Monday, June 29, 2015

More news from the Harrisons with some new titles! Enjoy!

Please help me in congratulating and celebrating several colleagues of mine, three of whom have recently published new materials specifically designed to improve classroom instruction with writing and with critical thinking!
First of all, Jodie Black--local kindergarten teacher extraordinaire--has put out another primary elementary writing resource: "Two Birds: What do I Write? Guide" is now available for preview at her website:  I believe this is Jodie's SIXTH print guide for our youngest writers.  If you know any kindergarten, first, or second grade teacher looking for fresh ideas that strengthen primary writing, refer them to Jodie who has always been my go-to friend because of her expertise with writing curriculum for those specific grade levels.  Beautiful work (as usual), Jodie.
Second, my teaching partner and my teacher-training partner for the last ten years--Holly Young--has published her second children's book, this one with her sister as co-writer.  Holly is one of the best math teachers I know, and her sister (Cathy Morgan) is a beloved high school history teacher just down the street from my school.  They both attended the "Mount Vernon Summer Teaching Institute," and their brand new children's book "Help Wanted at Mt. Vernon" is designed to promote problem-solving skills from young readers.  The book is filled with challenges for the reader to try solving historical and mathematical problems that the Father of our Country had to solve.  These two Northern Nevada teachers are also posting complimentary lesson ideas that go along with their Mt. Vernon book at Holly's professional website: Making Mathematicians.  I just love watching writing across the curriculum in action.  Good work, Holly and Cathy!
You can use the links above to directly access any of the mentioned resources, or you can visit the Ning and read more about each publication: They are the top two stories featured in the Blog this whole week!
If you're growing a garden, I hope it's doing as well as mine!  We Harrisons love the summertime!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison
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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Corbetts will be busy this summer working on some new materials for vocabulary. Take a peak - provided through the llink below. Enjoy.

We are also creating two new packets of materials between now and August 1.  I have now placed a preview of one of those two packets at our Vocabulary Resource Page:   We are having a great time planning  and penning these new materials, and we expect to be offering a pre-sale sometime in July!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (follow us on Pinterest)
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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Writing is playing a crucial role in the CCSS performance tasks that are heavily weighted on both the PARC and SmarterBalanced. Here is a report that looks at all sides of the issues...and gives thought for teachers to reflect on classroom practices. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

Experts weigh in on Common Core performance tasks

Tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards include open-ended questions often referred to as performance tasks. This article examines the pros and cons of these questions and whether they are more effective than traditional multiple-choice formats. The Hechinger Report (5/20)Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June's writing lesson from the Harrisons. Enjoy!

I's don't WANT another writing lesson this year, right?  You just want to be rid of this group of kids!  Well..maybe some of you feel that way.
For June, July and August, I try to focus on writing lessons that would be good to start strong with next year and--here's the important part--these lessons start stronger if you take the time to create your own teacher model of the writing task that you can share with them.  So...they are summer homework challenges for you as teachers...if you dare accept such a thing from me.  This month's lesson has a teacher model I love sharing with my kids in September.
Here's June's writing lesson, which is actually a thoroughly revised version of a lesson I've used every year since originally posting it at WritingFix back in 2003:  It teaches a cool little writing technique inspired by author/teacher Stephen Kramer that challenges you to describe what's NOT in an important place before you describe what IS.  As you will see from the posted lesson, there have been many adaptations to this simple-but-effective technique from students over the years who have been introduced to this lesson early on.
Special June 1-15 Savings on our most popular For-Purchase Items:  Rather than be assaulted with new orders in July and August (or two busiest months with our new products that are coming out this summer), Dena and I thought we'd offer a down-and-dirty June 1-15 special for those newer users who have yet to try our five most popular and well-reviewed products.  Check out the special rates which will expire at midnight on June 15:   Regular pricing resumes on June 16, and pre-sales for the new products should start a week or so after that.  AND...if you're one of the dozen or two who bought any of these products during the last week, just email me, and I will refund you the discount after the fact.
Brand New "Club" for our long-time Supporters:  There are a small number of users, we've discovered, who've faithfully purchased most (if not all) of our past for-sale products, and we've decided on creating a special club for those folks.  You can read about it here:  New members are always welcome...just contact us when you've met the criteria!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (
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Thursday, May 28, 2015

Conventions often occupy most of the time teachers use to teach writing. Here are some thoughts on conventions and how to teach them. Courtesy of choice literacy. Enjoy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
May 16, 2015 - Issue #433
From Obligation to Appreciation
It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment.

                                                                             Naomi Williams  
Through brain imaging, neuroscientists have found that the parts of our brains that are activated when we are complaining cannot be activated when we are appreciating something. That is, we can’t simultaneously feel grateful and disgruntled. The trick, of course, is to notice early enough when we are on the downward slope of general gripey-ness and to switch to appreciation mode.

For us, a recent word experiment--switching from “have to” to “get to”--has helped. Take the laundry, for example, a never-ending job in both our homes, and most likely in yours, too. Try saying to yourself, “I have to do the laundry [or insert whatever task you dread].” How does that feel? For us, it feels heavy. A certain amount of dread builds up. We automatically begin telling ourselves stories about how much laundry there is to do, how long it will take to get it all done, and how the laundry never gets caught up.

But, if we are present enough to notice our “have to” and switch it to “get to,” the entire experience changes. Say to yourself, “I get to do the laundry [or insert the previously mentioned dreaded task].” Notice how that feels different. Follow the line of “have to” and think about the privileges associated with doing your laundry. Think about the luxuries of clothes and of cleanliness. Remember when your dryer broke and you had to drag everything to the laundromat in the interim. Think about how doing laundry isn't very labor-intensive, compared with going down to a rocky stream and beating the stains out of our clothes for one full day of each week. Think about the people you love whose clothes you are preparing, and what a privilege it is to be their caretaker, even if the person you are folding for is yourself!

Now, take this word work to school and see how using “get to” instead of “have to” can support an appreciative perspective. What “have to” thoughts can you begin to shift to “get to” thoughts. And what can transforming your language with students do to help them shift to appreciation? For example, try saying, “We get to do math now,” rather than “We have to do math now,” or “I get to grade papers now” versus “I have to grade papers now.” Watch how this subtle word change can help you and your students notice typically overlooked gifts and spend more time in a state of appreciation.

This week we're looking at conventions. Plus more as always -- enjoy!
Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris
Contributors, Choice Literacy

Kim Yaris and Jan Burkins are the writers and thinkers behind Burkins and Yaris -- Think Tank for 21st Century Literacy, where their blog and their instructional resources have drawn a national audience. Their book Reading Wellness is available through Stenhouse Publishers.
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook:
Heather Rader explains how teaching conventions is all about Finding a Fit:

In Explanatory Grammar Moves, Jeff Anderson shares the power of teaching the convention of right-branching sentences to young writers:

This video from the Teaching Channel shows how to make punctuation instruction engaging in middle school classrooms:

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Join Lead Literacy or renew your Lead Literacy membership online in May and receive a free copy of Heather Rader's book Side By Side, a $25 value. Offer expires May 31 and is for online credit card orders only:
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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sacred Writing Time Slides from Corbett and Dena Harrison.

Why do kids like to write about what foods they love and hate?  Maybe it's just my students?  Or maybe not?
Check out tomorrow's sacred writing time slide: to see the slide for which I created the three "writing prompts" below...
Which of my three topic choices would inspire more of your students to write for ten un-interrupted minutes (also known as Sacred Writing Time in my classroom) tomorrow in class?  Show the slide and try out all three this Monday and see if you're right!
  • Design and write about the "buffet of your dreams."
  • What would you do with billions of dollars worth of cheese?
  • What if that pizza box was SCORCHING hot instead of just warm?  Tell me that story!
Some people mistake our sacred writing time slides as "writing prompts," but they are better described as "writing possibilities."  If you've never tried sacred writing with your students, you have plenty of time in this school year to start practicing the technique in order to decide if you want SWT to be a regular routine for your next school year.  
If you're a fan of sacred writing, tell us why you think it works so well at our blog:   Help us spread the word!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison
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