Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Slice of Life - Learning to Live With Your Eyes Wide Open

Slice of Life is sponsored on Tuesdays by Two Writing Teachers. For the month of March we are posting a slice each day on our blog. Join in! 

To get better in writing, students need to write. It seems like common sense, doesn’t it? I’ve been preaching the same concept to my students about reading for years – you grow as a reader when you read. And I knew this as a writer, but I think sometimes I forget.

Today during our mini-lesson for writing workshop, I shared a realization with my class. The Slice of Life Challenge is three days old, yet I am already starting to see the payoff in my writing. Where I’m often struggling to come up with a topic to write about lately, during this challenge – knowing I need to write each day – I see writing possibilities everywhere. Just today I noticed and wondered about:

Lack of reflection. When reading The Invisible Boy to my students, they were horrified at how the boy, Brian, was left out. Yet the same students turned around and left a classmate out. How do I teach them to be more self-aware?

Admiration. My colleague, Brad Garrett, has begun a chapter book series for kids combining his love of sports and history. We talked, briefly, today about his next steps. I admire the risks he has taken and the work he has put into this new endeavor.

Gratitude. I had a quick note and gift from Brenda Power at Choice Literacy. Anytime Brenda sends you something, she includes a handwritten note. I love her messages and the time she puts in to being thoughtful.

Former students. Recently I read Gary Paulsen’s How Angel Peterson Got His Name. As I read it, the face of a student from last year kept popping into my mind. I was certain he would love it. I sent it to him through our school mail the next day at school. Josh read it and loved it. His mom returned the book tonight with some cookies and a note from Josh. It made my evening.

Each of these moments could be a slice on their own. What I find remarkable is that they are moments that would just pass me by if I wasn’t looking for them. I cannot find the source, but I clearly remember this quote: writers don’t lead more interesting lives, they just live them with their eyes wide open.  This challenge proves that to me. Stories are everywhere, just waiting to be told, and for us to pick up the pencil and write them down. I hope my students see that as well. 


  1. Part of the answer I 'think' is to get them to slow down, and I've often wondered if they're noticing things, just not what we as adults notice. Good questions!

  2. You bring such great points Katherine! How many stories have I not record because I wasn't looking for them? Thanks for such a great reminder. I Love that quote and I wish I remember where I read it! Happy Slicing!

  3. First, I love your specific examples. It gives us a real sense of who you are as a teacher. Second, I've been finding the same thing. When I'm not slicing, I struggle sometimes to think of what my weekly "professional" post should be about. I'm hoping that this new awareness of possibilities will last beyond the month.

  4. The writing life, the slicing life - we 're on the lookout for possibilities, and that makes us more aware of what we could note in our journals, or slice about on our blogs. When something happens in our classroom, such as a bird getting in (which has happened!), my kids will turn to each other and say -"That will make a great slice of life this week!" Writing every day is living a writer's life - living with our eyes wide open. And look at all the possibilities you have to write about in just a single day!

  5. Lee Ann SpillaneMarch 4, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    Where's the love button? Eyes wide open... and hearts at the ready...definitely. I so enjoy hearing your voice.

  6. Teachers for TeachersMarch 4, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    We could not agree more -- we were so afraid to begin blogging - that we would have nothing to say. Now we see the possibilities everywhere. We never imagined how much we would grow as writers and professionals from blogging. Thank you for always encouraging us with your response!
    Clare and Tammy

  7. Katherine - I have managed to write up a SLICE post each day, which is a big thing for me even if we haven't reached the week mark. Getting the ideas hasn't come easier yet, but I have been reassured that they will become easier. I love that you see ideas everwhere to write about. I think I censor myself too much - that isn't necessarily bad - but it does limit what I am wiling to write about publicly. I need to get a small notebook to jot down ideas.

  8. This was the post! Found it in my old tweets!

  9. Glad you found what you were looking for! Thanks for reading. :)


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