Slice of Life Challenge #12: SOL in the classroom – the power of comments

The March Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers

Yesterday, Bonnie wrote a wonderful post about how challenging it can be to comment.  It took me back to my early days of slicing and blogging- when I fretted much more about the process of writing posts and crafting comments.  Three years later, and thanks to blogging and slicing on a regular basis, the writing comes more easily…but commenting remains a challenge. You want to say something meaningful, to acknowledge the substance of the post, but you need to be brief (especially in March – when there are so many slicers!).  Most importantly, you want to let the writer know that you had stopped by and appreciated what you’d read – that it took thought and effort, and so (as Bonnie likes to say,” Bravo!”). 
For my students, who slice every Friday, all year, as part of our writing workshop routine, commenting was something that had to be modeled, taught, and practiced.  Some of my kids are comment counters – they want to amass the most comments, but not necessarily return the favor! Some of my kids read every slice (they are only required to read and comment on 5) and write thoughtfully back to each and every classmate. But all of my kids have learned the value of commenting and really appreciate it when their classmates say something thoughtful about their slice.  And all of my kids have also learned the value of slicing every Friday and sharing bits and pieces of their lives.
How do I know this? Because they thank each other in class for this or that comment, not ostentatiously  but quietly, in passing, as they move from one thing to the next in our daily routine: 
“That was nice what you said about my slice!”
“Thanks for the smiley face on your comment.”
Best of all, they appreciate the slices their classmates have crafted and enjoy the shared experience of writing about their lives together, learning about their lives together.  How do I know this? Because they talk about their classmate’s slices, also as a matter or course, and that has become a part of our classroom conversations:
“How cool that you finally got a dog!”
“I didn’t know your grandma was sick.”
“You finally saw that movie, wasn’t it awesome?”
If you haven’t tried slicing with your kids, you might just want to begin now… writing posts and comments has helped my students become much better writers, I think…and awesome commenters  too.  Here’s a sample from last week:

Sarah :

I was in in third grade when my teacher Mrs. Picinich announced to the class that we would begin our new science unit and that the class would be taking care of lizards called anoles. I practically jumped out of my seat and cheered with the rest of my class. I was so happy that day, I went home and shared the news with all of my family members. It was an exciting, sunny February afternoon, unlike today.

Today the sky was gray and the flowers didn’t bloom and Tiny was no longer with us.
It has been three and a half years since the very day I brought him home to be my pet forever. My teacher had given me three anoles to take home so that I could feed them, care for them and love them. Comet and Fire-bolt both died the first year, sad to say, but Tiny lasted long and stayed my close friend all the way. He was a bit shy but learned the soft feel of my hands and would crawl up them every time he sensed me. I would spray the sides of his tank every day and give him a few meal-worms once and a while. I missed those evenings were he would crawl up my arm and down again. I can’t believe he died.
I already missed cuddling him in my hands and feeling his rough scales through my fingers. I wanted to go to Pet-Co and buy him crickets and meal-worms to eat right that second. I wished I could run up stairs and peer into his aquarium to see if he was a brown color, or a green. It felt like a big part of our family was missing and it felt uneasy.
I may not wake up every day to find his bright yellow eyes starring curiously up at me, but Tiny will be in our hearts and memories forever. I won’t forget the love he contributed to my family, and my third grade class. He was a special one and the last of his kind that lasted from my third grade science project. Rest In Peace Tiny.

ü  Caroline : Great slice! You put so much detail into your first paragraph!


ü  Filip : Your slice was very meaningful with lots of descriptive language. You also shared your feelings very well. Amazing Slice.

 ü  John: This was an awesome slice! All of your thought, detail, and feelings added to the quality!

 ü  Katherine: I loved your slice! You had lots of description especially when you described Tiny. And I could really imagine Tiny.

 ü  Eric: I liked how you said you jumped out of your seat instead of just cheering.

 ü  Ava : Great slice! I loved all the details. I could see that you loved Tiny very much.

 ü  Mrs. Smith: I loved that last paragraph, Sarah, so full of feeling.

 ü  Caroline K: I loved how you described your feelings for Tiny. I also like how you played with time by having a flashback.

 ü  Dylan: You described exactly what it feels like to lose a pet – I felt exactly the same way last year when my dog died.

Our “weekly winners” – we vote for our favorite slices every Monday.


20 thoughts on “Slice of Life Challenge #12: SOL in the classroom – the power of comments

  1. What a cool project. And it was super helpful to see Sarah's slice and the comments. I love that they are truly are learning what it means to support each other and become a community of writers. Wondering, do you see that it has an impact on the way they treat each other in their daily life in the classroom?I'm curious how you set it up. Do you do it on a class blog? What platform are you using?

  2. Tara, you've done a marvelous job modeling and showing them examples of quality comments. I think talking about the power of comments and then experiencing it lead to more and specific comments: details, descriptive language, feelings, flashback. I personally loved Dylan's response. What a perfect example to share! Bravo to your kiddos!

  3. It's just wonderful that you do this for your students, Tara. You said you "think" they improve their writing, but it's clear from the sample, & others you've shared that they "do". I wish I could convince those I work with to give it a try. Thanks for a great post.

  4. Tara, this is the perfect post to share with my students today! They just started posting slices on our school website this past week. Now my challenge is to figure out how to share them on the classroom slice of life since our school policy doesn't allow me to link to our website. Anyone else have this issue? Should I just cut and paste them into a post on my blog? And Tara, one request, would you be willing to share a close-up shot of your poster- How to Write your Slice of Life story? Thanks for this very timely post!

  5. I loved this slice. You shared your work with comments and gave me a shout out 🙂 and then I loved reading the work of your students… So layered an experience, I'm jealous.

  6. This post is such an inspiration for those who have students and want to start up their own slicing. Makes me wish I had a class to do this with kids. Loved your example! Yes, this does make a difference in not only their writing, but their life as a caring person.

  7. Great to hear about your students supporting each other! This morning my older daughter told me about some anti-bullying week activities at her school. Yesterday the student govt. posted nasty Twitter comments in the cafeteria (with the identifying info removed) and called it the "Twitter Hall of Shame." Today they posted compliments from a Facebook page that someone had set up just so students at her school could compliment each other anonymously. I can't imagine what they will do next…

  8. I completely agree with you that commenting becomes easier the more that you do it–it's a good message to keep sending kids and adults. Kate Roberts calls it the rinse and repeat practice. Your classroom sounds like a vibrant place for your students. I love that you use writing to build their sense of community!

  9. Oh how I wish I had the Slice when I was a teacher. Sarah's slice was so touching…and the comments were so supportive. Your students are so fortunate that you are doing this with them. They not only learn writing skills…just from writing…but they have learned about each other at a new level…things they may not have known…and it gives the shy person a tool to express herself or himself and be recognized when so often the shy ones remain in the background. This is just so cool….thank you so much!! Jackie

  10. I can't believe I've never thought to do this with my students! I ask them to journal all the time, and we've even done blogging (but only about books we've read). I never even considered the value of letting my students practice their writing skills by sharing "slices" from their lives (as opposed to prompts) and allowing others to comment. I will definitely be trying this! Thanks for the suggestion!!!

  11. What a lovely, rich example you have shared from your classroom. It is inspiring in so many ways. I believe these specific, richly detailed comments have been modeled to them. Thank you for this glimpse of possibilities!

  12. I have chills – Sarah's slice was so full of emotion. "I can't believe he died." So much truth and honesty. What grade is she in?Thank you for sharing – this one is a keeper.

  13. What a great slice from your student! I like how you implemented the slice of life challenge in your class by having them choose their favorite slice of the week!– jee young

  14. Pingback: A Year of “Slice of Life” in the classroom. | TWO WRITING TEACHERS

  15. Pingback: Start thinking about the March Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge! | TWO WRITING TEACHERS

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