WRITINGFIX Visit our "sister site" here:
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 well--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, we created this website to provide fun, adaptable ideas for teachers.

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

Purposeful Pre-writing: Daily Journal Prompts and Writer's Notebook Strategies Featured during my Workshops for Teachers

Donald Graves--the great author/writing teacher--once suggested that, when the writing process is truly being taught, a student could very easily spend 85% of his/her time in the pre-writing stage. I always marvel at that number when thinking about my own classroom's writer's workshop. I honestly don't believe I've ever come close to spending 85% of our instructional time in pre-writing with any of my best lessons, but I like keeping that number in mind when I challenge myself to do a better job with the work we do before writing our rough drafts.

My continued work with journals and writer's notebooks were both personal efforts where I was trying to increase the amount of time my students built better ideas to write drafts about. This webpage documents my work with journals and writer's notebooks.

A Rationale: Twenty years into my teaching career, I have come to believe we--as educators--don't spend nearly enough time teaching true pre-writing and revision skills to our writers. The writing process in most classrooms I observe consists of a) starting with a very short period of time for brainstorming or clustering ideas, b) following this with a period of quiet time where students write pretty basic rough drafts about topics, c) and ending this with "revising," which I have to put in quotes here because actually I see students editing during this time (checking spelling, writing their stories neater) even though they say they're "revising" when I ask them what they're doing.

When a student pens a very basic (or--let's face it-- bad) rough draft, and then polishes that draft with better handwriting and a spell-check, that student more often than not hasn't produced a quality piece of writing to share. Rushing our students through the writing process (especially pre-writing and revision) without explicit practice and teacher modeling leads to pretty bland writing.

Do you want better rough drafts from your students? Then spend more time explicitly teaching skills of pre-writing. Do you want students to truly revise their writing? They'll be more willing to make their writing better once they start creating rough drafts they care about. These are the two messages I stress the most when discussing pre-writing and revision during my teacher workshops.

On this page, you can access many of the pre-writing materials I share during my teacher workshops on the writing process. I invite you to use these resources with your students, but if sharing them with adult learners, I ask that you keep any and all page citations intact. Thank you.

Mr. Stick, Our Journals' Margin Mascot

Sometimes it's the simplest ideas that have the most positive impact in a classroom. Indeed, that was the lesson I learned when I created "Mr. Stick, our classroom's margin mascot."

In 1996, I'd grown tired of watching my students throw away their journals each June. I began seeking new strategies to help my students care about their journals enough to keep them. A journal--this my my definition--is a place where students can do daily writing about life and about classroom topics and themes; these topics and themes can become longer pieces as they go through the writing process when you have a writer's workshop model in place. A writer's notebook is a bit different than a journal; more on that later down this page.

Between 1991 and 1996, my students maintained the journals I required of them, and they went through the motions of writing in them every day at my prompting, but most of them saw little or no point to the daily writing for which I gave them time. Just so you know, I was forced to keep a journal in high school and middle school; I didn't care much for it. In college, my professors insisted how important it would be to have students keep a journal as they learned the writing process from me, and so I forced my own students to keep one too. Like me in school, they didn't care for them either. "Can I throw this away now?" many of my students would ask me on the last day of class, usually dropping their spiral notebooks in the trash before I granted permission. I needed a journaling technique that I would have been willing to do a good job with if I was a student again.

The best new technique I launched was inventing a "Journal Mascot" for my students to include in their journals. My past students' spiral notebooks were downright uninteresting to flip through; they were just block paragraph after block paragraph of writing, separated by a recorded date that indicated when the students had created these rough drafts. I needed to add a visual element to these dull journal pages, but I didn't want the mess of magazine clippings or the cost of stickers, and I couldn't require my students to draw when I am such a limited artist myself. So I invented a way to draw a simple-yet-sophisticated stickman, and I immediately taught my students how to draw him during the first week of the fall semester. I said, "All pages in your journal will have--at least--one visit from 'Mr. Stick,' and all will draw him the way I am showing you. If you're a better artist than me, you may prove that on our other class projects, but in your journals, Mr. Stick will be our mascot. We will all draw the same character."

As the year progressed, my students became much better (and more efficient) at adding Mr. Stick to their journal pages; they experimented with facial expressions, and they began giving him (or her) props and articles of clothing. He became so much more than a simple stickman as time ticked on. If they had forgotten to include him alongside one of their block paragraphs of writing, he could still be added in their pages' margins; I made sure this always happened by saying, "This page still needs a margin mascot" while I wandered the room during writing time, scanning their journal progress.

Now, understand this...he wasn't just a visual addition in the form of a stickman; he became a powerful new voice that commented on their journal writing. If a student didn't care for his/her writing one day, Mr. Stick (from his spot in the margin) could point at the passage and (with a dialogue bubble) explain why that day's writing was no good. Mr. Stick's dialogue bubbles often gave voice to their connections, be they text-to-text, text-to-self, or text-to world. Sometimes Mr. Stick's voice was witty, sometimes angry, sometimes sarcastic; whatever he said and however he said it, the words just had to be honest, and they had to be share-able. "Tell your neighbor why Mr. Stick said what he said in your last journal entry," I was often overheard saying; my students became more willing to share their journals' ideas with each other when they had Mr. Stick as the starting point of a discussion.

As I was honing these new journal-inspired techniques, I was simultaneously building my first successful writer's workshop. An important change--for me--when developing this workshop approach for my classroom was that I wanted my students to choose their own ideas for writing. I didn't want to assign topics anymore; instead, I wanted them to discover classroom-related themes they'd be willing to journal about as a form of pre-writing. On our designated writer's workshop days, my students learned to take one of their smaller ideas they had explored as a journal-write and turn those into longer, more sophisticated essays, poems, and stories. When a paper was completed, and it became time for them to begin the writing process over again, I would invite them to look back through their own journal entries for a new idea for a paper or poem. Having Mr. Stick in their margins made them so much more willing to look back through the daily writing they'd done in the past weeks or months. Knowing their journals had this purpose, and liking their journals so much more because of our margin mascot, most of my students never even considered throwing them away in June. I'd never seen my students like their journals so much. Once, when I was preparing a journal presentation to fellow teachers on a Saturday, and I asked my students if they'd be willing to leave me their journals over the week-end so I could have teachers look through them, I was asked, "They're not going to wreck them, are they?"

Mr. Stick had achieved his purpose during his very first year in my classroom. In the years that followed, I became more skilled at helping my students craft the stickman's voice and his relevance to their thinking during pre-writing. Mr. Stick helped them like the ideas in their journals enough to want to develop some of them into real papers for their portfolios.

Two summers later, I did something that made my students like Mr. Stick even more. Mind you, I should have thought to do this the very first year I introduced Mr. Stick, but I wasn't as smart then; in 1998, having become a slightly wiser teacher, I created a personal journal that used Mr. Stick as my margin mascot. Ah yes, using the old teacher model of writing that most educators don't think (or take the time) to use. The summer of 1998 was the summer I spent in Washington, D.C., working as a teacher-in-residence for the C-SPAN Cable Network. My first day there, my supervisor handed me a blank composition book and said, "We'd like you to keep a journal while you're with us this summer."

I was quickly granted permission when I asked, "Can I take a creative approach with this journal requirement?" To this day, my Mr. Stick Goes to Washington journal remains one of my most treasured possessions; that's me showing it off inn the top-left corner of this box. The following September, after I showed it to my students as a model journal, I couldn't believe how eager they were to begin their own. Each day for that first month of school, I briefly re-lived one of my days of summer by sharing its page from my journal, and I especially focused them in on my Mr. Stick drawing. I'd purposely taken some extra time in July and August to make my Mr. Stick illustrations pretty detailed in my teacher model, and this set a new "bar of excellence" for my students. That year (and every year after), the quality of their Mr. Stick additions soared. And they loved their journals that much more.

Like a pencil, a stickman is a pretty simple creation. In the hands of a motivated student with an energetic teacher, both pencils and stickmen can begin changing the world. And both can begin building confidence in your writers.

Back to the top of the page

My Mr. Stick Demonstration Lesson for the NNWP

I didn't consider myself very good at giving my students pre-writing skills...until Mr. Stick entered my classroom. The NNWP noticed this work and inspired me to share my ideas with other teachers.

I say it a lot, but I'll say it again: the Northern Nevada Writing Project provided for me the finest professional development experience of my teaching career. During their five-credit summer institute back in 1996, I learned the strategies that helped me change my use of both journals and writing portfolios, and I discovered the motivation to begin changing my classroom into an environment that truly developed critical thinkers who show what they know through writing.

As part of any NNWP summer institute, each participant develops and presents a 90-minute demonstration lesson on a specific "best practice" related to the teaching writing; if a demonstration lesson is good enough, the NNWP will hire you to present it at future professional development opportunities in the area. The demonstration lesson I created during my institute was on using word processing to make writing seem more authentic to students, which was still a fairly new idea back in 1996; sadly, I was never hired to present that demonstration lesson again. A year later, however, my experiences with Mr. Stick and journals had given me enough new materials to create an even better demonstration lesson for the NNWP. Over the next ten years, I presented my Mr. Stick materials close to a hundred times; it was an incredibly popular session wherever I went, and fellow teachers began calling me "Mr. Stick," which I kind of thought was charming. Kind of.

Our NNWP creates local teacher leaders by helping them develop the skills to effectively present demonstration lessons to each other; I was not a teacher leader until they brought me into their organization. Over the years, I have created and developed dozens of demonstration lessons for them, and doing so has made me such a better writing teacher; when you learn something well enough to teach it to another teacher, you have truly learned it at a very high cognitive level. I have created dozens of other demonstration lessons for the NNWP since introducing Mr. Stick, but the Mr. Stick materials will always hold a special place in my heart. They gave me my first experience with success, which motivated me to become an even better teacher leader.

My Mr. Stick demonstration lesson was called "The Cave-Wall Journal" because I always felt the journal drawings were similar to petroglyphs; you can see my Mr. Stick cavemen on the cover of my demonstration lesson's packet (above). My presentation taught my participants how to draw Mr. Stick, how to give him a face and a voice, and how to design journal assignments that were "Mr. Stick-friendly." During my 90 minutes, we analyzed many student samples of both journal pages and the portfolio pieces they inspired, and I finished my demo by challenging teachers to create their own "Mr. Stick journals," like the one I had that documented in Washington, D.C.

In 2008, I officially retired my "Cave Wall Journal" presentation so that I could begin revising it to focus more on Writer's Notebooks rather than journals.

In the table below are some of the artifacts from my now-retired "Cave Wall Journal" presentation. Lower on this page, you will find some of the materials from my new Mr. Stick demonstration, which focuses on using Mr. Stick in a Writer's Notebook.

Resources from my "Cave Wall Journal" Demonstration Lesson, 1998-2008

Mr. Stick was featured in the NNWP's 2005 Writing Across the Curriculum Guide. This seven-page article--"Both Art and Writing Must Be Non-Intimidating"-- is what I wrote for that publication's "Journals & Learning Log Section."

Here's the original PowerPoint Drawing Lesson I created (complete with the original sound effects, which I NEVER use in my PPTs anymore!); this showed my students how to draw Mr. Stick step-by-step. So many people asked me to e-mail them this one-slide demonstration, that I finally put it here on-line. Because I wanted it to keep its animation, I didn't post it as a PDF. If you modify this, please be sure to cite me as the original author. I appreciate it.

My students learned to draw Mr. Stick using specific criteria in the first two weeks of school. This two-page document was a part of their notebooks, and we referred to it if a student suddenly forgot how to draw our margin mascot.

If anyone knows the original creator of this fabulous face handout, please tell me! It was shared with me over e-mail with the instructions "distribute freely," which I have always done. This handout will make your Mr. Stick creations come to life as well as teach emotional vocabulary.

Mr. Stick, from his spot in the journal margins, needed to say things about what the students had written. When my students needed assistance giving Mr. Stick more intelligent things to say, I gave them one of these Mr. Stick Bloom's dice, which they folded, taped, and rolled.

Journal-Page Assignments from my Demonstration Lesson that I turned into Webpage Lessons at WritingFix

Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
The Cave Wall Journal Prompt

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.

Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
Illustrated Vocabulary Pages

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.

Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
Illustrated Note Pages

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.

Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
Empty Box Before Writing

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.
Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
Looking for Sets of Three

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.
Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
The Board Game Summary

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.

Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
The Haiku Summary

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.


Here's a Former Student's Journal Page:
Mostly Silent Storyboards

Click the image to be taken to WritingFix, where I have provided a write-up of this journal page assignment.
My Students' Journal Pages Inspired Full-length Stories for their Writing Portfolios

The goal of my writer's workshop was fairly simple: students were to write enough in their journals so that on designated workshop days, they could flip through their pages to find and self-select an idea they would be willing to take through the entire writing process. When a piece went through all steps of the writing process, it would go into the writing portfolio.

In my classroom, I expected students to go through this process ten times in a school year. 80% of my students' final grades were based on the pieces of writing in their portfolios. Writer's workshop was the most important work we did in class. Their writing ideas always began in their journals.

At right are some artifacts from my mythology class's writer's workshop. Here are two journal pages from two students, and the portfolio pieces they ultimately inspired.

from sophomore Will H.
A journal page & portfolio piece
from junior Jennifer F.
A journal page & portfolio piece
Other Teachers Share their Mr. Stick Variations

Geography teacher Jenn Wright shared with me this seven-page instruction manual that she uses to teacher her students to draw her Mr. Stick variation.

Math teacher Holly Young had her students use Mr. Stick to help them process notes. Here, she required a "Mr. Stick Soap Opera Story Board" to teach radical numbers.

Math teacher Holly Young also shared with me this page from a different student's math notebook. Here, students processed perpendicular and parallel line notes.

Mr. Stick Uses Outside of the Journal

My students loved Mr. Stick so much in their journals that they began asking if they could use him with their outside-of-journal assignments too. Of course, I said yes.

As I continued learning about better formative assessment techniques and differentiating sense-making activities, I began to create Mr. Stick examples for my other classroom strategies.

Mr. Stick's Vocabulary Sketch-n-Write has students define several related vocabulary terms in their own words on the right, then illustrate on the left with stickman-art.

Mr. Stick's Haiku Comic Strip has students summarize information from their notes in a haiku-inspired storyboard.

I hope you've enjoyed these Mr. Stick materials. If you wish to use them in your classroom or share them with teachers, you have my permission provided you keep any page citations intact. Thank you.

Back to the top of the page

My Transition from Journals to Writer's Notebooks, 2008 - Present

I'm one of those teachers who can't teach the same way forever. I become bored with my own lessons and strategies after I've used them more than five or six times, so I change them up regularly. Back in 1996, I began improving my use of classroom journals, and I found great success with each new year that unfolded and each strategy I changed, but twelve years later, I was ready to make a really big (and hard) change. I didn't want to give up my journal program, but I wanted to take it to a new and better level.

It was about this time that I was also becoming aware of the new Common Core State Standards that were coming our way. My initial impression of this national document was that it expected students to use more analysis and evaluation skills as they read and wrote in classrooms. I observe a lot of teachers as part of my role as a professional trainer. I know for a fact that most reading instruction aims students at the understand level of blooms, while most writing instruction aims at the application level. Analysis and evaluation require much deeper cognitive skills.

It was about this time that I was reading Ralph Fletcher's wonderful little manual: A Writer's Notebook: Unlocking the Writer Within You. I was convinced that I could modify Ralph's writer's notebook strategies into choice-based techniques that would push my students towards the analysis and evaluation level during the pre-writing they did in (and out of) class. I decided to prepare for Common Core State Standards by transforming my classroom journal program into a writer's notebook program. It proved to be a good fit for me.

"What's the difference between a journal and a writer's notebook?" is a question I am often asked now at my workshops. I like my answer to this question, but I don't believe it's the answer to that question. Remember that there is no perfect or ideal way to run a writer's workshop, nor should there be; many tools of the writing classroom have to be adapted to fit a teacher's style and the needs of that teacher's students. I think a writer's notebook program must fit the individual teacher, and that each teacher absolutely must create his/her own definition of a writer's notebook after adapting ideas over time. That said, here is my current explanation of the difference between journals and notebooks: First and foremost, a journal should be written in daily, while a writer's notebook should be written in only when students have an inspiration to add to it. Journals, to me, are tools that can be kept in a box in the classroom; notebooks beg the owner to take them home to continue work on them. Both journals and writer's notebooks should house ideas that students might eventually want to take through the writing process, but writer's notebooks are less "paragraphy" and more about celebrating snippets of ideas with lots of visual support. Ralph Fletcher doesn't feel that notebook pages should ever be assigned, and I mostly agree with that idea; I know, however, that my students need to be explicitly taught to create celebrations of language and writing ideas that are appropriate for their notebooks, because a notebook page (at first) is a very foreign concept for them. So I feel that--early on in a school year--a teacher must assign several pages based on mini-lessons, encouraging students to "whip out their creativity sticks" when they actually add to their notebook. My notebook mini-lessons are always based on something I have the students read first--a mentor text--, which is also different from most of the work my students did in their journals. Below in the next section of this page, you will find six original notebook page lessons I do early on in the school year; all are based on favorite mentor texts. I usually do twelve whole-class notebook lessons during the first month of school

Inspired by the visual elements of Marrisa Moss's Amelia's Notebook, I also saw a place for Mr. Stick in the writer's notebook program I was building. My students don't have to include Mr. Stick on their notebook pages (which was not the case when we kept journals), but I find most of them do. I believe this is because most of the pages in my own writer's notebook feature an appearance by my favorite margin mascot.

And, by the way, let's hear it for absolutely having a teacher model of your own writer's notebook. If you don't have one to show, you shouldn't be requiring a notebook from your students. I completely believe that. Your notebook can be unfinished when you start showing it to students; mine was. But you create set a personal schedule for making sure yours is maintained. Starting in 2008, I began requiring myself to add a new page once a month. I now have a thorough (and pretty amazing, I might add) writer's notebook. I'm about ready to start a second one, because I'm just about out of pages in my original, 70-page spiral notebook. My ideas for new notebook pages always come from exploring WritingFix lessons that I haven't used; when I create a notebook page in honor of those lessons, I am always inspired to then use those new lessons.

I believe I have now created a pretty competent writer's notebook program for my student writers; it took me more than a year to get there, but got there I did. I also recognize that I am still learning and honing my notebook techniques so that the work my students record in their notebooks is truly at an analysis or evaluation level.

I can definitely say this: my students like their writer's notebooks even more than my past students liked their Mr. Stick journals. My current students' portfolio pieces are also much better when they take their notebook ideas through the writer's workshop process. I'm proud of that, because I always thought my students' journal-inspired portfolio pieces were pretty good. Adding writer's notebooks to my classroom was further proof that no one is ever done learning how to make his/her writing classroom work better. I think it was good that I became bored with my journal program a few years back; I have become a better teacher thanks to writer's notebooks.

By the way, a newer book that I strongly recommend to my teacher friends is Aimee Buckner's Notebook Know-How: Strategies for the Writer's Notebook. It's worth its weight in gold!

Back to the top of the page

Some of my Favorite Writer's Notebook Lessons/Suggestions

I have a teacher workshop where teachers learn to use Writer's Notebooks to inspire analytical and evaluative thinking from student writers. As with all my workshops, I share some personal lessons I have created and posted at the WritingFix website. My hope in doing this is that I inspire my participants to craft their own lessons and--if inspired--share them with me for possible inclusion at WritingFix, where I still serve as webmaster.

My best writer's notebook lessons come from inspiration found in favorite books, poems, and other mentor texts. When accessing any of the lessons below, you will find a reference to a mentor text.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
Serendipitous Character Names

This notebook assignment was inspired by one of my favorite chapter books from childhood: The Mad Scientist's Club by Bertrand Brinley.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
Fortune and Misfortune Stories

This notebook assignment was inspired by one of my favorite short stories to teach at Halloween: "The Monkey's Paw" by W. W. Jacobs.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
Tasting an Oxymoron

This notebook assignment was inspired by a short little scene from my father's favorite John Steinbeck novel: Cannery Row.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
Fierce Wondering Stories

This notebook assignment was inspired by Marissa Moss's wonderful published model of a fictional fourth grader's writer's notebook: Amelia's Notebook.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
The Butcher's Tale

This notebook assignment was inspired by one of my favorite lesser-known poems: "Reuben Bright" by Edwin Arlington Robinson.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
Serendipitous Crazy Illustration

This notebook assignment was inspired by four wordless picture books by the great illustrator David Wiesner: Flotsam, Sector 9, Freefall, and Tuesday.

A notebook suggestion for my students:
Write about a Photo Memory

This notebook assignment was inspired by Hank Kellner's Write What You See: 99 Photos to Inspire Writing.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
Showing Riddles

This notebook assignment was inspired by Josephine Nobisso's picture book of writing advice: Show, Don't Tell: Secrets of Writing.

A notebook lesson I built for WritingFix:
Showing Plots & Conflicts

This notebook assignment was inspired by the seventh chapter of Ralph Fletcher's Live Writing: Unlocking the Writer Within You.

Back to the top of the page

Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards -- Now Available!

My goal with my students' writer's notebooks is that my young authors will learn to actively seek their own topics when they know I'll be giving them time each week to write in them. This expected "topic independence," even for my strongest writers, takes a while to happen. And, at year's end, I still admittedly have students who are dependent on me for giving them writing ideas; it's just the way it is in a differentiated classroom. To help all my students throughout the year as they work (2-3 times a week) on pages in their writer's notebooks, I now provide them with these monthly Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards that my wife (Dena Harrison) and I developed over the summer of 2011. This is actually not a new tool to us; in truth, this new set of cards is based on many previous drafts of topic collections we've both used over the years. This newest draft of these cards finally feels like we have it right!

In September and October in my classroom, as we are still learning what a writer's notebook is and what it should be used for, I require students to create--at least--one "five-in-a-row" Bingo each month. Most of my students manage to add ten to twelve pages in their notebooks each month, so many actually create two "five-in-a-row" during the first two months. I'm always encouraging them to use five of my Bingo card's ideas, and to then use their own imaginations and ideas to create original ideas for pages. Eventually, students are only borrowing a few ideas from my cards each month.

What's new about this set of cards that I really like is that--instead of a free space--the center box refers to a notebook lesson I will do whole-class early on each month. My whole class notebook lessons are designed to reinforce how creative and visual students can and should be in their notebooks, and many of them encourage students to write about content they are studying in math, science, and history. Each of my nine whole-class lessons come with a pretty decent model from my own notebook (if I do say so myself!), and I am working on obtaining--at least--one student sample from one of my own students this school year.

I happily share my September Writer's Notebook Bingo Card with you, as well as a link to the whole-class lesson that is referred to in the center box of the card below.

Click here for information on purchasing these
ten Bingo Cards/ten Writer's Notebook Lessons.

Here is the teacher-guided lesson referred to in the Bingo card's center box:

The ABCs of Things You
Might Write This Year

inspired by Susan Allen and Jane Lindaman's Written Anything Good Lately?

After discussing the cited mentor text (at left)--an alphabet book that explores different forms, modes, and genres that writing can take in a classroom--students spend one or two weeks at the beginning of the school year slowly and thoughtfully creating their own alpha-lists of types/forms of writing they would be willing to create during the upcoming year of writing.

When all students have brainstormed a complete and unique alpha-list, they then devote a two-page spread in their writer's notebooks to neatly publish and decorate their lists. Over a week's time, they illustrate their lists when they have a free moment or two in class.

Once a classroom writer's workshop has been established, this two-page spread can be revisited whenever students are seeking a new idea for a writing assignment. The nine Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards I created to use in my classroom each month of the school year, they all have a box that asks students to refer back to this two-page spread in their notebooks. Click here to freely access this entire lesson here at my website.

Variation of this idea: instead of brainstorming different forms/modes/genres of writing, students can brainstorm different topics they'd be willing to write about and create their two-page spread from that pre-writing exercise.

Back to the top of the page