This March, I will participate in my third Slice of Life Story Challenge. In 2015, I joined in with my class on a whim. I knew that as a teacher of writers I needed to walk the walk and write more myself. But hey, I had a blog (started in July 2013) that I sometimes used for reflections. Honestly, I was not writing regularly (as you will see if you look at the archives of the blog) and I had a “fake it ‘til you make it” attitude because I wrote — emails and occasional letters — but really I knew that wasn’t enough. I am a jump in kind of person when I (finally) make up my mind, so I decided that as of March 1, 2015 I would be a Slicer! March is the month where Two Writing Teachers challenges people to slice daily. Yikes, what was I thinking?
I invited my third graders to join this writing adventure. I talked about the challenge in advance and showed some of the videos I collected here . As a class, we brainstormed possible slice topics before the month started so we would always have some reserve ideas. The challenge was optional. I let students use their blog or their notebook.
There are so many reasons I am sticking with it again this year, but here are the top ten reasons I think you should invite your class to join in the Classroom SOLSC:
- Community: The TWT community is special. It is such a safe place for writers to share their words. It is the same in the student version; it is powerful for students to get to experience this. Also, since I was doing the challenge, too, we could commiserate on the hard parts and celebrate the successes together.
- Audience: You are setting up your students to have a real audience, mostly people they do not know in person. Having an audience for your writing “raises the bar” in that people will read your words, not just a teacher or parents. Students were thrilled people commented, which inspired them to comment more too. Ashleigh said: “I liked that I could share a good moment with lots of different people so that they could experience that part of my life.”
- Motivation: Challenges are challenging. 31 days of blogging daily is HARD! I definitely had students who were determined to blog each day, while set out knowing they wouldn’t blog daily. Zhao Yang adds: “I like the SOL because it really makes me think more about life and really helps with learning to be more creative. SOL is fun because I can write about almost anything in my life from the most little tiny thoughts to abstract and really big stuff.”
- Learning: I learn so much from my students during this challenge. I am a teacher who prides myself on having a strong sense of community in the class. We start each day with Morning Meeting so students have the opportunity to share their lives outside of school. They also learn so much about each other. It’s fun to see slicing “trends” as students inspire each other. The students who posted regularly bonded with each other in new ways.
- Memories: Former students name the challenge as a highlight of the year. Ava asked for the link to the new class’s slicing page so that she could comment. Zahira made a video about the experience. Former students stopped me in the hall last year and asked if I was going to do it again. I assured them I was. Some of my previous students sliced again even though their new class did not.
- Experimentation: Students tried out various forms of writing different from what we were working on in class. Ava says: “As a writer, it helped me to learn more about different types of writing and got to see what was hard and what was easy so I know what I should practice doing to be a better writer. Now, writing and posting slices is much easier for me.”
- Improved Writing: Students wrote a lot. For my students who are new to English, this was a great way for them to get a lot of writing done. Ashleigh adds: “It helped me to put more detail into my writing because in slice of life you put lots of detail in because you are writing about something so little.”
- Improved Commenting: Ava added to the challenge by trying to comment on as many of her classmates’ posts each day as she could. She has a knack for writing comments that focus on what the writer did well in their post. Students learned from reading comments what kinds of feedback was helpful and inspirational. Her advice for students includes: “Comments was a big part of what makes slicing fun for me. It’s fun to write comments, but receiving and reading comments are the most fun for me. Receiving comments makes me feel happy because people are noticing my slice, they are reading it and they are having thoughts about my slice. What makes commenting hard is sometimes you don’t know what to say.”
- New Friendships/Mentors: Last year I knew I would invite my new students to complete the challenge with me. I started talking it up earlier, so by the time February came around the students were already bubbling with anticipation. About half the students completed the month by blogging most days. The benefits I saw were similar. I now have a bank of mentor texts by former students that can inspire student writers. Zhao Yang reflected on this and said, “Hope I will see new people doing SOL in this year.”
- Connections: You can approach this challenge in any way that works for you. We had a few classes we knew of that were participating, so we linked their blogs to our class page so it was easy for students to explore the links. Students were excited when they had comments from people whose blog posts they had read. We would love to comment on your slices, so let’s connect!
Erika Victor is a grade three teacher at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. She loves to read, write, and learn, so workshop has been a great combination of all three. You can find her online on Twitter, @ErikaMVictor, or on her blog. Her OLW for 2017 is “brave,” so who knows what the year will bring! Special thanks to Ava, Zahira, Zhao Yang, and Ashleigh for contributing their thoughts for the post.