It’s April and this year, in my neck of the woods, that means state testing, spring break, and now the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge! The Two Writing Teachers decided to move the challenge from March to April this year as a way to help educators have more time and space to focus on the Classroom challenge and support all their student bloggers. My class of third graders have taken on the Classroom SOLSC for the last few years and I wanted to share some of my tips for building excitement and setting students up for a successful experience.
Last week I announced the challenge to students. I shared this presentation with them and their families. I showed an example of badges a student earned last year from taking part in the Classroom SOLSC.
I announced there would be prizes but they would have to wait to see what they would be! I’ve found bringing prizes in towards the end of the challenge is the best idea. It adds more excitement after we’ve been blogging for a while and it doesn’t allow students to say, “Forget it- I don’t like these prizes. I’m not going to do the challenge” (which always hurts my feelings a little because I purchase these prizes on my own and try to find motivating and fun prizes that connect to literacy.)
This year, I made a page for each blogger that includes the URL to their posts on Kidblog and a QR code that takes you to the same spot. Students personalized the page with drawings and decorations that express who they are as writers. I photocopied each page, reducing it in size, and gave each student 5 “blogging cards” they could share with friends and family. I made a display of all the student pages to hang in the hallway so our school community would know about the challenge we’ve taken on in April.
To connect with the time of year, I brought in colorful plastic eggs. Students were wondering why there were eggs in the classroom! I placed different writing ideas in each egg for students who feel stuck or need some help coming up with an idea on a given day. (Almost like a fortune cookie!) “Egg-cellent Ideas” for writing really are everywhere! You can access my “egg-cellent” blogging prompts here.
Each student receives a packet I created for the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Family members sign that they received the packet and are aware of the challenge. There is a welcome letter, a list of all the badges students can earn, and a list of student names. This is to help keep track of who students have commented on so they can try to get to everyone in the class. Next, I have pages for each day of the challenge. For example, it says “Day 1” and then lists a place for the student to write the title of the blog post he wrote. Then, the student checks off the type of blog post it was (slice of life, poem, review, grateful post, etc.) I award badges for different types of posts, so it is important for me to know which kind students wrote. Next, there is a space for students to write the names of other students they commented on that day. I collect the packet once a week to award badges. I have a check-off list of the types of badges and the student names.
Each student has a digital badge page. As badges are earned, I update the page digitally and students can click on their name on my class webpage to see their badges. At the end of the month, I print out all the digital badge pages for students who earned badges. Students who earned at least 5 badges get a certificate. Students who earned 7 or more badges become eligible for prizes. Students who earn ten or more badges are entered into the Blogging Hall of Fame and have their picture taken!
As an educator, I hope to support many student bloggers in addition to my own class of bloggers. This year, I am trying to come up with a system to make sure I visit all the classes that are participating at least a few times during the challenge. Right now, my idea is to keep track on a Google doc of the classes I’ve visited on a given day. I will check in with our SOLSC padlet and then jot down the classes I visited. (You can make a copy of my document and use it if you want to keep track of your comments, too!)
How have you prepared your students for the blogging challenge? Are you incorporating badges and prizes? How are you communicating with families and your school about the challenge? Please share your best ideas in the comments!