Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Writing Challenge in the Classroom

This month I am participating in the Slice of Life Challenge hosted by I have never done it before, but am loving it. The goal is to write a "slice"--a small snippet of your day or something you've been thinking about--each day during the month of March. I have not missed a day yet. I've been astounded by how much fun it is and how I've developed the habit of writing a bit each day. Actually, it has become more of a need. I need to write a bit each day. The other really interesting thing happens as participants comment on each others' slices. Each slicer is to comment on at least 3 other slices each day. Many of us do more and have found an improbably strong sense of community among complete strangers.

As March 1st approached, I had a thought--what if I could modify the challenge and do it with my kids at school? And if I did, why? And how?  My friend Ruth Ayres at TWT posted about my plan at the start of the challenge, and I also talked my colleague Mr. A. into having his class join the challenge. Check out her post to see my note, charts, and the books we made for the kids to use.

Now that we're a couple weeks in, it's time to reflect on how it's going. The kids love it--and I love reading their slices each day. Some are expected and even predictable, like "I saw the bus today" or "I love my family". But those are not the norm. The kids are starting to notice things as they go about their daily lives and they slice about those. Things like "E. is not here again. I think she is sick." or "I have a hole in my shoe but it is not even cold." Several have sliced about the small green tomato growing in our room or the blossoms on the pepper plant. One girl gave an update on her new baby brother.

But other than enjoyment, what are they getting out of this? One of our goals was to help ourselves develop a writing habit, and I can honestly say that participating in the challenge is helping. The kids come in expecting to write their slice before doing something else. It only takes most of them about 2 or 3 minutes. Even my kids who often need redirecting during writing workshop enter the room ready to slice. J. even announced (loudly) as he came down the hall one day that he already knew his slice and was wanting to write it. A. mentioned that he had 2 "saved up" in his head for a couple days. That tells me that another goal is being met--the kids are starting to notice things in their lives the way writers do. They are tucking away thoughts and images to save them for writing.

Most importantly, the kids are having fun. They love the challenge. They talk about it, they tell others about it, and they look forward to it each morning. They ask about my "grown-up slices on the computer" and we talk about our classroom slices on paper. These things are important because it means they are having meaningful, enjoyable experiences as a writers. They don't see it as extra work. For the kids who struggle as writers, this is a very short form of writing. It is not overwhelming. There is only a small space for each day in our SOL books, so they get the experience of "filling up space" every day--something that many of them find daunting when looking at a full-size sheet of paper. And when they do face those big papers in workshop, many of them simply pull something from their SOL books, tell a little more, and add an illustration.

This has been such a positive experience for me and my kids as writers that I'm already planning to do it again next year. Want to join us?


  1. I'm glad it is going well. Love the snippets of slices you shared. Can't wait to meet your little slicers in person. :)

  2. You said it, I have my students writing as well and it has been a remarkable experience. They are enjoying writing. I can't say that everyone is, but the majority are having fun with it! I definitely will try this again next year. Of course I may try some things differently, but I am learning. After all this is my first attempt at this myself! Thanks for sharing your ideas! :)

  3. I was really intrigued by what you were doing with your students that I printed the information and finally decided to give it a try with my students. We are going to use to do our writing challenge. I am really excited about it...hope they will be too!!