SOLSC Classroom Challenge · SOLSC Classroom Challenge

Teacher (and Student!) Tips for the 2023 Classroom SOLSC

This guest post is written by Erika Victor, a fifth-grade teacher at an international school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Erika is also a frequent slicer. You can find her on Twitter at @ErikaMVictor. Big thanks to her former students, Z in Kuala Lumpur and L in Phnom Penh (as well as the students from the linked blog), for their inspiring words. 

I will participate in my ninth Slice of Life Story Challenge this March, and April will be the ninth time I have invited students to slice. I am honored to encourage you to have your students participate in the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge (SOLSC) this year. My goal is to help you see that you can make the challenge work for you and your classroom. 

A few years ago, I wrote a post about the Classroom SOLSC. Looking back on it, I found some resources and thoughts I will share with my class this year. Interestingly, some of the tips I’ll share with you today haven’t changed over the years, but some have. Here are eight tips to help you get started with the Classroom SOLSC this year:

1. Share, Share, Share

Ideally, you are prepping for your March challenge in February, so share that with students as often as possible. Ask your students what they think you could slice about and start a poster to add on to. When something gets shared or happens in the class, jot that down, saying, “Oooh, that would make a great slice!” When you model everything that goes into daily writing, students will be more prepared for their turn the next month!

2. Be Open

I have had many different options and platforms for blogging over the years. I’ve recently used Padlet because students can add photos from their notebooks, share a link to a Google doc, and even add images or videos! Students who don’t feel like writers can slice by creating an audio recording on Padlet. 

3. Make It Special

I often offered a “Slicer Lunch” or recess once a week where writers could write, share ideas, look at other slicers’ posts, and generally have fun in our writing community. When we were virtually learning due to the pandemic, we met on Zoom, and I was so surprised that students still showed up for Slicer Lunches! (I offered breakout rooms so they could write with a friend or be more social, depending on their interest). 

4. Find An Audience

I try to comment as often as possible on students’ slices. Some years, I have even forwarded our blogging platform link to colleagues (either at my school or further away) who I think might comment when they can. Comments inspired some (as you’ll read from one of my former students below!)

5. Make It Work For You

Some people offer prizes or digital badges – I don’t. For a few years, I gave extra notebooks and pens to students who sliced regularly. I make the challenge optional- some people make it mandatory. You know yourself, your classroom, and your students best, so be flexible as you find what works. Do what works for you.

6. Talk It Up

During the writing workshop, mention that you notice improvements in the writing of the slicing students. Make it guilt-free too, so they know that any day they slice is progress. 

7. Share Your Why

Why do you write? Why do you slice? What are some benefits you have found that surprise you? Hearing this from a fellow writer will inspire students to reflect on these questions themselves.

8. Make Plans

We invariably have some sort of break during the challenge. Brainstorm solutions with the class before the challenge starts. How can slicers plan for issues like Wi-Fi outages, unexpected school cancellations, or holidays? Maybe they can draft in advance? Write in a notebook and post when time and wifi cooperate? Discussing these barriers will reduce stress for students during the challenge. 

To inspire you to join my class this year, I reached out to two former students to hear their thoughts on the Classroom SOLSC:

Z was in my third-grade class six years ago. He says:

It’s so great to hear from you! I’m glad you’re doing well – I actually took a peek at your blog a few months ago to see if you were still slicing! I can’t actually fully remember why I decided to start slicing, but come to think about it, I think the rewards you gave definitely helped and were a motivational factor for me to make sure I sliced every day. I think another thing is that teachers should definitely lead by example by slicing themselves, along with making it an active topic of discussion (continually bringing it up to remind students) and giving them time in class to write their own slices/read others’ slices (from other schools!) The interaction and comments I got from people from other schools were really cool for me. Finally, I think it’s important that the teacher shows they care about the students’ slices and show their students that their slices are actually being read (I remember when I wrote a slice about how I had a disagreement with A and you told me that I could find you if I needed anything, which meant a lot to me).

I think slicing has, without a doubt, shaped me as a stronger writer and has paved the way to help me write better in middle and high school. It’s really a recollection of memories along the way that I think the students will really enjoy looking back on their past experiences in the future. You don’t really realize how bittersweet growing up actually is until after you’ve actually grown up!

L was in my fifth grade class last year. Here’s her perspective:

I think slicing is a fun way to spend your free time because if you are bored and wondering what to do you can just pull out a notebook or an empty document and write a slice of your life. It’s also nice because no one has to read your slice and you can just express your feelings or how your day went. You can even write down a song or a poem that you think is nice. And you can go back in the future to see what you have written.

Teachers can support their students when doing the Classroom SOLSC by making space in each day to let their students write a slice. It doesn’t have to be a whole 30 minutes- it can just be 5 minutes to take a break and think about your life.

One of the benefits is that you can slice about literally anything you want. I had a look back at my slices, and on one of them I talked about how I had nothing to talk about, and on another one, I wrote down my favorite words to say. It’s nice because you don’t have a set of rules. Another benefit might be that it makes you more creative because each day you think of something new and you might get so creative because you can slice anything you want. 

One last piece of advice: Keep your slices in a safe place so when you are older you can go back and reread what you wrote when you were younger.

When the month is over, encourage students to keep up the habit. Z sliced each Tuesday for several years after he was in my class because he knew that I did, too! I have learned so much more about my students who have sliced from their stories. Reading Z and L’s reflections has made me so excited to see what slicing brings this year! I will definitely be encouraging this year’s fifth graders to slice and would love you to comment when you can. I look forward to viewing your students’ writing as well. Please reach out if I can help support you in any way or if you have questions. 

5 thoughts on “Teacher (and Student!) Tips for the 2023 Classroom SOLSC

  1. I signed up to participate in the SOLS challenge, but did not indicate that my students would also be participating in the SOLS Classroom challenge. Is it too late to sign them up as well?


  2. What a nice piece, and so enhanced by the (former) student voices. I loved hearing them say to save your pieces to reread and remember what your life was like back then- same for me!
    I would love to comment on your students’ writing this year. Perhaps you could post a reminder and the link on the padlet again, when they start?

    Liked by 1 person

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