Sunday, March 2, 2014

Slice of Life: Taking a Challenge 2 of 31

It's day two of the March Slice of Life Challenge.  31 days of writing.  Today's post is the story of how I found myself starting my first Class Slice of Life Challenge with FIRST GRADERS.   Thanks to the amazing Two Writing Teachers team for all of their support in this event.  A big thank you to my colleagues Deb Frazier, Carolyn Carr, and Julie Johnson who helped give me the courage to take the classroom plunge.  

Why Do You Write?
On Thursday I sat down beside a young writer to talk about his story.  The writer seemed to be going through the motions.  Sadly, he didn't look at all interested in what he was doing.  His book had one sentence and an illustration on each page about different plants he had.  I quietly sat beside him and began a conversation with him about his piece.  He'd picked an interesting topic and I especially wanted to know more about the cactus.

I noticed, as I started asking him some questions, his body language changed.  He sat up, his voice raised a bit, he smiled, and he started telling me all these things about cactus.  He was so excited the students around him got caught up in the conversation and had questions as well.  I noticed the change and said something to him about it.  After leaving the conversation I wondered if students write because they have something to share or because they have to write.  During share I bravely asked my students, "Why do you write?".
 

Taking a Challenge
As we talked, I told them about the Slice of Life Challenge I would be taking in March.  Right away one of my students said, "I want to do that."  Before I knew it the room was buzzing.  I was listening to them and wondering if first graders participating in a challenge could work.  I'm not always known for having the best judgement.  I sometimes jump in and, then after I'm in over my head, try to figure my way out of a situation.  So, of course, before I knew it we were developing a plan for them to join.

As we were talking and the excitement was building, one of my students looked at me and said with sincerity, "It's going to be hard, isn't it."  The room fell silent.  I looked into his eyes knowing from years of writing, and as someone going into year three of the challenge, it would be hard some days.  It would be very hard some days.  I looked at him and replied, "Yes, some days it does get hard, but think about it;  you already write every day in writer's workshop.  You can do it."

A boy across the room suggested, "You can always write about how hard it is."

"I've done that," I confessed.  We all laughed.

Please excuse the messiness of this
chart.  It was created quickly to
organize our brainstorm.  
What Next?
I wanted participation to be a choice because 31 days of writing is a lot of commitment.  Additionally, the challenge was starting on a weekend and our spring break would fall during the month.  We decided we would have lunch in our classroom every Tuesday to talk about how it was going.  Students tried to decide how they would participate.  Some thought they'd use their blogs, others thought their writers' notebooks, and others thought paper would be perfect.  Some weren't sure and committed to a mix.  I'll be curious to see how they work it out.

Yesterday was the starting day and I'd had to pass the baton to the parents.  I checked my email hesitantly, feeling a bit bad about having to throw this in the parents' laps.  I found this note from a parent:
I just had to share something with you.  [___] was so excited about Slice of Life, that she got up and got dressed in a skirt and shirt.  I told her she was pretty dressed up for a Saturday, and she said, "It's the first day of Slice of Life!".  
I had to smile.  Another parent was joining the challenge with her son and hoping to get friends to join too.  Last night I spent some time approving posts and writing comments.  I was quite proud of those who had decided to join the challenge and were making it happen.  I know more "paper posts" will come in on Monday as students return from the weekend.  Hopefully parents will forgive our insanity.

I'm not sure where the journey will take us.  I'm not sure how I will manage to link all of their work or how I will keep up with comments and my writing.  I'm not sure how they will handle the hard parts, but I'm hoping together we can figure it all out and perhaps some day the memory of this event may bring one of them back to their writing.

We're In



 

23 comments:

  1. Cathy, this is a brilliant and honest piece of writing. It is a scary commitment and it may overwhelm us at one point. But I love your perspective:"I'm hoping together we can figure it all out" This is why you are an excellent educator. You don't hold all the answers but you invite your students not only to be part of your journey but also to guide you along the way. Happy Slicing friend!

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  2. WOW!! How fun is that! Enjoy the craziness.

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  3. What a great experience for your students! Have fun with it!

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  4. This is incredible! I'm in awe of you. (Just last night, right after I moderated your comment on the classroom challenge, I was telling my husband about how I admire your courage to take this on so publicly with your first graders.) Bravo, Cathy! Bravo!

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  5. I invited my students to participate via a notebook. Anxious to see how many wrote over the weekend. Kudos to you for doing it on a student blog. I would definitely be in over my head since this is my first challenge. Maybe on those days I get stuck, I need to get up and get dressed up as your student did. Good luck!

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  6. I love how your students just wanted to do this and you let them try. That took courage! The fact that they chose this journey will make it happen. And of course those lovely parents. I am thrilled for your students.

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  7. You are so brave. Getting my 31 posts in has always been enough of a challenge for me that I have never done it with my classroom kids but you do inspire me.

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  8. Cathy, I am not surprised...you have that gift of jumping in...getting in over your head...but figuring out a creative, fun and memorable way of getting out. Your students are so fortunate. Jackie

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  9. How awesome! This was the first year I had a blog with my students - maybe next year I'll take the plunge to see if THEY can join the challenge!

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  10. I can so relate to this post! I am wondering on the second day how I can keep up with this AND manage all the kids' posts at the same time! Like you, this really took off in my room and right now I'm just hanging on for dear life! :) I can't imagine how worth it this is going to be in the end, though...

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  11. My sixth grade kids love the SOL ritual - and I think it's because of what your first grader wrote about: the need to share our stories. Bravo you all of you!

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  12. It is so exciting to see young writers shift their excitement with a conversation. I often find the same to be true with fifth graders. I am excited to follow your classroom journey. My big dream is that someday excitement in primary grades in writing will continue all the way to fifth grade. By the way my favorite line was "We decided we would have lunch in our classroom every Tuesday to talk about how it was going." Umm I think I will be borrowing that once indoor recess is over the winter.

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  13. Aww, I love your students. Such passion.

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  14. Yes, yes, yes. It IS hard and that's what makes it worth it! So proud of you getting some of your little ones up already! Can't wait to see what my MSers bring me tomorrow!

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  15. This is so great, Cathy! I admire your willingness to give this a go with first graders. I'm not sure I would have been so brave. Hooray for your student who got dressed up. How adorable! I'm cheering for you and your students!

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  16. Very brave, I can't wait to see how they do, I'll be following along. I can relate to the "not having the best judgement" I often jump first and figure it out as I go. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't! I think this will work!

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  17. As you know, I was very hesitant about accepting this writing challenge for the first time. I don't have as many concerns about keeping up with it myself, although they are there. It's the participation of my kiddos that worries me. Perhaps I should have taken it one step at a time and held off on the classroom challenge until after I'd completed it. It's a little discouraging that I've only had one student participate for the first two days, but reading your post reassures me that we all have our challenges and concerns. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

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  18. Amazingly awesome! This will be a memory that will last a lifetime and think about the habit of writing you are creating with your students. You are all in and you are all WRITERS!

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  19. Cathy, I love that your first graders are slicing! And that they are so excited about it (love the story of the little one getting dressed up to slice on Saturday morning). Can't wait to see this unfold over the course of the month!

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  20. I love hearing about your journey Cathy. How perceptive the students are already ("It's going to be hard, isn't it?"), but with your help & it seems that the parents are enthusiastic too, it should be a wonderful month full of accomplishment. Good for you for taking that extra step. Hope you're doing okay too!

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  21. "I'm not always known for the best judgment." You crack me up! I can't wait to hear about how your kiddos are doing. Love the idea of having lunch together on Tuesdays to talk about how it's going.

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  22. You are such a fun teacher!!!! Your students are blessed to have you as you are blessed to have them..

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