Sunday, October 16, 2016

A message from Corbett Harrison.

Hello, teachers and writers,
First of all, thanks for all the nice words that many have sent in about our October Vocabulary/Writing Lesson.  I can tell you are delighting in the mentor text by James Tobin as much as I did.  Remember the goal of the lesson: think of multiple contexts where they could apply the word and not only visually represent those contexts but also explain their visuals through writing.
If you own our full set of notebook Bingo Cards, I just wanted to let you know I have done some recent revisions to October's online "center-square lesson":  Recipe Metaphors
Finally--if you're a user of Pinterest--please be sure to vote for your favorite of the four writer's notebook metaphors that we selected to be featured at the site this September. You must vote by October 31.  All four of the submissions are creative and thoughtful, but one lucky student will win an Amazon Gift Card based on "likes," "repins," and "saves" at Pinterest.  Here is the page you can access all four entries and vote from:
--Corbett Harrison
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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Here are some great resources from Corbett Harrison. Enjoy! The power point presentatioin is packed with great ideas!

We had a great turn-out with our September Notebook Metaphor Contest this year!  We had more student entries than ever.
The four victors for 2016 have been chosen, and I will be creating a new Four Metaphor Poem this month based on these students' original comparisons.  "Four metaphor poems" are a wonderful assignment for students of all ages!
Vote for your favorite Notebook Metaphor!  Like last year, we're now going to have those of you who use Pinterest help us decide on a "Crowd Favorite!"  The student whose writer's notebook metaphor gets the most likes and re-pins will be sent a $25 Amazon Gift Card.  To vote, visit this blog page-- --where you can see this year's four metaphors.  If you find a favorite (or two), click on the image or the link below the image to be taken to Pinterest where you can "like" or "re-pin" or "save" the metaphor to earn that student's metaphor points.  Consider having your students help you pick a favorite!
November's Contest is next:  It's never too early to start planning for the Rheturkical Triangle Thanksgiving competition.  
I'm presenting a writing workshop in Carson City, Nevada, tomorrow morning.  Topics: Writer's Notebooks, Vocabulary Across the Curriculum, and Critical Trait Thinking.  I'll have my handouts posted at Always Write by noon today (Friday), if you can't attend but want to independently explore what we're talking about during my workshop!
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Sunday, October 2, 2016

A message for you from Corbett Harrison.

I kept this month's lesson short and sweet!  It's a write-up for a new addition my students can use Vocabulary Workshop writing assignments.
when they complete their
This month's lessonWord Art.  
I am most excited to share the mentor text that I have used in the lesson to anchor the idea of visually representing good words in my students'minds.  I am sending special thanks to Ohio teacher Amy Tomlinson for letting me know about Jim Tobin's picture book The Very Inappropriate Word.  It was a total hit with my student writers, and it helped them understand the concept of visually representing a tier-2 vocabulary word.
Thanks for all of you who participated in establishing Writer's Notebooks and sharing ideas throughout September.  I am determined to really make September be recognized as Writer's Notebook Month in the future.  I have my kids investigating for me the process of making a national holiday, but I worry once they know, they're going to try to propose some goofy ones just so we can add them to our Sacred Writing Time slides.
I hope your October is an excellent one.  I am recovering from ankle surgery for two more weeks, so I have been designing some instructional videos on YouTube for teachers about differentiated instruction and some of my favorite techniques for writing across the curriculum.  As soon as I have a few more samples to share, I will let you know how to find those videos.  
Also, our next contest is coming up in November: Rhe-TURK-ical Triangles   If you missed out on participating in the Writer's Notebook metaphors this month, it's never early to start planning your students' participation for November!
--Corbett (and Dena) Harrison -- Always Write website
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Here are some great resources on making formative assessments work for you. The article Treasures or Trash speaks specifically to time management in writing. Great information. Courtesy of Choice Literacy!

The Big Fresh Newsletter from Choice Literacy
t September 17, 2016 - Issue #519
If you are having trouble reading this newsletter, click here for a Web-based version.
Treasures or Trash

You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.

                                                                       Paulo Coelho

I could almost hear the whispers coming from my school bag:
“Formative assessments should drive instruction.”
“If we took time to write, you should take time to read.”
“What’s tomorrow’s minilesson? Which students will you meet with in small group…and why? Who needs the first conference?”
I glanced at the clock. 8:00 pm. If I set the timer for 30 minutes, I could still catch half of Antiques Roadshow. “Okay, let’s do this,” I answered the whispers from my school bag.
As usual, just getting started was the worst part of the work. Once I began reading through my students’ opinion quick-writes, one glaringly obvious pattern emerged. Although most every student clearly expressed their opinion in the lead, hardly any of them were using a hook to grab their reader’s attention before they stated their opinion. Obviously, they needed more practice. When I thought back on the opinion articles I’d shared as our mentor texts, I identified five different kinds of hooks:
Ask a question to get the reader thinking.
Write the opinion in a creative way.
Believe me because I’m an expert/have experience.
Give information about the topic.
Tell both sides before you tell your opinion.
When I got to school the next morning, I could quickly make a mini anchor chart for each type to hang around the room. I would sort the students into mixed-ability small groups, and we would make our practice more like a game. I would give them an opinion and a short amount of time to work together, and we’d see if we could come up with each of the different types of hooks for each opinion.
When the timer went off at 8:30, I had silenced all of the voices coming from my school bag, and I had a plan of action for writing workshop the next day.
I hate to break it to you, but this isn’t really about teaching opinion writing. This is about time balance and management, the importance of using formative assessments to drive instruction, and trusting ourselves as professionals to create effective lessons and activities on the fly – lessons and activities that meet the specific needs of our own unique learners.
My students had spent more than half an hour completing an opinion quick-write to show me what they were doing well and what they needed more work on. I owed it to them to spend at least a half hour looking over that work and designing instructional moves around it.
I set a timer, forcing myself to be focused and efficient in my work. I didn’t spend my entire evening on schoolwork, and I made sure I had a reward waiting at the end of the 30 minutes.
I gave myself permission to save some of the preparation for this activity for the next morning when I got to school. The posters, the groups, and the list of opinions I would use as prompts could all wait.
Once I found a pattern of need in their work, I wasted no time wondering why they couldn’t do something I’d already taught repeatedly. I also didn’t spend any time assigning blame to myself for not having taught this skill better in the first place. I found the need and went right to work.
In less than 15 minutes, I designed a fun activity that would provide repeated supported practice of a weak skill. Fun is a key word to me – repeated practice should feel more like play than work. Supported is also a key word. I made mixed-ability groups so that my strongest writers could help me in supporting the writers who needed the most practice in this skill.
You can imagine the sigh of satisfaction I gave as I sank back into my pillow and waited to find out if the object on Antiques Roadshow would be trash or treasure. And I didn’t use a single minute of my precious half hour searching on Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers for a cute activity that might or might not work.
This week we look at smart and efficient assessments to use in the midst of teaching. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Mary Lee Hahn
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Mary Lee Hahn has been teaching 4th or 5th graders for more than 20 years. She is the author of Reconsidering Read-Aloud (Stenhouse Publishers). Mary Lee and her colleague in the Dublin City Schools, Franki Sibberson, blog about their reading lives at A Year of Reading.
Free for All
[For sneak peeks at our upcoming features, quotes and extra links,  follow Choice Literacy on Twitter: @ChoiceLiteracy or Facebook: or Pinterest:]    

Katharine Hale has moved much of her reading response to digital boards, which are also useful tools for formative assessment:

Michelle Kelly has a unique problem: what to do with readers who already exceed the standard. She considers alternative assessments for her gifted students:

Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan share how a pre-assessment question to young readers can shape observations, conversations, and reflection for the entire workshop:

Cathy Mere tackles a crucial issue: How soon is too soon to assess? She provides a series of  questions teachers can ask themselves as they get to know students to gauge incoming skills:


Sunday, September 18, 2016

This may seem like an odd place for this. However, it deals with students' acquisition of language. Although it is focused on ELLs and SELs, I am finding in my visits, many "English Speaking" students are coming to school with delayed language. This is a free webinar. It is on October 3, 2016. Enjoy. Courtesy of ASCD SmartBrief.

FREE Webinar on cracking the code of academic language
How can we expect our ELLs and SELs to deliver adequate growth without first understanding the "language of school"? Join this all-star panel discussion of the very best practices for cultivating academic language mastery: Jeff Zwiers on conversational discourse, David & Yvonne Freeman on grammar, Margarita Calderón on vocabulary, Ivannia Soto on culture. Learn more!Bookmark and Share

Monday, September 12, 2016

Here is another update from the Corbetts, as well as a link to their home page. Enjoy!

Thank you, writing teachers, for establishing a writer's notebook routine this September!  We love that we're hearing from so many of you about your immediate successes!
Let's keep the festivities going this September!
Happy rest of the weekend!
--Corbett (& Dena) Harrison
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