Hello, readers! It’s October…time for me to make my annual pitch for writing teachers everywhere to try the year round Slice of Life Project. In our classroom, Room 202, we’ve been slicing all year for many years now. Many of my sixth graders have heard about our project from siblings and friends, and begin asking, “When do we start?” from the first week of school. So, by the time we have successfully launched our workshop routines, and have begun filling our writer’s notebooks with entries and writing ideas, (i.e. October!) my kids are chomping at the bit to begin the project themselves.
Here’s why I think it’s so worthwhile to add one more “thing” to our writing workshop year:
- A yearlong Slice of Life Project enhances everything else you do in writing workshop. Slicing once a week gives kids another chance to practice all those skills you’ve been crafting mini lessons for, and each week’s set of slices become instant mentor texts for craft moves and (on a more mundane level) grammar and punctuation conventions. The class blog becomes a collective digital writer’s notebook – my students return time and time again to check out ideas and refresh their memories about this or that event which they wrote lengthier pieces about as memoirs, feature articles or narrative poems. Often, we mark up and analyze each other’s’ slices – so that we can learn about the craft of writing by reading closely and trying to figure out the hows and whys of each other’s’ writing moves.
- Because you are slicing once a week with your students, they get to see you live a writer’s life. In the early days of the school year, I often write my slice of life and post it on our blog right there in classroom, so that my kids can see what the writing process looks like. Looking back, I know that some of our most powerful writing lessons and (more importantly) ideas about the habits of a writer’s life, have arisen out of these “live” demonstrations.
- The SOL Project is also an authentic way in which to build and nurture a classroom community. My students share bits and pieces of their lives all year, and learn so much about each other in the process. Stories and events become slices that everyone can read, think over, and comment upon. We learn of visits from far away relatives, the loss of a beloved family member, the highlight or great disappointment of a trip. Slicing together every week gives us a chance to know and appreciate the lives of our classmates.
What would SOL in the classroom over the span of the year look like?
We write a Slice of Life almost every week of the school year. Most often, it is a “regular” slice of life – the classic moment-in-the-day one which the Tuesday writing community at Two Writing Teachers creates. But, there are times when my students have asked for “A SOL with a Twist” in order to mix things up a bit, and so we write about:
- our One Little Word and why we chose it
- a 100 word Halloween story.
- a Thanksgiving tradition SOL.
- a “portrait of a favorite relative” SOL (a moment that gives insight into what this person is all about).
- writing a SOL in response to a video clip (here’s an example ).
- creating a digital version of an SOL – a narrated video clip, recorded on their phones and uploaded to our Google Classroom site.
- a slide show of a SOL “in action” – baking cookies, fixing their skates, organizing a lemonade stand, etc.
- a rap version of events – this one is a crowd favorite, and only becomes an option towards the end of the school year.
- writing about a special object
These “non-regular” SOLs allow some variety in our weekly blog posts, and my kids appreciate the change of pace.
A few how-to’s:
Find a blogging platform you know and are comfortable with: Edublogs, and Kidblog are two easy to use sites. We have access to Google Classroom, and that’s been our platform of choice for the past couple of years. An advantage of Google Classroom is that my students can easily add copies of their slices to their digital writing portfolio collection as the year progresses.
Launch with mini lessons and mentor text work (you can always use a few well chosen slices from our Tuesday round up, or our March Classroom Challenge archives – but it is often easiest to write a few yourself to begin with). Mini lessons should include the “how to comment” aspect of slicing:
After a few practice rounds which allow students to become comfortable with blogging and responding, decide how you’d like to assess these slices. Here are a couple of rubrics I have used:
Celebrations! Decide how often you’d like to celebrate your student slicers to celebrate their commitment to crafting a Slice of Life every week. It’s a big deal to commit to this effort, and a celebration of favorite slices is always appreciated.
Have you begun a Slice of Life writing project in your classrooms? We’d love to know how this writing project is launched and grown through your school year.
I teach Writing Workshop, Language Arts and Social Studies to sixth graders at a middle school in suburban New Jersey. This blog is my attempt to capture all the "stuff" that goes into my teaching life - the planning, the dreaming, the reading, the preparing, the hoping and (above all) the kids.
Please note that the content of this blog is my own. It does not reflect the opinions of my employer.