Thursday, July 30, 2015

Here is July's writing lesson from Corbett Harrison. Enjoy!

Hello Fellow Teachers and Writers!
July's Writing Lesson (which would make a solid "Get to Know Your New Students" lesson for the upcoming school year): They hired me (kind of at the last minute) to teach an online curriculum-development class at our local University near the end of June, so July's lessons a little late.  Add to that, I decided to revise a few of my older pages to compliment the lesson for July.  Anyway, the lesson is now posted, and you can access it (as well as three other monthly give-aways) at our Writing Lesson of the Month page:  This month's lesson inspires writers to convey an anecdote in a 140-character Tweet as a form of pre-writing, and it cites Ernest Hemingway as an inspiration, based on his famous 6-word short story (which is featured at the lesson).  I learned a great new term while creating this lesson: Flash Fiction, which I'm going to use as an idea for Sacred Writing Time this next school year.
A Poetry Writing Contest for the Fall:  Wow, such a great response from our website's users in the first week of introducing our newest product: 18 Quick-Poems--designed to inspire collaborative writing and to teach some great tier-2 vocabulary for class discussions and Socratic Seminars.   I've created this Blog Post to explain the contest!
And...Check out our Brand New Resource Page on Grouping Strategies for Writing:  Dena and I have both been working on flexible grouping strategies for both heterogeneous and homogeneous clusters of students because we both want to further our use of meaningful activities that foster our interpersonal learners, and we now have  developed a new page that shares some solid ideas--especially if you incorporate sacred writing time and appreciate vocabulary and grammar enrichment tasks.  We'd love to know what you think of our new Grouping Strategies Page, which we will be further developing over the 2015-16 school year. 
August's lesson is almost complete.  I promise it'll be posted on time!  We start back August 5th here in Washoe County.  Anyone out there starting ahead of us?
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (
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Monday, July 27, 2015

A note from Corbin Harrison on lessons for opeing school. Enjoy!

With your permission, I need a few more days to finish July's Lesson of the Month--thanks to a last-minute July 4th trip we're going to be taking.  I'm sure most of you are on summer break, and I suspect you'll forgive my tardiness.
July's lesson will be a "Start the Year off Write!" lesson, which means it's a lesson that has students do some writing that will introduce themselves to me as individuals in a way that's better than those old "What I did over summer vacation" essays I assigned in year #1 of my 25-year career.   Each year, I seem to make a brand new "Start the Year off Write" lesson, even though I have a ridiculous quantity of lessons that achieve this purpose quite capably.  I'm forever hatching new ways to do old things.  It drives Dena crazy!  :-)
In lieu of a brand new July lesson today (it'll come out next week some time--after the 4th), I will provide some links to my favorite already-posted past "Start the Year off Write" lessons to you today, just in case the new one this year doesn't appeal to you.  Here they are in no particular order.  And be sure to check out the note at the bottom of this email about contacting me if you think you're a Lucky Seven member:
  • Alpha-Genres (or things I might write this year):  This is a great way to launch a writer's notebook program, and if you give them time to make this page standout, then it sets a nice standard for the quality you're hoping to see in students' notebooks.  I have done many variations of this lesson, depending on what writing trait I plan on teaching them first; my eighth graders, for example, were going to learn VOICE first a few years back, so I made the topic for them "Alpha-tones," and we used their 26-word list to do a lot of quick-writes ("Write for five minutes using the voice of your A-tone word!"  Some kids wrote in an Angry voice and others in Annoying or an Apathetic one.)
  • How Big Is Your Brave?  I'm always looking for a new way to introduce them to our classroom 'margin mascot," a.k.a. Mr. Stick.  Often, this involves a storyboard lesson that I later try to convince them to turn into an actual piece of writing.  My former group of 7th graders who just graduated to high school this June were the first to do this lesson, and they told me that every time they hear the Sara Barellis song on the radio, they will think of me.  The music video this lesson is based on is good for building self-esteem, which is why I liked starting the year with it, because beginning seventh grade can be scary, and the message behind the lyrics of the song are very thoughtful.
  • Presenting Me: This was a trilogy I created to celebrate my students' different heads, then hands, then hearts...because I had the same group as sixth, seventh, and eighth graders.  The lesson page gives a nice outline of the three options; however, and you may not realize this, if you own our entire set of Writer's Notebook Bingo Cards, the link to the August center-square takes you to a special page with a few more lesson details and a lot more student samples that you can show.  The nice thing about these lessons'final products is they look really good hanging outside your door for open house night, and if you show your students your teacher model before they begin, they will put much more effort into these.
I hope these inspire you to do some writing right off the bat.  Obviously, I am already planning for the first week of school.  I am also working on our two new products that will--hopefully--both be ready for purchase by the end of August.  The first one--Eighteen Tier-2 Vocabulary Quick Poems--is finished and with the editor.  If you haven't checked them out, here is a link.  And remember, if you think you're a member of the "Lucky Seven Club," you'll be freely sent both these products as soon as they're back from the editor--but you have to contact me and tell me you're in the Lucky Seven...I will not dig through the database unless you alert me to look for your name and email address you used to purchase 7 of our resources.
Happy Fourth to everyone!
--Corbett & Dena Harrison (
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Friday, July 17, 2015

Below is a great resource for vocabulary! Enjoy! Courtesy of Corbett Harrison

Hi teacher-friends,
As a complement to our "Vocabulary Collector" Routine that we rolled out two summers back, we have now created a new resource: 18 Tier-2 Vocabulary "Quick Poems," enough poems to introduce one every two weeks, if you'd like.  They are intended to be written quickly (10-15 minutes) by partners or small groups, and they are the kind of poems that students will want to share (10 more minutes).  In less than 30 minutes, you can put a really excellent vocabulary word (or two) in the hands of your students while they review writing skills as well as some grammatical skills.
Imagine an administrator or fellow teacher observing your students during a class discussion, Socratic seminar, or writing response group, and they hear your students correctly using the word "terse" or "juxtapose" or "caustic" or "perfunctory" as they invite one another into the academic conversation.  That's the point of these "quick poems," and should you have time to use them all next year, your students will have 28 excellent new words for class...and the dinner table at home!
You can preview all 28 words and three free quick poems from the set of eighteen here:  There is a link below them if you decide to purchase.
Just-for-July Specials: As always, we offer 25% specials for our faithful early-bird buyers.  If you purchase these Quick Poems this July at their current price, we will send you a special link that will allow you to purchase our two other vocabulary products for 25% off!  Those two vocabulary products are:
  • Eleven Common Core-inspired lessons for establishing a "Vocabulary Collector" routine.  Complimentary preview of this now-available product here:  All eleven lessons are designed to guide your students through a 45-minute to a 90-minute lesson that involves literature and writing!  This product is ready to purchase now so that you can start familiarizing yourself with the materials over the summer.  25% off the $19.99 price if you buy the new 18 Quick Poems in July.
  • Random Student Grouping Cards for Vocabulary and Grammar Enrichment.  This is the product I have been working on since October.  It's huge, and it's pretty thoughtful.  You can read about it here: This product won't be sent out to purchasers until the last week of August (because I'm spending the rest of my summer making sure they're perfect).  Previews will be posted soon!  The price of this massive undertaking has yet to be determined, but 25% off for everyone who purchases the ready-to-go "Quick Poems" this July.
I hope you're all enjoying the weather, and I hope you're finding time to find some new things to try in your classroom when you reconvene with your latest group of students.
--Corbett Harrison (
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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