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, I hire myself out to school districts around the country.

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

 

Always
Write

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

home | email  

Do your students see you write too? They should. It'll make a huge difference in their attitude about writing assignments.

Through writing workshops, my students are required to build a writing portfolio each year, and I very visibly add to my own portfolio in their presence.

My students are required to keep a journal or a writer's notebook. I have one of each of those too, and regularly show students some of my entries on the Smartboard so that we can talk about my own writing process. It helps them to hear how I think when building a piece of writing.

I believe that the biggest difference between a good writing teacher and a great writing teacher is simple: great writing teachers write right alongside their students.

If you assign a compare/contrast essay, show them one that you've written. It can be on the same topic they will write about, or it can be about something totally different. Talk about where you struggled while writing yours, and where you felt you captured your best ideas.

If you ask them to write in a journal, be prepared to share from yours. The entries you share don't have to be written during that day's journal writing time. If you're like me, you use the time while students write in journals to take care of classroom business (like role and lunch counts). I make sure my students know I keep a journal, even though I am not writing in it at the exact same time they are.

To become a great writing teacher, you have to be an active member of your community of writers. This is a non-negotiable, in my mind.

Great Writing Teachers Model the Writing Process as They Teach It!

Is it more work to write alongside your students? You bet it is.

Do my students have better attitudes about pre-writing, responding, and revision because I demonstrate my own writing process as part of their learning process. You bet they do.

Student samples are great too, but having such samples to show, analyze, and discuss is just one powerful element of a great writing lesson. With student samples, and this is very true, you can't speak to that student's thinking process like you can if the sample you're talking about is your own.

As I establish my writer's workshop routines with my new students each Fall, they observe me think out loud during pre-writing, writing, revising, and publishing . By semester break in January, my students will each have taken a narrative, expository, and persuasive piece of writing (in any order) through the steps of the writing process...and so will I. Below are the three pieces of writing I have already created (or am creating) in front of my students during the Fall of 2011. I include them here for two purposes:

  • My students are now checking out my webpage a lot. I expect them to be reminded of how much a piece of writing can (and should) change as it goes from pre-writing to publishing. When a student's rough draft and final draft look to be about the same to me, I direct them to my writing samples to show them where they--perhaps--didn't take advantage of the writing process and time I gave them to make modifications and to improve their thinking in written form.
  • I truly hope the inclusion of these teacher-made samples inspires you to do something similar. I have to say it: the years I assigned writing but never participated in the process were--no comparison here--the years I did not help my writers grow very much at all.
Mr. Harrison's Writing Process Revealed!
If you're writing it once and calling it "done," then get over yourself! Nobody writes a perfect rough draft! Check out how my writing develops with each successive draft.

My Writer's Workshop Process #1:
"How Would You Like that Penny, Sir?"

a piece of writing intended to persuade my audience

  • Pre-writing, part 1: I try to speak the story/writing idea out loud to my students before ever writing about it; I believe student writers aren't allowed to talk about their own story ideas in too many classrooms. One of my common practices is having students hear my ideas for writing long before I show them any pre-writing or writing I've actually done on the topics.
  • Pre-writing, part 2: I captured the idea from my oral story into my writer's notebook; I chose to make it in poem form. The poem captures the main points of the story I had told them, but I purposely didn't want the writing in the notebook to look anything like the paragraphed essay/story I knew I wanted to create; students need to see that ideas in writer's notebooks don't necessarily look the same when they start becoming drafts.
  • Rough draft: I next let the piece of writing take shape as a hand-written draft. I purposely made sure the paper was very different than the idea originally in my writer's notebook.
  • Second draft: After some self- and peer-feedback on my hand-written rough draft, (using these feedback rating cards) revisions were made and the draft is typed.
  • Highlighted second draft: As part of the peer-feedback portion of the writer's workshop, students highlighted each other's drafts using the attached rubric and then discussed whether or not the highlights indicated if the student still had some areas of work to
  • My final draft: Based on the goals I set from the highlighted draft and after doing some additional editing, the writing is finalized.
  • Evaluation rubric & teacher scoring sheet: I'm not sure I earned a perfect 30 on this paper! Hey students of mine, what score would you have given my final draft? Use the rubric and hand me a scoring sheet, and I'll give you a sticker for your writer's notebook!

My Writer's Workshop Process #2:
"My Early Morning Porch Kestrel"

a piece of writing intended to inform my audience

  • Pre-writing, part 1: My kids usually do narratives for their first writer's workshop piece because that seems easiest to them. I purposely do persuasive and expository as my first and second papers so I can prime their brains for how to choose a good topic for both of those genres. I had a great time orally telling my students--over three days--how I arrived at a topic for my expository paper! Here is the story for you to enjoy too.
  • Pre-writing, part 2: I coincidentally needed to teach my students to learn to highlight and summarize articles for a project they have coming up in science class, so I created a document for them to practice highlighting with a partner while learning about the kestrel, giving me opportunities to talk out loud about my own expository topic, reminding them they needed to be finding one too!
  • Pre-writing, part 3: I devoted a page about the kestrel into my writer's notebook. I wanted my students to see how important it is to focus on interesting details, so I created my own rating system for the facts I decided to record in my limited space. I will have them do something similar in their own notebooks
  • Rough draft: I usually don't type my rough drafts, but I needed my students to compare my rough draft to this "Organizing a Basic Expository Piece" that we've been talking about. Typing it seemed to be the way to go this time.
  • Typed Second Draft: I purposely improved my verbs as I typed and revised and tried to lose some of the formulaic-sounding language from my rough draft.
  • Rubric: I used this rubric to not only come up with a personal revision plan but also to score my final draft (as well as my students' final drafts).
  • Final Draft: Complete with my "Works Cited" list.


Click image to view my Kestrel in a larger picture.
He really has beautiful markings!!

My Writer's Workshop Process #3:
"Total Eclipse of the Teen-Age Heart"

a piece of writing intended to narrate a descriptive story

  • Pre-writing, part 1: I had a really smart group of sixth graders in 2011. As we read Animal Farm in November, they showed great interest in the word allegory. Past years' sixth graders were satisfied simply labeling Orwell's novel a big, fat fable, but this year, the kids wanted to talk about writing their own allegories after I introduced that term to them. We'd already brainstormed other historical events (besides that Bolshevik Revolution) that would make interesting allegories, but I wanted to challenge them to think about scientific processes that might inspire interesting allegorical narratives. I had them personify the three rock types as a pre-write for a possible narrative I was considering challenging them with. Here is a particularly fun pre-write from one of those sixth graders.
  • Pre-writing, part 2: After playfully personifying "rock people" in our writer's notebooks, I wanted to show my students how I would brainstorm for an allegory based on a scientific process. Here is the notebook page I created to inspire my own "scientific allegory" based on how a solar eclipse occurs.
  • Rough draft: I actually showed my sixth graders this draft before I showed them the notebook page (pictured at left) that inspired it because I wanted them to see if they could figure out what I was allegorically representing with just my words, not the pictures. The easily could. They were inspired to write scientific allegories too.
  • Final draft: I felt pretty good about my rough draft, so the next and final draft didn't change dramatically. I think that happens some times when you really put a lot of work into your first draft and your pre-write.

 

 

On this page, I also share some of the writing I want my students to know I have kept in my portfolio. My students absolutely know I value my own writing portfolio, and they understand that I expect them to value theirs.

I also proudly feature a page at this website that shares some of the writing I own that was done by members of my family. No one in the Harrison family was ever officially "published" in the sense that we make money and have readers, but we all valued he writing process and we shared our writing with each other once it was done.

Writing You'll Find in my Portfolio
(from the early years...)
Writing You'll Find in my Portfolio
(from my later years...)
Select Entries from my First Grade Writing Portfolio, 1975:

My mother was a "saver," and I'm so fortunate to still have these--my earliest writing samples. My students enjoy seeing these. My teacher in first grade was Mrs. Karen, and she had the most amazing red hair. Mom, thanks for not throwing these away!


The cover of my first grade portfolio



An early narrative writing sample



Early expository writing



More early expository writing


My First Published Poem, 1978:

Mr. Borilla was my fourth and fifth grade teacher. He taught me to love writing, and he was the first adult to tell me I was good at it. For Open House during fourth grade, he hung up this poem for all the parents to see. I was very proud. Inspiration for this poem came when my childhood friend, Eric Thorsen, accidentally called Fresno's Festival Cinema (where I saw Star Wars as a kid) the Vegetable Cinema.


Select Pages from my Mr. Stick Goes to Washington Journal, 1998:

In 1998, I was awarded a Teaching Fellowship from C-SPAN, and I spent an amazing, all expense-paid summer studying the American political system. They asked me to keep a journal, so I introduced them to Mr. Stick, my classroom's margin mascot.




A Travel Sonnet, 2001:

Whenever I go somewhere new, I try to compose a poem to help me remember highlights of the trip. In 2001, I traveled to New York City with two fellow teachers for a technology conference. We did the tourist thing one night and rode to the top of the Empire State Building. While in the marble-covered lobby, a group of students sung the Star Spangled Banner so beautifully, it brought tears to my eyes. They inspired this poem.

 

More to come! Check back soon!

 

Back to the top of the page