Welcome. My name is Corbett Harrison, and I have been an educator since 1990, and a teacher-trainer since 1998. I specialize in teaching writing using differentiated instruction techniques. I also focus on critical thinking skills, especially during the pre-writing and revision steps of the writing process. Every year, I challenge myself to improve my writing instruction even more, and this website is where I post my most successful new ideas.

I have been on hiatus from doing out-of-state teacher trainings recently for two reasons: 1) I'm writng a book on teaching writing, and 2) I'm preparing to retire from the classroom at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Beginning in the summer of 2019, I will be available once again to train teachers your school or district if you would like to hire me. You can find general information about my workshops here.

If you would like to verify my availability for a specific date or dates starting in June of 2019, please contact me at this e-mail address.



       Because writing--when taught right--can be the most enjoyable part of your teaching day, I created this website.

the "always write" homepage | email me | writingfix | pinterest | facebook | teachers pay teachers | twitter | youtube | lesson of the month  

Contact me through my e-mail address with questions/comments about this lesson: Corbett@CorbettHarrison.com

One of my most-requested full-day or half-day workshops when I travel this country is our writer's notebook/journal presentation. When I display my students' voice-filled samples (check out my Pinterest boards to see what I mean!) with other teachers, the idea of a writer's notebook routine seems both feasible and critically important. On this page, I share a new type of writer's notebook resource we're developing for the Always Write website. If you use it by adapting it, let us know, and we will consider continuing to post ideas like this one.

Happy October 2017, which is when this writer's notebook challenge was originally posted for a mass teacher audience! I discovered in January of 2017 that I would be co-presenting at the big NCTE Conference, being held in St. Louis the week before Thanksgiving. I will be co-presenting with two of my personal teacher mentors and favorite authors: Gretchen Bernabei and Aimee Buckner. Our presentation will focus on teaching voice through a journal/writer's notebook expectation. Because we use sacred writing time in my classroom, and because that routine is being used in so many fellow teachers' classrooms these days, I will be speaking about the importance of establishing a routine for this practice and the rationale you should share with administrators, fellow teachers, parents, and students. If you missed the presentation In November 2017, here is a link to the materials for you to access and use: Journals and Writer's Notebooks: a resource for writers.

set up four panels...try out a new comic strip style four times over time
Unique Language Comics

introducing four types of language comics:

Essential Questions/Overview/Mentor Text Suggestions:

  • How must my brain think in order to create a language comic, like those shared on this page? How can I aide my brain as it tries to play with language in this manner?
  • What type of original language comics might I add to my own writer's notebook to show I am a celebrator of our wonderful language?
  • How does crafting sentences with interesting language labels -- like homographs -- help make me more aware of our language's subtleties?

What's the big idea behind these language comics? I've become good at "reserving pages" in my notebook, which is what I call it when I skip a few pages ahead to a blank page and give it some purpose by putting something on the page to write about in the near future. The language comic ideas from this page are but one technique for "reserving" a page. If you like the idea behind one of my language comic suggestions, then reserve a page for them in your notebook, or have your students do this. It becomes a fun page to re-visit and to continue to add to.

Interestingly enough, I hadn't thought about using comics in my current writer's notebook until I found three fortunes from different fortune cookies that all started with the word courtesy. An idea for a comic where I joked with the word courtesy in my brain ; in fact, I figured out how to pun with the phrase 'Curtis see.' If you recall, back in January of this year I started posting ideas for using fortune cookie fortunes in one's writer's notebook as an interesting writing prompts or to serve interesting purposes.

I am quite artistically challenged, but over the years I have taught myself to draw a pretty decent stickman in my margins or in a reserved area on a page I've already written on. My Mr. Stick resource Page, which freely gives you some tools to teach your own kids to use Mr. Stick in their writer's notebooks or journals, is a popular page here at Always Write. My kids love Mr. Stick. You can see proof of that at this Pinterest Board, which celebrates our classroom "margin mascot" serving many purposes in almost a hundred students' notebooks.

Anyway, using Mr. Stick is what gives me the courage to create a notebook comic free-handedly and without feeling I'm artistic, but I have a lot of students who create comics online to paste or tape into their writer's notebooks too. Hand-drawn comics are not the only way to use Mr. Stick, we've been discovering. Mr. Stick stars in the fortune cookie comic I created with the three fortune cookie fortunes that all started with the word courtesy. I was pleased with my comic, mostly because I was having trouble recently with the voice-to-text converter in my phone. This comic will always remind me of my phone writing 'men dive' whenever I was by Mendive Middle School, which is on my way home. Click on the thumbnail of my fortune cookie comic at left to see a bigger version of it.

Anyway, creating this fortune cookie comic inspired me to go back to an old idea from an older notebook -- Homonym Comics -- and expand on it by creating three brand new types of notebook comics that I don't think anyone has ever thought to create before I did it on August 19, 2017. Does that statement count as an official trademark, do you suppose? I'm guessing not, but I think I officially "own" the four comic ideas for notebooks that I share for your enjoyment on this page. I really enjoy "reserving pages" in my notebook with labels like "Homograph Comics." I break the page into four quadrants, and over time, I return to the page when I have a new idea for a homograph comic that has occurred to me because I am on the watch for them...because I created a notebook page where I know I will collect them.

Mentor text suggestions:


by Jon Agee

Sit on a Potato Pan, Otis! More Palindromes
by Jon Agee

So many dynamos!: and Other Palindromes
by Jon Agee

Go Hang a Salami! I'm a lasagna hog!
by Jon Agee

It's easy to reserve pages ahead in your notebooks for any purpose, a language comic just being one of them. If you tape a photograph of your Aunt Sue on a notebook page ten pages ahead of where you are, you have officially "reserved" that page to be about Aunt Sue. It's an easy concept. I teach my students to do this through my own notebook modeling.

Connect this notebook idea to a published mentor text (or two or three or four)...it makes the writing task feel more authentic to students: Back in the 1990's, Jon Agee made some great language-based comics that he published in small book forms that are easy to store in your classroom library. I think most of his language comic books are out of print now, so always be on the look-out for a good and reasonable used copy; over the years, I collected all four of his palindrome books that I showcase above; click the links to find an affordable copy of one to get started. Why? If you had just one of the titles, you could show how a 'language comic' combines a visual with a clever-with-language type of sentence or phrase that celebrates a smart use of words. To me, that's what a 'language comic' is, and I want to give credit to Jon Agee (as well as Fred Gwynne's "The King Who Rained") for always providing great visual examples to my students of different types of language comics.

The four language comic ideas for notebooks(or journals) that I have been inspired to create come from my love of language for young writers by authors like Agee and Gwynne. I like thinking about language from a more unique point of view sometimes, and I think both these authors' published comics showcase what clever and abstract language celebration can look like in one's notebook.

And don't forget the classic mentor texts here: I grew up chewing and reading Bazooka Joe, and we loved the waxy comic that came with each piece. I wanted to write jokes that dumb. Having the ability and drive to create my own notebook comics like the four I feature on this page come from my love of having short, clever things to read and to share. I feel like my language comics add my own attempts at creating Bazooka Joe-inspired silliness in my notebook.

I hope you enjoy language enough to want to put it into language comics too!

My Four Language Comic Ideas Connected to this Page:
Video Support for this Lesson:

This video explains homophone and homograph comics by sharing my writing process and some of my samples.
Video Support for this Lesson:

This video defines heteronym and paronym comics by sharing my writing process and some of my samples.

Notebook Idea 1: Homophone Comics -- My original idea for a "language comic"

Homophone comic (also a noun) -- using two or more homophones in a single sentence and providing a visual as an illustration for the sentence. Good homophone comics attempt to be clever.

My kids come to me from elementary school with a lot of useless language words in their brains that they try to impress (or maybe test) me with. I think a teacher at my feeder school must teach the heck out of homophones vs. homographs because multiple school years have begun with a smug kid asking me if I knew the difference. I know my homophones pretty well because I actually have this page of homophone comics in a previous notebook, forever etching that word's meaning on my brain. At fifty years of age now, I'll admit I sometimes forget what a homophone is, and on more than one occasion, I've consulted my own notebook page for a reminder to my aging memory.

Homophone comics are easy. When introducing language comics for the notebook, I'd start with them, if you're interested in developing this as a practice for your language-loving notebook keepers. They're, their, and there are homophones, but can you put all three of them into once sentence, and can that sentence be slightly clever? Of course you can, but can you put the words into a sentence you can then provide a rudimentary cartoon or weird illustration for? Adding that second question to the language challenge makes it go from simple homophone sentence to homophone comic. One homophone-filled sentence + illustration = homophone comic.

Knowing I have to create a visual to go with my homophone sentence, I put a lot more thought into the words I ultimately use. Perhaps I decide that "They're there on their cell phones, ignoring their surroundings again" is easier to provide a visual for than "There was a family who said their purpose was to stop the world from mis-using the word they're" would be. I have multiple options, but I have to self-choose one that best fits what I believe I can truly accomplish in my notebook, and that takes my thinking process to a higher level on Bloom's taxonomy: analysis and evaluation. These are both good places to push a brain towards anytime I am in my writer's notebook.

Click on the thumbnail image above right to view the homophone comic page I show my students right before I "dare them" to create a better homophone comic than any of the ones I have made. Mine are pretty good; they go way past there, their and they're. I actually use cops and copse in one of my comics, and that sets a nice high bar for my students--a bar that many of my advanced writers interpret as "Let me surprise you by showing you how I really thought of a good homophone or two."

Click on the thumbnail at left to see a homophone comic page created by one of my students who was inspired to try after seeing my example. Notice how the high bar I set inspired a high bar from the writer. I was impressed with Chris' choice to discover harder homophones as opposed to the obvious ones. Click on this link to see another marvelous example of homophone comics from a student (Hannah) who was also inspired by the high bar my teacher model had set.

The lesson here, or at least the big idea that I hope you hear from me: Make a teacher model of any challenging idea you present to your students because they like to see you participate in the writing process as well. And when you make your model, make it pretty good. Use your model's quality as a challenge. I differentiate my instruction which, admittedly, is designed more often for my middle-of-the-bell-curve kids than not, but I know enough to have scaffolding in place for my struggling writers and extra challenges ready for my advanced writers. Both my middle-of-the-curve and the advanced writers in my class enjoy homophone comics. They can be tough for your language learners, which is another reason I encourage them to become optional parts of notebook assignments, not required tasks from students whose brains would really struggle with this type of creation.

I did create an original write-up about homophone comics a few years back, but have including the idea in this online lesson collection with my write-up you just navigated. If you want to see my original lesson on homophone comics, click here.


Notebook Idea 2: Homograph Comics -- My next original idea for a language comic

Homograph Comic (also a noun) -- using two or more homographs in a single sentence and providing a visual as an illustration for the sentence. Good homographs comics attempt to be clever with their words first, images second.

For homograph comics, I decided (in my notebook anyway) to focus in on this part of the word's meaning: different words spelled exactly the same but having different meanings. So think of a SET in tennis and and a tea SET. If you put both of those words with their different meanings together in one sentence, you would be creating a simple Homograph Comic.

  • After the SET of tennis ended, she drank tea from her tea SET. Or...
  • Someone left a tea SET on the court, delaying the SET of tennis from being played. Or...
  • ...And this is to really impress you: I SET her tea SET next to her tennis racket when the final SET ended, and she just SET and stared at the SET rubies on her trophy, the prize on which she'd SET her eyes.

The challenge of creating a homograph comic that shows sophisticated thinking comes from the difficulty of the word one has discovered is a homograph. Set is a pretty simple word; I believe, in fact, it is the English word with the most definitions, making it the most homographical, a word I just coined. Constitutional is a much more sophisticated word to think about for a homograph comic. I ask myself, "Could I provide an illustration for the sentence 'It is my constitutional right to take this morning constitutional.?'" If I can, I have just dreamt up a pretty sophisticated homograph comic for my notebook.

With the idea of a homograph comic in my brain, I decided to reserve a notebook page for my best attempts at homograph comics. Over the next few weeks, I began filling up a fun page in my notebook. I found myself thinking about words quite differently during the short time I was seeking ideas for homograph comics. "Doesn't that word have another meaning?" I asked my wife a lot, and eventually I found some ideas I really liked.

Below are my notebook's homograph comics:

My first homograph comic:
My second homograph comic:
My third homograph comic:
My reserved page for four comics, awaiting one more:
Homographs must be spelled the same, and some may vary in pronunciation, like this one. The mischievous, spiky haired boy is my Mr. Stick tribute to Bart Simpson. Here are two homographs that are pronounced the same. Two different meanings for the word here. This comic inspired our Sensational Notebook News write-up. Since these are language comics, I decided to show how the COMICS has two entirely different meanings. This comic shows my Mr. Stick versions of Carrot Top and a young Steve Martin. Because I reserved my page to hold four comics, I am still searching for the fourth and final homograph on which to base my fourth and final comic.


Notebook Idea 3: Heteronym Comics -- My next original idea for a language comic for the notebook or journal:

Heteronym Comic (also a noun) -- using two or more heteronyms in a single sentence and providing a visual as an illustration for the sentence. Good heteronym comics attempt to be clever.

You've seen heteronym sentence challenges like the following two before, I bet; the idea is that you question your own pronunciation of the heteronym when you stumble across it in the sentence because its near its other form, which is pronounced differently:

  • If he presents presents to the king, the squire will show his undying loyalty.
  • Did the wind wind the sheets around the clothesline yesterday?

The challenge becomes saying both versions of the heteronym correctly when you encounter each form in the same sentence. Heteronyms can make your brain stumble or stub its toe as you read, so why not celebrate them by creating your own heteronym sentences that can you put into a notebook comic. Add a rudimentary or computer-assisted image, and you have a HETERONYM COMIC!

My first heteronym comic:
My second heteronym comic:
My third heteronym comic:
My reserved page for four comics, awaiting one more:
I knew lead and lead were heteronyms that always made me stumble if I wasn't paying attention, so I wanted this comic to be front and center--to remind me what a heteronym is as soon as I see the comic here. I was debating how conduct (the verb) and conduct (the noun) could be in one sentence, and then poor BatBoy got scolded for not acting professionally enough, and I create a comic that's a secret allegory. I thought using resign and re-sign (with the hyphen) was clever. I like this one best so far. I reserved space for a fourth comic on my page. When will a new heteronym come to me?


Notebook Idea 4: Paronym Comics -- My last (for now) original idea for a language comic

Paronym Comic (also a noun) -- using multiple paronyms in a single sentence and providing a visual as an illustration for the sentence. Good homographs comics attempt to be clever with their words first, images second.

Paronym comic (noun) -- using multiple paronyms in a single sentence and providing a visual as an illustration for that sentence.

Paronyms can be fairly simple or rather sophisticated challenges for students who are learning about Greek and Latin roots, or any other languages whose words have multiple derivatives. If the word derivative scares you there, don't let it. It just is a fancy way of saying words that are related by sharing a common root from a language, like Greek or Roman or Native America. So here are some paronymic lists and paronymic sentences to help you get the idea of this fourth type of language comic.:

  • Easy related words: REview, REmit, REnew, REname, REcall, REcarpet
  • Easy paronym sentence for a comic: If I REcall, they were REcarpeting the library when I went to REnew my book.
  • Medium-level related words: PANorama, PANtheon, PANdemonium, PANacea, PANopoly
  • Medium-level paronym sentence for a comic: There was a tiny bit of PANdemonium when we took a PANoramic picture at the PANtheon.
  • Challenge-level related words: DisTURB, TURBulence, PerTURBed, TURBine, ImperTURBability
  • Challenge-level paronym sentence for a comic: The TURBulence didn't disTURB me much, but my travel mate looked quite perTURBed.

As yourself as you look at the paronym sentences above, ask, "Which sentence could I more easily provide a rudimentary illustration for?" And "Are there other paronyms (words using the same, shared root) I could include in my own original sentences to later illustrate as comics?"

My first paronym comic:
omnibus, omniscient, omnivore
My second paronym comic:
contralto, contradict, contraband
My third paronym comic:
coming soon
My reserved page for four comics, awaiting one more:
I've always liked omni- as a Latin root, so it felt appropriate to make my first example with that all-seeing chunk of letter. I almost misspelled contralto here, but things like that happen in notebooks. I find his contradiction clever, I suppose. I think my Mr. Stick got a little scary here with my attempt to reference A Clockwork Orange. Preview before showing younger audiences. It's scary! :-) This is the full page I have set-up for my paronyms and for one more future paronym that I am admittedly always on the lookout for because of this page.


from Corbett & Dena Harrison to you...
Twelve Unique Notebook/Journal Ideas
Your best notebook keepers are always imagining unique ways to present their ideas. Can you encourage unique notebook approaches inspired by my attempts to be different in my notebook?

This resource page features one of our freely posted ideas we share with fellow writing teachers. We hope this page's idea inspires the establishment of a writer's notebook routine in your classroom.

If you're a teacher who is just getting started with classroom writer's notebooks, welcome aboard. We fund this website--Always Write--by selling just a few of our truly outstanding products from our Teachers Pay Teachers store. Before buying, kindly take advantage of the free preview materials we share so you know if the resources will work with your grade level and teaching style before you purchase the entire product.

Below, enjoy some short videos about our most popular products we sell to keep this website online.

365 Ideas for Writing/Discussing:

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --
For Writers Needing a Guided Challenge:

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --

Did you miss this freely posted lesson?

RheTURKical Triangle -- Lesson Link

Never miss another FREE lesson! Join our Lesson of the Month email group here.

-- Teachers Pay Teachers Link --

Mentor texts to inspire Vocabulary Collectors:

The Boy Who Loved Words
by Roni Schotter

Boris Ate a Thesaurus
by Neil Steven Klayman

Did you miss this freely posted lesson?

Primary Source Picture Books -- Lesson Link

Never miss another FREE lesson! Join our Lesson of the Month email group here.


Back to the top of the page