Category Archives: Student Blogging

Have You Tried To Slice?

Every March I participate in the Slice of Life challenge created and hosted by Two Writing Teachers.  It’s been a great push for me as a creative writer over the years, with some years being more successful than others.  Last year I started it with my students and am continuing it with this years class.  They often find it challenging and exhausting but exciting and energizing at the same time.

As part of this daily writing I write with them and follow the model that the fine ladies at Two Writing Teachers have set by inviting kids to try different things in their writing each day.  Sometimes it’s experimenting with a new format, other times it’s about honing their craft as writers.  Along with the “writing” lessons I’m also teaching lessons on digital communities (like how to leave thoughtful comments) and the ins and outs of using Kidblog. (We even get a few lessons in HTML coding thanks to Kidblog’s app)

Here are some thoughts from last year’s class.

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Since this year I wrote my first slice about the coffee shop where Kristin and I write our books I thought I’d share it with you.  (This is reposted from my personal Slice of Life blog.)


The Kitchen Table

For the past year I’ve been spending most Saturday mornings at a little coffee shop on Damen Ave. with my writing partner Kristin.  Over the months our newest book has been taking shape fueled by massive amounts of coffee (what else?), the smell of bacon smoke in the air, occasional 80’s power ballads, and the general feeling that we’re trying to make a difference in the world.

Most of these mornings were spent on a big green leather couch stationed at the back of the room.  An ideal place for writing, people watching, and generally overseeing the goings on of the coffee shop.  One recent morning I walked in to find that the couch had been moved.

My first thought was “what the heck? why did they move the couch?”

My second thought was “what is in its place?!?”  There in the back of the room hogging the space that our beloved couch had once lived in was a retro reddish orange kitchen table.  I glared at it in disgust and distrust.

Our beloved green home had been moved to the front of the coffee shop, right in the middle of the chaos and was now joined by another couch.  It was an overall unwelcome change.  Now chaos abounded around us, other people invaded our space, and our writing mojo was thrown by the constant din of the door banging shut.

“The music is too loud.”

“The light is all wrong.”

“There’s a draft here.”

“It’s too far from the outlet.”

The next week I felt anxious walking in the door.  I trudged slowly to the back of the coffee shop and set my bag down tentatively on the table.  I unpacked slowly, hesitantly as if the table might blow up at any minute.  As I set up my computer I ran my fingers over the tacky laminate surface noting the old coffee stains, the scratches along the edge.  This table had history.  This table had a story to tell.  It was then that I thought perhaps it was fate, that this table was put here for a purpose.  A storytelling table for two storytellers.

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If you’re interested in finding out more visit Two Writing Teachers.  It’s never to late to get started!

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Getting Kids Into Global Blogging Communities

In the spirit of refreshing my own blog I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can help my students continue to find stamina and excitement for their blogging lives.  One of the things that keeps me blogging is connection with community.  When you feel the presence of your audience, or you are able to connect with others it gives you a sense of purpose in your work.  It’s not just about sitting in front of a screen and spouting off whatever ideas come into our heads, it’s about connecting to the hearts and minds of our readers.  It’s about inspiration.

I want my students to feel inspired by their blogs.  I wasn’t feeling that inspiration these last few weeks.  I was feeling like our classroom blogging had become stale, and in my zest to help them improve the quality of their writing I had put to much of myself into their writing.  This is why I not only redesigned our class blogging home, but I also decided to connect them to some of the global blogging communities out there so that they can feel the presence of their peers from around the globe.


We started our first experiment last week by posting “It’s Monday What Are You Reading” posts.  Students read a few examples before getting started.  It worked well since it was Thanksgiving week, a very short week, and the format of the post was much shorter than what we had been previously doing.  Although there was less writing, students put some nice thought into their last several book choices and I used this as a jumping off point in my conversations about book choice with students.


This week we dipped our toe into the Nerdy Book Club.  This start was a little more intensive as we needed to first read many posts on their blog to get a sense of what types of posts would fit, and we spent a good deal of time talking about the Nerdy Book Club community, who started it and why, and why it was important.  Students first posts were a bit tentative but they were excited by the freedom and choice that came with it!  As their teacher I was happy to see their zest but frustrated to see the amount and quality of writing decrease.  That will be something that we discuss together this week as we go back and revise posts, and it will be something that I will look carefully at to see where I can help students find the stamina to write long and strong.

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We also jumped into a less formal community that I’m calling Wonder Wednesday.  This is based on the Wonderopolis Website and the fact that it sounds really swell.  There isn’t really a blogging community per se but there is lots of great wondering going on on the Wonderopolis site in the comments section and on Twitter using the hashtag #wonderwednesday so I sort of launched a Guerilla style round up today to see what would happen.  Students read about wonders, left comments on my post, and added to our wonder wall.  In future weeks we’ll be taking wonders and doing some mini-inquiry to see if we can find answers!  So I’m anticipating some more authentic blogging opportunities there.  We also contacted a bunch of other fifth grade classes on Twitter and even got them to join us!

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Some upcoming communities we will participate in are the Slice of Life challenge in March, although I’m thinking of getting them started a bit earlier on this with some Tuesday Slice of Life writing sessions.  We will also be popping into Poetry Friday and Chalk-a-Bration at some point, but for now we’re just taking it a little bit at time.  I’m feeling pretty inspired and so are my students so I’d say overall we’re accomplishing our goal.

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