Everyone wants students to be be intrinsically motivated to write daily. While we can hope our enthusiasm is contagious, sometimes it’s not enough for reluctant writers. Working with reluctant writers means providing the motivation without threatening low grades. Creating enthusiasm is hard when a child doesn’t feel s/he has anything to write about. It’s hard to get kids intrinsically motivated to write when they don’t want to, isn’t it?
Back when I was a f/t classroom teacher, some of my students were completing daily entries in their writer’s notebooks without enthusiasm. They were doing it because it was assigned. Some simply claimed their lives were too boring and they had little to write about. Something changed when I proposed a month-long writing challenge to my kiddos back in February 2008. When I challenged my fourth graders to write for the entire month of March (in 2008), I knew I had to offer them a little more than a little sticker on a grid of names. Therefore, I promised students who completed 25 – 31 days of the first-ever Slice of Life Story Challenge writerly gifts. (Click here to see what they received.) I also promised to hold a party (with slices of cake, of course) for the students who completed 31 days. While my first year of the classroom challenge was successful, I don’t think it was because of the prizes I offered. Rather, it was successful because the level of enthusiasm about sharing stories increased. Morning Meeting share time was devoted to sharing slices of life. Further, my students were excited to read each other’s writing as soon as they turned-in their homework. Some students didn’t complete slices for all 31 days, but all of my students’ writing volume and enthusiasm increased as a result of the first SOLSC.
If you’re planning to implement a Slice of Life Story Challenge in your classroom this March, then consider whether or not you want to offer prizes to students who complete a given number of entries in their notebook. The prizes shouldn’t be lavish. Rather they should be writing-related. Or, if prizes aren’t your thing, then consider hosting a special lunch for students who complete the challenge. This is also a meaningful way to celebrate the hard work that takes place during the Challenge. (Click here to view some pictures from my second Slice of Life Story Challenge Party.)
Have you led a Slice of Life Classroom Challenge? If so, have you given prizes to students who completed the Challenge? What did you do to celebrate the slicers in your class? If you have decided against prizes, please share how you celebrated with the writers who completed the Challenge.
Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.