This is the first time I’ve ever tried the Slice of Life Story Challenge. In fact, my slice on March 1 was the first time I’ve ever shared a blog post on the TWT website. And even the idea of having my own blog is a fairly new one. But since I’ve been participating, it’s been a challenge I’ve really enjoyed. And I can’t even say how fun it is to receive and (and return) such kind comments and compliments from bloggers across the world.
I’ve been intrigued with the idea of supporting student blogging as well. As an instructional coach, I don’t have a classroom of my own this year but I am able to “borrow” students now and then. A colleague and I visited about the possibility of supporting some of her third graders in lifting the level of their writing and helping them with the idea of publishing. We decided to zero in on two ideas–challenging some of her more enthusiastic writers to take note of their world and write daily slices just like I have been, and also prompting them to check for capital letters and punctuation after their ideas were on paper. It was going to be a win-win situation–kids becoming inspired to write for the joy of it and also show improvement in noticing/fixing before publishing.
I met with my group of six and gave them each a colorful journal and a pep talk. I shared my challenge and some of the blog posts that I had written. They were jumping out of their chairs with excitement! We made a deal that just as I was writing for 31 days in March, they would write for 31 straight school days. They were full of questions and bursting with ideas. I sent them off to write their first slices and promised to check in with them today.
When I picked up my group after recess, they happily waved their journals at me and scrambled to show me what they had written. But in the middle of the hubbub, one voice cut through the noise. McKenzie had a question. A very important question, and she demanded an answer.
“Why did you pick us for this writing thing? Did you really tell us the truth about us just writing together? What’s WRONG with us? BE HONEST!”
McKenzie and her friends waited nervously for my answer. Actually, McKenzie was glaring at me. She smelled a rat and she wanted me to know she was on to me. Surely there must be a secret reason that they needed to be pulled out for “extra help”. She saw herself as a good writer and not only wanted to know why she had been singled out, but wasn’t going to stand for being given the runaround as to the reason. If she hadn’t been so very intensely hostile, I would have smiled over her question.
I answered her honestly. (I was afraid to do anything but that!) I told them that I asked their teacher to work with kids who love to write and share their writing. I told them I wanted to know if they could rise to the challenge of writing every school day and sharing their words. I told them I wanted them to feel all the same things I was going through with my blog–digging for ideas, writing and rewriting to get the words just right, putting my words out into the world, and enjoying compliments from people who were reading along. I told them that just like all writers, we were going to do all of those things and make our writing the best it could be before putting it out for everyone to see. I told them I wanted a group of kids who would write with me and love writing with me.
I was taken aback by the thought that our kids are paying such close attention to who gets pulled into small groups and for what reason. Their perception becomes that those who are pulled into a group are in need of help. Most of the time that is the case, as we run intervention groups, strategy groups, and guided reading groups. But what a gift it would be to show kids that groups can be pulled for other reasons as well–that every child has the chance to grow and celebrate their strengths as well as their weaknesses. McKenzie’s question made me think more carefully about how I talk to students in small groups and how I will use small group work in my own classroom next year. I don’t want our kids to assume that something is “wrong” with them when they are pulled for small group work. I want my focus to be on supporting all my young learners, not just helping those who struggle. I want them to be happy as they are pulled aside into small groups and not secretly worry over what the reasons are. I’m going to make that a goal as I plan for the future.
And in the meantime, I’m keeping an eye out for McKenzie. She’s fierce. Good for her!