Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Slice of Life - Learning from Our Students

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! 

We have begun the Slice of Life Challenge in our classroom. This year I decided to create three levels for the challenge:

Level One – the “Slicers”
These kiddos are slicing every school day – either at school or at home for their ten minutes of writing.

Level Two – Piece of Cake
These kids are completing level one and slicing each school day, but also committing to slice over our spring break. The reward for going above and beyond during a time you might be lounging at the beach? A piece of cake upon your return. J

Level Three – Super Slicers
Behold, the holy grail of our challenge. These kids are joining me in slicing all thirty-one days in March – school days, weekends, spring break. The reward for this is top secret.

Last year I asked everyone to do level three. The majority of the class did, but the level of their writing was a bit lack luster and I wondered if that might be about buy-in.

This year I asked them to choose. If they really want to go for the gold, they can. Otherwise, I just want the month to be about growing as a writer. I’m already seeing a huge payoff.

Today was our first day of commenting. The kids came into our classroom at 8:10 and had twenty minutes to unpack, do lunch count, and prepare to switch. Usually we do a bit of word study at this time. For March, we’re stealing the time to comment.

The students entered today, lay out their notebooks, iPads, laptops, etc. at their spots – open to their slice. Armed with post-its and a class list, they moved around the room reading their classmate’s work and leaving a trail of post-it comments. The requirement is that you leave three comments a day and make it through our entire class list before giving a second comment to anyone. I don’t want friends to just leave comments for each other and then never move on.

After I entered attendance and lunch count, I began moving around the room too, stopping at a few spots to read and comment. The last notebook I paused at made me come to a complete stop, reread, say, “WOW,” reread again, and leave a note asking if I could photo copy his poem.

Joey's poem is also typed below.
This is the beauty of this simple unit, it allows writers to shine. There is no pressure in our class – write about your life, write about a poem that is inside you, waiting to burst free, just write. Joey wrote this. I typed it up for him and am sharing it with you here. I can’t wait to talk to him about this more tomorrow, I think he’s really on to something here. This poem is about reading, about empathy, about what he is learning this year. If you look, really look, our students are showing us what we’re teaching them. Joey made me cry today, but they were happy tears. I’m glad he’s listening.

                                           By: Joey                              

Everyday we walk,
On soil,
On water,
On grass,
Even in someone’s shoes.

In Bluebird we were
in the boy,
Harry Potter mind,
Percy Jackson life,
Even the ones who have a
Hard life in school –
 Gary Paulsen, for example.
No books,
But a writer.

Some can be real,
Abe Lincoln changed USA.
As a boy,
To a man,
To a hero.

I learned that,
You can go to anyone’s shoes,
Even if in a book.
Some books you can change,
Even one shoe.
True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp.

So each book,
Or not in books,
You can feel their shoes.

And if you can’t…
Then read.