“But it’s too hard, Mr. Johnston.”
That was the reply after a week of Slice of Writing for my students. We started out with 48 students, roughly half of the students I see on a daily basis. I’d emailed daily, reminding students of the writing that needed to be done, but last weekend was a three day weekend.
The amount of excuses on why students, both 6th and 8th graders could not write was a bit disheartening. True, I should take it personally, but yet, I do. Could I have prepped this better, offered some kind of other incentive (pizza at the end, but could I offered something else, should I have), or added more excitement to it somehow? It’s unfortant that we’ve created this culture where students feel learning (and writing) can only happen during school hours. That’s just my opinion, good, bad, or otherwise.
I’m not sure, but to see my numbers cut in about half, maybe even more than that, it’s a tough one to swallow.
However, I’ll keep encouraging those who ARE still writing, and don’t worry, the writing will continue! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm
I remember my struggles with student motivation well. How do I keep the students reading in my school? How do I increase our AR success? How can I translate that to better grades and learning? I offered prizes and special parties. Our state football teams came to visit the students who met their goals and we gave them cake.
March 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm
That’s where I am too. I may tier some prizes (this number of blogs means this) I just don’t always like having to offer “something” to get results. I know it’s the world we live in, but it’s hard to deal with too. 🙂
Thank you for stopping by!
March 7, 2016 at 1:55 pm
Don’t beat yourself up. The fact that you have encouraged them to participate in the SOL challenge, and the fact that you are modeling it, is an accomplishment in itself. Think about this, rather than the disappointment you have. And…encourage them to try again. Don’t let them give up because they missed a day (or 2 or 3).
March 8, 2016 at 2:14 pm
We’ll keep trying, this is for certain. I’m going to try a couple of things (they love Tootsie Pops for some reason) and just roll with it. We get what we can, and in the end, if they’ve written, that’s the goal! 🙂 Thank you for helping me keep things in perspective!
March 8, 2016 at 2:15 pm
Keep at it! That’s all you can do! 😉
March 7, 2016 at 2:19 pm
But .. that writing was a choice, right? So don’t worry about the “every single day” element and focus on the “this is powerful writing” element.
March 7, 2016 at 10:31 pm
Yup, it’s a choice (which got buy in from a lot of kids), so as I read these comments, that’s what I need to keep reminding myself. They made the choice to write or not write, so that’s what we go with! Thanks for keeping my perspective straight! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 2:43 pm
It’s okay. Many adults sign up for the challenge, and not all of them make it to the end. It IS hard. I feel like quitting half the time myself.
Keep on chuggin’. You guys are doing great!
March 7, 2016 at 10:30 pm
Just keep the writing going, that’s all I’ve said to my cherubs. The stories, the words will come, so just keep typing and dreaming and using your imaginations (yes, I give the inner cheerleader a chance to shine!). Thank you for the support, it’s greatly appreciated! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 3:19 pm
At the end of my first year teaching (writing) I came to the conclusion that NOT ALL STUDENTS ARE WRITERS and that IS OK. I thought because I LOVED writing and LOVED teaching writing that I would churn out 25 little writers, future authors, journaling teens! The truth is we’re not all writers. My own husband says, I’d love to be able to sit down and write a little something to our daughters every birthday let alone a poignant poem but he just can’t. He simply isn’t a writer. The thing you should be proud of and focus on is that you are providing that time, space, and inspiration to those that ARE writers.
March 7, 2016 at 10:08 pm
I agree with you to a point, that we won’t churn out little authors and such. Where I’d disagree with you, I think all of our students are writing, just a varying degrees of what they can and are willing to do. Your husband, while he may not be able to write at a level he wants, I’m sure could create something (which might be fun in her senior book!). The point is, I’ve got some of them hook, line, and sinker! They aren’t always very good, but they are making the effort, and that’s what I need to celebrate! 🙂 Thank you for joining in this conversation and helping me see through the gloom and doom! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 3:37 pm
How sad that a carrot (or pizza) must be dangled to get students to participate. I guess they are not motivated by the challenge. Can I do this? Just keep encouraging, then in the end you could surprise those with a reward of some type. Then next year maybe others will join in.
March 7, 2016 at 9:50 pm
And for something like this, I don’t have a problem offering up a reward. If they truly invest the time to write 31 times, it’s the least I can to show how much I appreciate their endurance through all of it. However, I like the idea of a little surprise at the end too. 🙂 Thank you for contributing to the conversations here!
March 7, 2016 at 5:13 pm
I was surprised at how much more difficult it was to write this weekend than it was during the week. I came so close to giving up, myself. In spite of some kids dropping out, the rest are forming a writing habit. That’s a huge success!
March 7, 2016 at 9:46 pm
And that’s my growing take away from all of you, that there are celebrations to be had inside all those others who may have stopped. Thank you for sharing your own experience slicing! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 5:21 pm
This is my first year trying the Classroom challenge with my third graders. I am trying to gamify the challenge with digital badges. If you go to the Day 6 post of the Classroom Challenge, you can read more about it. The students don’t get much for the badges (I give them one Class Dojo point per badge; 5 badges
March 7, 2016 at 5:22 pm
Oops- hit return too quickly! 5 badges earns them a certificate and 10 more more badges will make them eligible for prizes. The prizes will be small, literacy related items. Since a lot of students like video games and video games include badges and “leveling up”, I thought it might provide something to work for and earn as they navigate the 31 day challenge. They are very excited to earn badges. Just a thought going forward this year or even next year- might be worth a try and see if it makes a difference in the motivation department! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 9:45 pm
I’ve never gotten into the badges idea much, but that might be something to look at too! At this point, I’m thinking of something for each 10 posts which get posted. I like the idea of badges though, thank you for sharing that and keeping the conversation going! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 5:38 pm
I think that a powerful lesson for these students is that they don’t have to give up after missing a day. Real writers skip days all the time! If at the end they can say, “I wrote 20/31 days!” or some such, that is something to celebrate. That is something this challenge has taught me for sure! Skipping a day doesn’t mean you have failed. It just means life came up.
March 7, 2016 at 9:40 pm
The celebrating is something we don’t do enough of, not at all. We will continue to write, and celebrate the writing that is done. It’s all we can do to keep going forward, right? 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 7:17 pm
The first year I did not succeed in slicing every day. Slicing daily is about stamina and discipline. Have them set a timer and write for 5 – 7 minutes. Celebrate your successes. For some of your kids writing 3 times a week is a success.
I see my students once a week. Several years ago I made writing and sharing part of my library class. The kids developed community, they developed trust, they became writers.
One 4th grader wrote about the murder of her young teenage uncle. She broke down two of my girls went at sat on either side of her physically propping her up. She finished reading. It was monumental. Certain classes develop community some never do.
The times I was most successful I started with a specific amount of time and built up. My hat is off to you for getting many of your students to slice on their own time. Celebrate everything you can.
March 7, 2016 at 9:29 pm
We are going to celebrate, let me tell you what! 🙂 I see commenting communities growing in individual classrooms with group so students. I see that as a good sign going forward, something we’ll share with the other classes into the second week! Thank you for sharing with us all in your comment! It’s helped keep me smiling and going forward!
March 7, 2016 at 9:16 pm
I enjoy the stream of consciousness-ness of your post. It highlights your frustration. At the start, one blog is more than many of us “posted” when we were students. I know that the draw of public feedback is sometimes what keeps me going. I disagree, though, that we aren’t all writers. We are tasked with empowering writers in every one of our students, not authors, but writers. Your post, your frustration has encouraged great conversation tonight. Thank you for the professional learning.
March 7, 2016 at 9:27 pm
Morgan, it would seem that someone was struck with this post, which is kind of cool to see. I would agree with your disagreement as well. We are writers (students included) at varying degrees of talent and levels of comfort. Our job, to draw as much of both from our students. In this challenge, I believe that for many, they still don’t “believe” they can. We’ll keep trying to see how much of that barrier we can break down! 🙂 Thank you for the insight comment. I appreciate it!
March 7, 2016 at 9:31 pm
Wow. I not only read your blog, but every single comment to this. What a great conversation to have. I had a group of 6th graders last year. They were graded on their slice for the month of March. Not graded as in graded, graded as in show a slice each day. If you show it–full credit. If you didn’t no credit. Since it was a co-taught class, we were happy with a few sentences or lines of poetry. Those who were “writers,” who took on the slicing challenge wrote more. Those who didn’t like writing, found it difficult, or were embarrassed wrote less. No one was asked to share unless they wanted to. As an educator, we would share once a week. Sometimes the students would share as well, but they needed to feel safe to do that. It was an outstanding class to watch write. The previous year, not so much. All of them seemed to not have any interest. Just the way it goes sometimes. I’m glad your writing, and those students who write with you will learn so much about themselves along the way.
March 8, 2016 at 2:12 pm
It’s amazing how much time and effort is put into the “I can’t” kinds of statements. If that same energy was put into “I’ll try” there’s not telling what these kids could do. At any rate, we’ll celebrate those who are writing, giving it a shot, and we’ll celebrate the occasional writers too. It’s the least I can do! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 10:00 pm
You care, you write, you worry about them. They must feel that at some level; but kids do have their own issues at times that can interfere with what is happening in the classroom. Try not to take it too personally and just keep cheering them on!
March 8, 2016 at 9:36 am
The cheerleader (really really deep down) says the same thing: just keep pushing them forward, regardless of how many are still taking part! I’ll be trying to bring some back into it as well, so we’ll see what happens! 🙂
March 7, 2016 at 10:48 pm
It sounds like it’s year 1 for all of you. Don’t get disheartened. You’re encouraging students to try something new and you’re being a role model by doing it alongside them. I bet a year or two down the road, this will feel like the norm for students in your class. It’ll just be a crazy, hard, wonderful part about being one of your students.
March 8, 2016 at 8:09 am
That is so true! I’m expecting the “Mr. Johnston will want you to write for *added emphasis* 30 DAYS” to start to spread after this year. I’m hoping it does too! 🙂