Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Re-establishing My Slicing Life

Slice of Life is hosted every Tuesday by the amazing writing community at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. All are always welcome to share stories and reflections about life, or to comment on what others share. Feel free to stop over!

I think that one of the most difficult aspects of falling out of the habit of regular writing is trying to figure out what to write about I try to fall back into the habit. I have not sliced for the last couple of weeks. I have the usual excuses, and I won't bore anyone with them. So now, I have a pile of potential slices. You would think that would make this post an easier one to write, but it doesn't. On the contrary, I find the pile to be overwhelming. Where do I start? How do I decide? How can I incorporate one slice into another? What if I forget about one that was really important? What if I get started on one and then don't like it?

The overwhelmed feeling that I have about my writing helps me to understand how some of our young writers feel when they face that daunting blank page. Getting started or re-started really can be the hardest part. The importance of keeping a notebook of ideas and allowing time to just explore the ideas is a step in our writing workshops that sometimes is overlooked because of the pressure of mastering skills and completing pieces. Where do our instructional minutes go, and how do we prioritize what we teach and what our students really need to know and be able to do as writers?

Our Summer Writing Academy ran last week. For four hours a day, Monday through Friday, our focus was on writing. For me some of the important take-aways were:

  • the importance of process and not product. We had all of our 43 students complete a narrative story, but the teachers agreed that the best writing had occurred when students were participating in exercises or fun prompts--when they did not have the pressure to complete a piece, but rather had the reins to explore themselves as writers. 
  • the power of conversation. We built in a lot of time for gallery walks, reflections, questions and answers, and explanations. Speaking and listening are critical skills for literacy. I'm not sure that we build in opportunities to practice these skills as explicitly and as regularly as we should.
  • the inspiration that compliments provide. One of our teachers introduced "compliment posters" for each child, an idea that all of the other teachers implemented the next day. I loved watching the energy that students put into thinking of their compliment for their classmate's writing, and I loved watching the appreciation that our writers had for the positive feedback. Each student took their own compliment poster home at the end of the week, and I hope that it becomes a keepsake of his/her writing life. 
I will be reflecting, writing, and sharing more about the Summer Writing Academy over the next couple of weeks. For now, I am happy to be re-establishing my pace and my habits a slicer and as a writer.

Happy Summer!


  1. I cannot wait to read your reflections. Good luck with those piles. I'm working on mine too.

  2. As I read this, Melanie, I thought about the writing workshop Linda Rief ran every morning at the Boothbay Literacy Retreat. I had those same struggles, and learned so much from he way she inched us to write. It's a habit, yes, but a state of mind, too: the willingness to just begin. I have a long way to go!

  3. Compliment posters....I love this idea for my ELLs. They really struggle with writing and don't often get compliments from their peers or even their teachers (except to say "good try"). Plus we all love compliments! Happy slicing this summer!

  4. Compliment posters are a great idea! I love the part about "the power of conversation"! It's an important reminder. We all need to talk about our writing...especially students. Glad to see you back slicing! :) Love this post!

  5. The pressure we all feel about time is so frustrating! I truly believe that we actually accomplish more and students learn more when we slow down. Your Writing Academy sounds wonderful! Looking forward to learning more about it.

  6. I love how honest this is. It is about process not product in all ages. I wish we did something like this writing academy in my district!