Day 3 – Slice of Life Challenge: Not as simple as I would like – the classroom challenge

Have you ever gotten excited about something and jumped in with both feet and then slice-of-life_individual.jpgrealize the cliff was higher,  water is deeper and swim is harder than you thought?  It all seemed so easy while sitting on the couch thinking about it. Then I started to jump!

I jumped at the end of end of February. I was and am excited about the March Challenge. I had been listening to a group of teachers discussing how to get students to write – to have authentic writing not just responses to prompts. So I dove right into the discussion instead of sitting quietly and thinking about it.

I shared the work of Two Writing Teachers and the March challenge coming up. We talked about blogs and the value of writers getting feedback and responses to their writing. I can be a pretty good salesmen when I really believe in something and so it was decided this would be great.

Luckily for me three of the four teachers thought this through a bit more and realized they couldn’t pull it off for this March and the new unit they were beginning in just a few days but wanted to think about it and move towards this for next year. (Wise teachers that they are!)

One bright and enthusiastic teacher who works with a small group of ELL students wanted to continue. She was just like me – ready to jump in with both feet. We began our planning a few minutes here and there when we could find the time.

I am not at the school full time and do not have the knowledge of this teachers skills around teaching writing or blogging. I do know she is great with her students, organized and willing to learn and so we began.

As we talked, planned and gather more information I realize I had us standing at the edge of a high cliff with welcoming water down below. I was tittering on the edge with a young one beside me. I knew that once we hit the water it would be fine but the distance between where we were standing and the actual water is greater than I realized. I didn’t really think this through – just ran to the edge with excitement.

There are lots of steps that need to be put in place before we venture into this world of blogging. Especially with young English Language Learners, who seem to know what is going on but really they are only guessing half the time. (At least for now – they will understand with time.) English and the new culture around them is fascinating and they are so ready to play. It is our job to be sure they have the skills first.

This lead us to slowing both ourselves and our students down. We needed to take a few steps back from the cliff and plan before we jump.

As we begin our plan I am gathering the how to’s of blogging with young folks. We are writing up a plan, creating documents, gathering permissions and making connections.

My personal plan is to document all the little steps as best I can along the way – what works and does not work. I will need to hear from you who are already blogging with students – what has worked for you?  What were your early steps to help students?

I know there are already some great blog posts about how to get started. They are wonderful help!!

Our first steps:

  • permission from district and principal to blog and connect outside of our building
    • what blog platform will our district allow us to use or will support (we are in a large urban district)
  • permission from parents (making sure those who do not speak English understand what we are asking and doing)
  • making connections to our state standards and our IB units – making the clear link to learning for our students
  • gathering information to share about safety for students and helping them to understand the need for it when writing on the internet (this is also done in their media class but needs to be made specific to our blogging)
  • develop our first lessons – big ideas
    • what is blogging
    • blogging safety and etiquette
    • writing and sharing our thoughts with others
    • how to blog – using the blogging platform
    • responding to other blogs
    • editing our work

It is clear to me that we needed to step way back from the cliff and build our strength and understanding of what to do when we leap off into the welcoming water of the Two Writing Teachers classroom challenge.

Ah, when reality sinks in – we roll up our sleeve and begin building strength for the task ahead of us. We begin to learn once again. Marcy.jpg

It is clear we will not jump off this cliff this spring but will watch from the side – learning, practicing and writing for our own internal audience. We will put all the pieces in place for next fall and hopefully will bring our other three teacher along with us as we actually test the waters and make the leap into a new adventure in March of 2018.

Any thoughts you want to share or links to how to do this would be appreciated? We are seeking the wisdom of the crowd!

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About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, help in schools and write. Life is good!
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9 Responses to Day 3 – Slice of Life Challenge: Not as simple as I would like – the classroom challenge

  1. Michelle O'Leary-Strezo says:

    I do love that you went in full force with your project! Sometimes trial by fire happens so that we can learn what to do differently in the future. It is ok to show the kids that you were learning through the process too. But the hoops to go through to even get setup seem overwhelming too!

  2. arjeha says:

    The fact that you took a few steps back from the edge assures that when you take the dive next year you will hit the water perfectly and be able to swim the distance. Good Luck!

  3. I’m just like you–I grab on to something and dive in feet first! Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. We are doing a Classroom SOL challenge, but we’re conducting ours through Google Classroom–no parent permission needed and a good way to get our feet wet! It’s an optional challenge, and I thought that I’d only have a few sign up, but somehow, we ended up with 65 kids! Amazing!

  4. Tara Smith says:

    Good for you! My sixth graders blog all year, and they love having a writing community of their own, too.

  5. Lanny Ball says:

    Joanne, it’s wonderful you have jumped on board with the possibility that this challenge embodies for students. Once they begin writing and receiving feedback, they will not be able to help it– they will feel empowered, encouraged, and excited about developing their voices as writers. I echo Tara’s sentiment– good for you! Thanks for sharing this slice.

  6. Ramona says:

    I say let them write and comment on each other’s writing. It’s a good place to begin. The blog connection with others can come later, but having them write daily is a powerful first beginning. My students shared on Schoology discussion threads. I never was able to get my district to approve using blogs, but we learned much from each other. And shared our favorite slices on posters for a celebration of our month of slicing.

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