Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Another update from the Harrisons. Enjoy!

I am  proud to say that I don't teach grammar in any way that would be considered traditional, and my February lesson of the Month (which is almost complete!) will show some of the creative techniques I use in my approach to reviewing and teaching grammar and all that grammar terminology found in Common Core.  For the February Writing  Lesson of the Month, I will be focusing on learning more about VERBS, and my lesson--I am pleased to say--will come with no grammar worksheets at all!
Quick side note: I like it when my students make "quizzes" for each other in their writer's notebooks during their ten minutes of Sacred Writing Time.  A truly thoughtful interactive writing notebook should beg to be passed around and shared, and creating a quiz on one of your pages is a great way to encourage such sharing.  Now, back to grammar...
To teach my students grammar, I find tricky ways to sneak grammatical knowledge into what feels like creative writing challenges to my students.  My two- and three-word sentence challenges secretly help my students understand the difference between transitive and intransitive action verbs.
This afternoon, I had a wonderful time creating a "grammar quiz" about transitive and intransitive verbs to house in my own writer's notebook.  The lesson that I've been building for February will make use of this teacher model, and the lesson will explain in great detail exactly how I'm going to have students create similar quizzes for their own classmates as we review transitive and intransitive verbs.  I doubt my students' quizzes will be as fancy as mine, but we'll see...they surprise me sometimes when they see a carefully-built teacher model ahead of time.
In the meantime, I thought I'd throw you this challenge: CAN YOU PASS MY 10-SENTENCE QUIZ ON TRANSITIVE AND INTRANSITIVE VERBS?  Here's a link to my blog post that I just created, and if you click on the picture of the new page from my writer's notebook, you should be able to see the page with enough details to make out all of my three-word sentences:  
Let me know if you pass or not!  :-)  Just don't have to!  I'll bet most of you pass, but I know my 8th graders won't even though we learned these terms last year as 7th graders. 
--Corbett Harrrison (
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Sunday, January 25, 2015

January Writing Lesson from Corbett and Dena Harrison. Enjoy!

Everything's uploaded and working.  My students are very much enjoying the option of creating an imaginary phone app description for new vocabulary words they have found, and they will be thrilled to know you are looking over their samples that I have posted.
Here is a direct link to the January Writing Lesson:
Here is a direct link to December's lesson, if you missed it:
--Corbett & Dena Harrison
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Another update from the Harrisons. Enjoy!

Am I weird? You can tell me if you think I am.  You see, one of my New Year's resolutions was to

spend few hours every weekend creating a new writing option for my students to "borrow" from me when they're looking for a creative way to approach the sacred writing time I'm requiring them to put in to their writer's notebooks.   I tell my young writers, "If you're just going to write block paragraphs day after day, then your notebook won't be nearly as much fun to flip back through and borrow from it those good ideas that can be further developedinto great ones."
Here's this weekend's brand new writer's notebook page from my own writer's notebook, which uses a unique take on an old idea--the acrostic "poem":
I avoid assigning very many acrostics because I think it's a format for writing that comes with the risk that students might take the easy way out and create a mostly thought-free acrostic poem for you.  It's real easy to write a lame acrostic poem, am I right? Since I'm still working on my VERB REVIEW lesson, and I'm always seeking new ways to make my students think about their VOCABULARY with both creative and logical thoughts, I decided to create a challenging new acrostic poem format to teach my kids based on interesting vocabulary verbs they might discover.  Use the link above or by clicking here to access my teacher model from my own notebook, which was published just this very afternoon for the first time!
Who or what SMITES?  Who or what SIZZLES? Who or what SALVAGES?  Those questions fueled my three acrostics! Now that my teacher model is completed, I've decided my students this spring will be creating a page similar to mine that has them further explore three alliterative verbs from their own weekly vocabulary collections they've been working on since we returned to school back in August.  If they like their poem drafts, I will invite them to "publish" them by neatly re-writing them inside their notebooks and adding decor and color; quite a few will do this if I tempt them with a few extra credit notebook points. And, as a result, they will have a sharp-looking page that stands out, and its presence might just inspire them to independently choose to write a thoughtful acrostic poem when they decide it's time to do some "Sacred Writing" for me that they don't want to take the form of a block paragraph.
Anyway, I hope you're enjoying your three-day weekend (if you happen to have one this weekend) and I hope you're keeping true to your own New Year resolutions.  Click here to learn more about my vocabulary lessons.  Click here to learn more about my students' writer's notebooks.  Click here to learn more about "Sacred Writing Time."
Enjoy your time with family and friends!  Do something creative and bold...I dare you!
--Corbett Harrison (
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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Here is the writing lesson of the month from Corbett Harison. Enjoy:)

My New Writer's Notebook Challenge:  We're getting ready to review verbs, so I've been working on a writer's notebook challenge based on Brian Cleary's picture book about verbs: "To Root, to Toot, to Parachute."  I came up with "Tri-Verb Rhyming Comics," and you can view my teacher model here:
Can you create a tri-verb rhyming comic?  The formula is: 1-syllable verb + 1-syllable verb + 3-syllable verb, and the three verbs have to rhyme. Then, you have to use Mr. Stick to create an idea for the story.  I made five of them, and it was kind of fun.  I'm not sure which comic I like best!  I did use the RhymeZone website for a few of them.  
Sacred Writing Slide of the Month:  Our featured SWT slide of the month is Wednesday of this week:  Great holiday that kids will love to write about, great quote from Churchill, and great vocabulary word to challenge them to use five times that day!  You can learn more about Sacred Writing Time at our website:
And a "shout out" to my teaching colleague--Sue Gonyou:  Dena and I are taking a creativity
in-service class from this wise and wonderful teacher in March.  I'm already signed up.  I'm already excited.  I love her classes because she gives us time to make stuff and share with each other; instead of "sit and get," Sue runs a "make and take" style of inservice class, and I wish there were more of these being offered in our district.  Sue is the teacher who--inspired by our Sacred Writing Time slides--created her own set to use in her social studies class.  You can read about Sue's "Transitions in Time" slides here:  There's a complimentary preview of them!
Have a great January, all!
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Saturday, January 10, 2015

A word on the new year from the Harrisons - enjoy! PS note the persuasive piece below:)

I'm putting finishing touches on the January "Lesson of the Month" this evening; it will be fully accessible tomorrow morning, which--I suspect--is the first day back for many of you with your student writers. 
The start of the school year (in August or September) is ALWAYS crazy; it takes a few months to get settled and know your new students, and I've always thought January was the perfect time to begin trying out some new techniques.  "Writing Teacher New Year's Resolutions," I've always called them.  If you are heading back this week or next without a manageable resolution for your own writing curriculum, Dena and I offer the following choices:
  1. Write EVERY day and start a Writer's Notebook routine!  The following page at our website is full of ideas and lessons that we use to make our students love and honor their ideas by putting them down in a special notebook:  OR...
  2. Challenge your readers to become "Book Advocates" instead of book report writers.  Once every five or six weeks, my students give a persuasive 6- to 8-minute speech/presentation to each other in our "Reader's Workshop routine."  I haven't graded a book report in over ten years now...and I love it!  Check out our Reading Workshop homepage for ideas ( or check out Dena's Reading Bingo Card preview:  OR...
  3. Stop only assigning vocabulary words for students to memorize!  Find ways to teach writing skills and Common Core academic vocabulary through short writing tasks that require students to do creative and logical thinking with new words they discover in their reading.  Be sure to check out my vocabulary resource page for some starting ideas:
If you missed December's Lesson of the Month (as I heard happened to some teachers), here is a direct link to it:  It is one of the ideas from Dena's Reading Bingo Cards (see #2 above) that we've recently expanded upon.  I am particularly proud of the third idea, and I'm looking forward to challenging my students with a new way to learn some grammatical terms from Common Core.
Here is a preview link to January's Lesson of the Month.  Like I said, it won't be finalized until tomorrow.  I am working on the student samples that I'm going to post, and I am still finalizing some of the handouts that come with the lesson.  I expect it to be completely functional by the time I head off to bed tonight:
Back to work on the January lesson now!  Thanks for your continued support of our website, and Happy New Year.
--Corbett & Dena Harrison
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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Recommending ASCD Talking and Listening.

The November  journal of Educational Leadership is titled Talking and Listening.  It is truly excellent.  I recommend it to every educator regardless of the level you teach. 

The CCSS has woven talking and listening throughout its pages, based on the role that collaboration plays when developing higher level thinking.  The articles in this journal address all of the essential points educators need to be recognize and implement in their classrooms.

The journal opens with a article titled Talking to Learn by Elizabeth A. City.  She clearly states, "although it's possible to think without talking - and to talk without much thinking - each can strengthen the other. "  She then proceeds to examine the purpose and benefits of the student driven classroom discussions, concluding with practical matters.

This is one of the most well written, complete, and well organized journals I have received from ASCD.

I urge you all to subscribe.

Enjoy, Darlene

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Tools for Teaching Academic Vocabulary by Janet Allen

This book is perhaps the best I have ever read on vocabulary.  It deals specifically with academic vocabulary - a topic near and ear to CCSS.  However, unlike so many of the vocabulary texts we have, this text teaches to understanding the word - really learning it - not just memorizing itl.

Like many of Janet's books, this book is teacher friendly - including templates that are easily understood, powerful learning tools, and reproduced in the text.

This is a must read.  Thank you, Janet.