Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slice of Life - Classroom Challenge Celebrations and Reflections

I love participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers and writing a story, reflection, or musing at least once a week.

Last week I held celebration parties for the kids who participated in the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge.  At the end of February, I presented various levels of prizes for participation.  Nothing was required or graded except for the very minimum completion - to publish a 250 word slice and comment on three other slices once a week (this is a requirement in my classroom all year).  Beyond the once a week, I created levels of participation and rewards.

Level 5 was the top prize.  These are pictures of my four classes and the Level 5 participants.  These kids published a slice every day in March, 250 words each, and wrote three daily comments on other slices, all 31 days - even during our spring break!  They got a slice of pizza and cake, a cup of soda, a cookie, and a piece of candy or gum.  Bravo!!

The kids in Level 4, the next level down, wrote 26-30 250 word slices, 3 comments each time.  I was very proud of them, too!  We had many Level 4 participants!

After the challenge, I asked the kids to fill out a reflection sheet and parents to e-mail me feedback.  Here are some snippets:


What did you learn about yourself as a writer?

- I am a better writer than I thought.
- I am good at adding adjectives to my writing.
- People enjoyed my way of looking at things.
- If I put my mind to it, I can do anything.
- I am creative and have good story-telling skills.
- People enjoy reading my slices of life.
- I can write about relatable topics.
- I learned that my perspective on things is very unique.  I can be entertaining or serious.
- I look at things at a new angle.
- People like when I write about my family.
- If I go deeper into a topic, people enjoy reading about it.
- I learned that I like to write short stories.
- People seem to enjoy my writing, and if I continue to develop it, I could become a very good writer.
- My writing is interesting and descriptive.
- I have pretty good writing ideas, and I write great slices.
- I am good at writing humorous slices.
- Comments boosted my confidence in writing.
- People actually want to read what I write.
- I can teach people things.
- I have good details and descriptions.
- I learned people enjoy my writing, and that I am not just doing it for a grade.
- I can create "whoa" moments.
- I learned that random, funny, every day things make really good slices.
- I learned that people actually looked forward to my posts, and that was incredible for me.  That encouraged me to write longer and better posts.
- If I put my personality into my writing, then it makes it more fun.
- I can make a small event into a massive piece of writing.
- I learned that even great authors get writer's block.
- Constructive criticism can be your best friend.
- My writing makes people happy and laugh.
- People are interested in my memories.
- My readers like it when I made allusions, alliteration, metaphors, and similes.
- I learned that it is very hard for a writer to come up with ideas.
- I learned that I like to write.
- I leaned that I'm funny.
- I always speak my mind and stand by what I think is right.
- I have an imagination like no one else's.
- I should believe in myself and keep writing.
- I could share something about my life.
- It gets easier to think of ideas the more you write.

Parent Feedback

- I was impressed with his posts.
- Writing has always been a struggle for him, and I was happy to see him tackle the challenge.
- It was nice to see how they supported each other and left positive feedback.
- It was a wonderful way for her to express herself.
- It was fantastic to see how many of the kids really opened up about their life and feelings.
- This was a great assignment because it really helped her practice her writing skills (and typing).
- When she made it all the way, she was really proud of herself!
- I liked watching her process of trying to figure out what to write about.
- I learned that _________ is very expressive and writes well.
- I liked reading other students' entries and comments and really liked to see how they supported each other through this.
- I love that it fostered encouragement and a spirit of cooperation and support among the students who took on the challenge.
- I did not realize her humor had the level of sophistication that was conveyed in several of her posts.
- I never had to remind _______to write.  It was her decision.  I'm proud of her.
- Slices of Life are real and aren't always pretty.
- I think she's improved as a writer, learning how to take ideas and make them more detailed.  A woman who can write can change the world.  I can't wait to see what she does with her talents!
- Writing has always been a challenge for him, so this is a good exercise to encourage creativity and and put thoughts on paper.
- The kids did a nice job reflecting on each other's slices.
- Her interest drove her to take initiative without me needing to ask.
- I noticed that writing comes a great deal more freely to _________now.
- The writing is really impressive for this age group.
- I was surprised when _______decided to go for the top goal and made it.
- She is doing a lot of writing at home on the blog.
- I loved watching/reading ___________participation in the SOL Challenge.
- This was a great opportunity for the kids.
- It really got kids to set goals and express their thoughts more than they normally would.
- The comments are very mature and positive.
- This enabled her to reflect on some wonderful times of her life.
- Knowing that other people will be reading the slices helps the writer do their best.

99% of parent feedback was positive, but there were a few negative, so to be true to reality, I'm going to include them.

- She learned a difficult lesson when she only completed Level 2
- I must admit I was not at all pleased with the rewards to the challenge (food).  These kids do not need this junk.
- After a week, he got burned out and took the night off.  One night turned into two, into three, etc.

A few negatives from the kids, too:

- The biggest obstacle in this challenge was finding the time to write.
- I wish it hadn't taken me as long to write them.
- Sometimes I didn't manage my time well, and I was literally writing until the last possible minute.
- It was hard to come up with ideas.

What did I do well?

- Creating a Google Doc of mentor slices.
- Discussing digital footprints and responsibilities.
- Expecting comments to be at least 2-3 sentences, specific, and encouraging/positive.
- Requiring 250 word minimum.
- Allowing students to choose their level of participation.
- Motivating students with prize levels.
- Celebrating.

What could I do better?

- Providing more support for writing ideas.  We created a Padlet for writing ideas, but I should have had the kids keep adding to it and going back to it.
- Commenting on more slices.  It was hard to keep up with reading and responding with my own challenge going on.
- Reading and commenting on outside schools' slices who were participating and encouraging my students to do the same.
- Establishing rules and expectations ahead of time for what happens if illness and technology glitches interfere with posting on time.
- Copying and pasting my own Slices of Life from my Blogger site to Kidblog so the kids could read each one.  When they weren't necessarily good for 5th and 6th graders, I could have written another one.
- Still thinking about the one parent's feedback about junk food.  Should I provide different/better prizes next year that don't involve food
- Designed more mini-lessons around what I saw in the slices. 
- Conferred more with writers.

Thank you, again, to the wonderful ladies at Two Writing Teachers.  The Slice of Life challenges are truly changing our writing lives!


  1. Wow, those are some awesome treats. This is such a comprehensive collection of feedback data, Holly. The first time is always challenging...but you had a home run!

  2. Way to go! I missed having students to slice with this year. It was my fourth year and my first time without the support of my own classroom.
    I'm awed by the feedback you shared with us. It's a challenging month, especially when you throw in keeping up with student slices to the mix. Your post will be so beneficial for teachers who want to try this next year, as well as help you remember what you want to keep the same and what you want to change.
    Our party always featured slices of pizza & slices of dessert for everyone, with veggies and fruit as well. Then I provided prizes for each level of participation - pencils, pens, gel pens, and mini composition books. Each level received the prior levels' gifts so that students who reached Level 4 got one of everything, It seemed to work out well.

  3. Your class is awesome! How inspirational your post is to push myself to have students participate in the Slice of Life Challenge. I like the way your kiddos reflected on their writing!

  4. Brave reflection and sharing here, Holly. Thank you for letting us read it. I did the classroom challenge twice. The first year everyone wrote, but I partnered up with a dean and another teacher, so we shared the commenting on kids' slices. The second year I had one student slice a day on a class blog. That was more manageable for me and more meaningful for my high school writers as they were not as rushed writing every day. Love how you captured the lessons students learned.

  5. I agree with Lee Ann! Such honest and brave reflections here! Your reflections make me consider how I will do it next year. Well done!!! Thank you for sharing and helping me process this!

  6. So many reasons to celebrate! And what an excellent and helpful post!

  7. Holly, this was an impressive blog with all of your festivities, feedback, and parent participation. I love the fact that you are so reflective about the experience and offer a model for others. Your students should be very proud of themselves.