I had so many questions emailed to me after last weeks’ slice of life about SOL in my classroom, that I promised to write a post about how I go about it. Here goes:
Last year, I launched our Slice of Life project early in the school year, and both my morning and afternoon classes sliced away all the way from September to June. Just as I look forward to Stacey and Ruth’s Tuesday morning slicing at Two Writing Teachers, my kids looked forward to posting their slices by Friday and adding comments by Sunday. On Monday morning, we’d vote for two winners (one from the a.m. class and one from the p.m. class) who’d be awarded small bags of jellybeans as a prize. This, too, became a class tradition that everyone looked forward to (nothing motivates sixth graders quite like candy!).
Our school website uses School Fusion as a platform, and discussion blogs are a part of what is offered as a tool. I set up each discussion on Sunday, numbering each and reminding my kids that their slice is due by Friday. This is what that looks like (I borrowed that graphic from Stacey from years past – thank you Stacey!):
Here we go…our Slice of Life Project! Your post is due by Friday, and your comments are due by Sunday.
FYI: The blog is set up so that I must approve every comment and post. So, it may not show up immediately but not to worry. I check in frequently, so your post will be visible soon.
I usually start the discussion by posting a slice of my own, and I try to vary the way I write to model strategies we’ve been discussing in reading and writing workshop. Then it’s up to my kids. Because the discussion board is set up for me to approve of every post, I need to check in frequently – but that also allows me to leave comments (I’m modeling, essentially).
Of course, we had a mini lesson to discuss what a slice of life is all about:
…and I was able to use last year’s archived slices to model the way it all looks and works. This is really important for my sixth graders who need concrete example of everything they’re expected to do.
I use the projector to display our discussion board from time to time – just so that they get a feel for all the writing they’re doing (we had 205 posts and comments for the first round. Everyone was really enthused!).
I have a rubric for each student – 50 points for the quality of the slice/50 for the quality of the comments – so that this project becomes part of their Writing Workshop grade on a weekly basis. This has become a cornerstone of my Writing Workshop – a way for my kids to practice strategies and learn how to become better writers from each other in a supportive way. Here, for example, are some comments they left this week:
I love how you said “tomato red” it was a really good detail, the beginning was great, I liked how you started it with question.
Wow, you described the scene very well. I like how you slowed down the moment with all that detail.
I really like how you had a reflective ending and how you painted a picture of your surroundings.
Mrs. Smith: You did a really nice job sharing exactly how you felt as your happy day took a turn for something else!
If we did not have the School Fusion platform, I think I’d use Blogger or something like it and set it up to moderate the discussion privately. Two things to keep in mind to get the most out of this experience – you (the teacher) have to participate and the project has to count as a grade. It does make for a lot of work, but I find it so rewarding for all of us. We really do learn so much about each other – as people, and as writers. Which is exactly what our Tuesday slicing also allows us to do – enjoy ourselves as a community of practicing writers who celebrate each others’ efforts.