Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gear Up

The Slice of Life Story Challenge kicks off this Saturday, March first. Hosted by the reflective teachers at Two Writing Teachers, the challenge calls for a "slice of life" blog post each day for the month of March. Get all the details here. Join us! My students are going to draw for dates and blog through the month too. I'm excited to write and share with them.

I write with my students. I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Lehman this past weekend at SC IRA and like him,  I believe we must write with our students. How else  will we troubleshoot? How else will we learn where students will have difficulties? Lehman's Friday morning keynote had many take aways, but one thing he asked resonates for this challenge: "Are you an editor or a teacher of writing?"

Teachers of writing, write. Editors correct--even if those corrections are only verbal.

Here are five writing reminders I'm going to take into the March challenge.

1. Coach the writer.
When a student has a question or is struggling with part of the writing, I'm going to pull up my own draft and say, "Well in my writing when I'm not sure (how to begin, how to transition, how to use ...whatever the student's concern is), I..." I am going to do more coaching with my draft on the table next to the student's.

2. Compliment more than correct.
The Slice of Life Story Challenge is about writing everyday (or often, if students are posting to a whole-class blog). The challenge brings writers together in community, for support and celebration, not criticism and correction. What really moves us forward is the little compliment or connection a reader makes in comments.

3. Share writing successes.
If one writer in my community is particularly great a leads or using imagery or setting up a circular ending, I want to celebrate that and point out that student writer's practice to others in the class.

4. Acknowledge the work.
Writing is hard work, not magic. Talk about it. When I get stuck, like Chris Lehman, I look at what others have written. He shared a story about being stuck while writing a forward. He looked at the forward Donalyn Miller wrote for his latest book, Falling in Love with Close Reading. He copied her writing into Word. Noticed the word count. Compared it to his own and then got writing again. Real writers sometimes work from models. We find inspiration in others. When I get stuck, I outline. I read closely. I map out the paragraphs and then try it myself. Students can do that too.

5. Connect to others.
The Slice of Life Story Challenge connects students to others. It is a feast of writing and commenting.  I've focused on publishing student writing outsideof the classroom more this year than ever. It has made a huge difference in how we write and talk about writing. I want to keep that going. That means sharing our authentic selves, our moments and our slices with students and teachers we may just meet. It's going to be exciting!