems about any topics that occur to them in the future, and they can be encouraged to transform their ideas into longer pieces of writing about topics.they explored with poetry.

Explain, "Inspired by our group poems based on Twilight Comes Twice, I want you to spend this month collecting interesting Start & Stop poems that might be featured on a new, two-page spread in your writer's notebook. We'll start with two poems that are appropriate for language arts class." One poem for English class can be about any topic--sky's the limit; the second poem has to be about something event-wise that has a repeating effect to it. That second can be something that repeats just twice daily (like twilight), but my students often have a hard time coming up with anything other than what I call bed-to-bed poems, which I always really don't like in stories (I got out of bed as an intro, followed by I climbed into bed that night and went to sleep as a conclusion) so I really don't encourage this topic for these poems; I have had a great couple of poems over the years on brushing teeth, however. I refer them to my poem about winter and say, "Lots of things repeat that aren't confined to the same day: seasons, moon phases, weekly chores, coin flips at different sports games, etc.; I encourage you to think about repeating items like this." Usually, my students have their first topic fairly quickly.

With a topic ready to go, they are ready to compose. To begin (and end) the poems, I give them three good options, but I am flexible if someone has a better idea that works for them: a) start/stop with a short, interesting sentence (like "Twilight comes twice."); b) start with a subordinate clause (like "If you give a pig a pancake,"); c) or start with a prepositional phrase (like in my teacher model above.). It may be necessary to have a little mini-lesson on subordinate conjunctions and prepositions ready to go; don't forget to remind them of punctuation rules during these mini-lessons!

Over the next week, students are given time to compose two Start & Stop Poems and take them through the writing process: rough draft, revision and response, publishing in writer's notebook. On Friday of that week, we have a Start & Stop Publish Party, which I always begin and in with these words: "Let's be thankful for Start & Stop Poems as a format we can use in this class from now on." During our "party," students copy final drafts and illustrate their best two Start & Stop Poems.

Below is my teacher model of the two finished poems I published during language arts time. I show this example early on in the week, I make sure students notice how many details come in between my first and last line of poetry, and I make sure they see that I have a blank page ready to collect/write Start & Stop Poems from my other classes.

(Click here for a really large version of this notebook page.)

Start & Stop Poems as a Writing Across the Curriculum Task:

I share my students with the same math, science, and social studies teachers, which is a wonderful teaching situation; I work very hard to make sure many of my lessons that teach unique writing tasks (like this one) have a "part 2" to them; during "part 2," our students specifically carry the writing technique I've taught them to their other content classes with the assignment they are to bring back--in this case--Start & Stop Poems inspired by content and vocabulary they are studying in those other classrooms. In my Language Arts room, once they have brought ideas back from the other content areas, we work on shaping those ideas so they are the best, small pieces of writing they can be.

When the students have completed both part 1 and part 2 of this month-long notebook task, I can tell my teaching colleagues that their students are ready to use Start & Stop Poems as a new tool in their own learning logs and interactive notebooks.

I inform my students they will become "collectors of original Start & Stop Poetry topics" in their other classes over the next three weeks. As they take notes, do activities, and learn in their other core areas of study, they are to always be thinking, "Could I translate this idea into a structured poem passage for Mr. Harrison's class?" Every day in my language class, I remind them to do this, and I allow them to talk to each other for about five minutes in small groups to throw ideas back and forth based on that day or the previous day's math, science, and social studies lessons. One day a week (I like Thursdays), I stop class ten or fifteen minutes early and have students partner-up, share the passages they have thought of, ask for revision help from the group to make their couplets sound more natural and fluent, check each other's spelling and punctuation, then copy them neatly onto a page we've designated in their notebooks.

As far as my lesson's timeline, I explain, "If you were to be really doing this task diligently," I would expect you that have a new Start & Stop Poem for either math, science, and social studies ready to go every week." It doesn't perfectly work out this way mathematically for every student, but it's a goal for them to aim for, and many do get there because of my daily reminders.

Here is my writer's notebook model I show them after week #1. If you're making your own model, I suggest you photograph the page as it develops this way; showing the entirely-finished two-page spread (with all five poems) all at once can be a bit daunting to my students. I started with history for my page, but it doesn't have to be history.

(Click here for a stand-alone version of this page that can be printed on legal-sized paper.)

Here is my writer's notebook model I show them after week #2. Now I have added a math poem about fractions.

(Click here for a stand-alone version of this page that can be printed on legal-sized paper.)

Here is my writer's notebook model I show them after week #3. My final contribution turned out to be a science topic!

(Click here for a stand-alone version of this page that can be printed on legal-sized paper.)

Remember, the rough drafts for these Start & Stop Poems go on scratch paper. Only after students have checked their spellings and shared out loud in a group, asking for revision suggestions, are they allowed to carefully transfer the poems into the writer's notebook on the right-hand side of the two-page spread. I want these five poems to be both detailed and close-to-flawless when they enter the notebook so that I can hold future poems to these five as "standards for expectations."

Use Start & Stop Poems as a Processing Tool in Future Lessons:

Our students keep interactive notebooks, not only in language arts but also in math, science, and social studies. An interactive notebook is a place where students can a) record learned information in their own words and also b) reflect on the learning in a manner that feels right to their own learning style. We attempt to give students many options at the end of lesson to creatively or logically reflect on what has been learned. Once learned, these Start & Stop Poems are a great option for reflection that definitely appeals to some students' learning style.

In addition to using these Start & Stop Poems as a processing tool in my own classroom, I remind my three content colleagues to encourage them in their classrooms' interactive notebooks too.

An Invitation to Share Students' Start & Stop Poetry Notebook Spreads:

Here are six top-notch examples from my own students who worked on these poems during the month of February in my classroom:

Chris, one of my 8th graders, shared this collection of Start & Stop Poems.

Gwen, one of my 7th graders, shared this collection of Start & Stop Poems.

Isaac, one of my 8th graders, shared this collection of Start & Stop Poems.

Sydney, one of my 8th graders, shared this collection of Start & Stop Poems.

Andrea, one of my 8th graders, shared this collection of Start & Stop Poems.

Brooke, one of my 7th graders, shared this collection of Start & Stop Poems.

You too will have students who create awesome notebook pages inspired by this activity--ones that should serve as models for future students who go through this writing task. 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's Ning; this is a fabulous way to motivate your writers, and tell your students they could very easily have their notebook pages seen by the tens-of-thousands of teachers and writers who visit our free-to-access educational site annually.

The link 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.

(If I end up posting your students' notebook pages here at this page, I will send you a complimentary copy of any of my
workshop packets/products!)