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.

The Northern Nevada district I serve has a "balanced calendar" that has me teaching from early August to early June, and during my 7 weeks of summer and during my two annual two-week breaks, I independently contract to present workshops to school districts and professional organizations around the country.

I have no available dates left in 2017.

In 2018, I may have availability between January 8-12, March 26- April 6, and June 11 - July 27, October 1-5.

If you would like to verify my availability for a specific date or dates in the windows offered above, please contact me at this e-mail address.

You can find general information about my workshops here.


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

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

Here's one of my original writer's notebook lessons. Thank you for your interest in this lesson. This is one of the new lesson write-ups that will complement our Summer of 2013 new-product for our site: 10 Common Core Vocabulary/Writing Lesson. These online lessons are designed so that they can either precede or immediately follow the lesson on haikus and vocabulary that one of the ten PowerPoints explores thoroughly. After students learn a concept--like haiku--they need to practice the idea in a variety of contexts. The lesson on this page attempts to provide an additional context beyond the lesson that you can purchase as a PowerPoint.

Like this lesson's big idea? Like the student samples? Follow Me at Pinterest to access all my educational boards. I have a special board on pages from my own writer's notebook that provides quick access to all of my lessons of the month from the past that I have featured, including this one.

A Writer's Notebook Challenge...from my Notebook to Yours:
Creating Haiku Riddles--Making your Notebooks Interactive
With Post-its and some interesting vocabulary, students will make haiku riddles for each other!

Overview: This lesson celebrates the idea that seventeen well-chosen syllables--as in what you find in a haiku--should be able to almost always project the same image on a group of listeners' minds. This is the job of a writer, after all: to project images on a reader's brain. Prelutsky's awesome mentor text allows for using his book (pictured at right) like a big class riddle-solving contest. Each of the author's haiku is a description of an animal without ever naming the animal; instead, the picture by Ted Rand reveals the answer. If you read from the pages without showing students the pictures, you can run the experience as "a contest," having students work quietly in pairs to see how many of the haiku "riddles" they can decode when you first share the book whole class. Why do 11-13 year-olds love to compete so much? Anyway, inspired by the mentor text's structure and idea, students will then craft six haiku riddles about a certain topic they know a lot about. These will become an interactive page in their writer's notebooks, and with Post-its and tape (to reinforce), students can absolutely "interact" with each other's notebooks in a way that is meaningful and practices great word choice.

Six Trait-Based Objectives: It's always important to communicate a solid objective to students, and when teaching writing, we should--first off--focus on a writing process or a trait skill, not focusing first and foremost on the end product, which is in this case is a series of haikus with correct syllabication. I believe we teachers focus on the students' end product when writing objectives for our writing lessons way too much ("Let's write an acrostic poem!" for example); I hope to encourage teachers to try focusing on skill or process as you word your objectives and design your instruction ("Let's work on some exploring unique and interesting adjectives skills while we write haikus that can serve as riddles for your classmates," for example).

I also believe it's critical to differentiate our lessons. To prepare for dealing with different abilities of my writers, I always select a FOCUS TRAIT, which is the one skill ALL students will work to become better at using. For my average and above-average students, I always select a SUPPORT TRAIT too. My top writers are always encouraged to think about my lesson's support trait (in addition to the focus trait) during their rough-drafting, and my average writers are encouraged to start thinking about the support skill right before revision. That said, the focus trait for this writing assignment is word choice; as they compose their haikus, they are to make use of verbs and adjectives that are unique to their topics.  The support trait  for this writing assignment is idea development; when students work on "projecting an image" on their readers' minds, they are working on the skill of imagery, which is an idea development skill (that is greatly complemented by skills of word choice!).

My mentor text I use for this lesson:

"If Not for the Cat " by Jack Prelutsky

This lesson completely complements my "Exit Tickets Across the Curriculum" workshop materials. Writing structured riddles about recently learned content in a pretty deep way to convey that you've learned something interesting & factual.

Sharing the "Mentor Text": This couldn't be easier. Put them in partners. Have them make an answer sheet from 1-15. Explain that you're going to read the haikus without showing the pictures, which give away the answer; they have to use the seventeen syllables to definitively select the only animal that the haiku could really stand for. They are shooting for a perfect score!

After hosting the "Haiku Riddle Contest" using Prelutsky's book, choose a few haikus to structurally analyze. Say the haiku out loud, have the students repeat it, then have them double check that there are indeed 17 syllables. Students should definitely understand the structure of a haiku before putting the mentor text away.

Choosing a Topic: In my class, the minimum number of riddles students can complete for this assignment is six; my students' pages can fit six different haiku riddles written on six Post-its, and I want them to fill a page with these. If you want to do fewer, or if you students ask if they can do more than six, sigh heavily, then allow them to do more than six.

The trick is they have to think of topic categories where they could find six different specific nouns to write haikus about. If you choose "Primary Colors" as your category, you are limited to only three riddles; if you choose "Planets in our Solar System" as your category, you have--at least--eight topics to choose from. Prelutsky chose simply "Animals" as his topic, but then he selected really interesting types of animals that allowed him to include descriptive hints to the reader.

You don't have to do this, but I do: I require the category they choose for their haiku riddles to be school-related. I don't want to read haiku ridddles about Anime or Pokemon characters; I want haikus that--if we share with one another--we might just be learning or reviewing something beneficial.

Here are some school-related topics I suggest:

  • states or their capitals
  • planets
  • Civil War generals
  • geometric shapes
  • countries or continents
  • natural disasters
  • explorers
  • characters from books
  • National Parks
  • weather phenomenona
  • heroes
  • parts of speech
  • geographical features
  • minerals
  • presidents
  • the six writing traits