Who Is Up For A Challenge? A Guest Blog Post By Michelle Haseltine

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 7.21.37 PM“Who is up for a challenge?” This is the invitation I share with my sixth-grade writers before the March blogging challenge. Every student is required to hear what the challenge entails before they make a decision. For the past couple of years, I’ve had at least one-third of my students accept the challenge of writing and sharing a blog post every single day in March. (There’s an extra level of challenge because our spring break usually falls in this month.)

How do I manage with thirty to forty students blogging? I blog too. That’s always made it more meaningful for my students. All students continue to blog every single Tuesday, and the students who are not part of the slicers group are encouraged to write comments to cheer on their classmates. It’s not easy. It’s time-consuming. There can be technological problems. Students get frustrated…but let me be very clear about something…it is worth it! The students who stick with it for the entire month feel like they’ve completed a marathon. We celebrate all students at the end of the month, but particularly those who persisted through all sorts of challenges.

Why do they do this? Middle school students love a challenge, so that’s what hooks many of them. Those that love writing will continue all month long. They are living the life of a writer, and they see the value in that experience, but the connection with an authentic audience is what keeps us all returning every day.

Finding those connections can be a challenge, so I do the work before the month begins. I reach out to other teachers I know who are participating and see if we can purposefully make connections between our students. Sometimes technology prevents that from happening. We’ve experienced great potential writing buddies, but their blogs are blocked at our school. Keep going! Don’t give up because this is what the writers will remember.

Our favorite connection is when our sixth-grade writers in Virginia connected with a group of first-grade writers in Ohio. It started out small, but the students felt a strong pull to keep reading the blogs. They also began writing blogs for their first-grade buddies. Students were rushing to class to check their comments and to see if their first-grade friends had written. It changed them. They became the experts and the teachers, and they rose to the occasion. We skyped at the end of the challenge and had a great time “meeting” our writing friends.

Why should you and your students join the classroom challenge?

  • It builds a community of writers.
  • Students work hard and feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • It’s an opportunity to celebrate all writing and writers.
  • Authentic audience motivates writers to continue.
  • It’s fun and hard and worthwhile.

Michelle Haseltine spends her days with middle schoolers in Loudoun County, VA reading, writing, thinking, and creating. Michelle is a Teacher-Consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project and co-facilitator of the #TeachWrite chat and owner of Selah Writing. When she’s not blogging, she can be found scribbling in her seventy-fifth notebook. She can be found on twitter as @mhaseltine and at her blog One Grateful Teacher.