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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