mentor texts · SOLSC Classroom Challenge

Lessons from Abdul’s Story: The 2023 Classroom SOLSC

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes (830 words).

Welcome to Week 4!

By now, the writers in your classroom are halfway through their month-long writing challenge. This is the point where things may start to feel hard. Students need stamina, motivation, and inspiration to keep going. 

Thank you to everyone who’s commented on the Padlet. Keep the comments coming to encourage student writers! (As always, click here for more information on the Classroom SOLSC).

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Be Inspired!

Today, I’ll share a new book that can help students finish the month strong. Abdul’s Story, by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, was published in 2022. It’s about Abdul, a young boy who loves to tell stories but struggles to get them down on paper. Abdul compares his work to his classmates, noticing that his writing is messier. Spelling is hard for Abdul, and he notices that his peers seem to write more easily. Besides, none of the books he reads have characters like Abdul. Abdul decides that his stories must not belong in books.

It’s not until Mr. Muhammad, a writer, visits Abdul’s class that Abdul learns writers can look like him and write stories that are familiar to him. And Mr. Muhammad even has a notebook FULL of messy writing- just like Abdul’s! Abdul perseveres through challenges including negative feedback and difficulty spelling to write a story, and Mr. Muhammad finally shares Abdul’s work with the class. Everyone loves it, and Abdul realizes that he is a writer!

The cover of Abdul's Story

All writers experience failure and challenges, and many writers participating in the Classroom SOLSC could feel like Abdul. Writing is hard work! I hope Abdul’s story can help the writers in your class persevere through the April challenge. If you choose to share this text with your class, check out my takeaways below to lead discussions related to the book.

“Abdul loved to tell stories.”

Everyone has a story to tell, and writers are people who share these stories through written text. Take time with students to reflect on the stories they’ve written this month. Offer time for students to share a peer’s slice they loved.

“He told one about the high-stepping kids who collected donations in boots. Another one about the teenagers who danced in subway cars. He had one about the bow-tie-wearing man hawking bean pies on Broad Street.”

Stories are everywhere! Abdul tells stories about the usual sights and sounds in his neighborhood, demonstrating that even simple slices of life have value. Use Abdul’s stories to show students that story ideas are everywhere. Perhaps students can take time sharing their “most ordinary” slice to inspire the class.

“Writing these stories was hard, though.”

Writing can be hard, and if your class has made it to Day 16 of this challenge, they’ve probably realized that. It’s important to discuss the challenges of writing so students know it’s hard for everyone. Lead a class discussion about the hardest part of the challenge so far. Point out connections and similarities in students who are facing similar difficulties, and suggest partnerships and strategies to move forward.

“Abdul’s scribbly, scratchy, scrawly letters never stayed on any line.”

Writing is messy, and I’m not just talking about handwriting. Brainstorming is messy. Revision is messy. Editing is messy. Point to Mr. Muhammad’s messy notebook as validation for students that messy isn’t bad. Often, messy means you’re on the right track. Take today’s writing time to offer colorful pens, post-it notes, and revision strips. Help students embrace the messiness of writing and revising.

“Over the next few days, Abdul rewrote a less messy mess, then an even less messy mess. He smiled when he read his story to himself.”

Writing takes time. To improve your writing, you have to rewrite and revise, but this effort is rewarding. Lead a discussion about how it’s felt to write every day for over two weeks. What have we learned as writers? What is hard about writing every day? What is fun about writing every day? What do we need, as a writing community, to make it to the end of the month?

“‘That’s sloppy!’ Jayda said. ‘You spelled a word wrong,’ Kwame added. Abdul slipped his paper underneath the others. ‘Some kids are writers,’ Abdul thought, ‘but not me.'”

Feedback is powerful, and the way you use it can build someone up or tear them down. Since the Classroom SOLSC is feedback-driven, it’s important to discuss what helpful feedback looks like. Ask students to share the most effective bit of feedback they’ve received this month, or use a demonstration text to practice sharing helpful comments.

“Some people are writers, and I am one of them.”

We are all writers, and our stories matter. This is the most important message I hope students take away from Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s book. I hope Abdul and the discussion ideas help your students to see themselves as writers with important stories to share. Keep up the good work on the challenge!

Let’s Have a Conversation!

Don’t forget that you have a community of writing teachers here with you. Let us know how it’s going. Do you have a book that encourages perseverance for writers? Please share it below!

Questions about the Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge should be directed to one of these co-authors:

  • If your last name begins with the letters A -Q, please email questions to Leah Koch at Leah.koch7[at]
  • If your last name begins with the letters R – Z, please email questions to Melanie Meehan at meehanmelanie[at]