Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The One With The End of Slice of Life Challenge 2018!

This month, I'm participating in the Slice of Life challenge with Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post or you can head on over there to check out other people's stories and follow along with the fun. For more information on what a Slice of Life is about, you can go here

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The March Slice of Life Challenge is over! I missed five days along the way but overall, I kept up with posting daily and I had a blast. I've done the month-long challenge twice before. The first time I blogged about so many totally random things. The second time I blogged all about my identity. This time I took what I learned from the previous experiences into account to make it more manageable for myself but it was still a totally unique experience. 

Here are all my posts in case you'd like to go back and read any of them!

My biggest advice for anyone who wants to try the month-long Slice of Life Challenge is to either choose a topic ahead of time and/or brainstorm a list of topics for different blog posts for the month. It helped me to know that I had enough ideas to last me a whole month. This time, I brainstormed a list but I definitely didn't stick to my list like I did the second time I did this challenge. I meandered a bit and let my exploration take me in different directions but having a specific focus definitely helped. 

This time I chose spoken word poetry as my focus because I'm going to start an open mic club at the middle school where I work and I really wanted to try it out and see what it was all about and know as much as I could going into it. This worked out perfectly because I learned so much about the history of spoken word that will surely impact my lens of looking at the genre going forward. I have a friend who teaches dance and he likes to spend time talking about the history of hip hop and how hip hop started and has evolved before even getting to learning any moves and this feels similar. I feel better able to embrace spoken word and join in knowing more about the history. 

In terms of learning about myself as a writer, I was reminded how easy it is to write once I have a topic or at least a plan, even if it's not super detailed. As I was participating in the March Slice of Life Challenge, I was also finishing up a rewrite of a young adult novel. Part of my revision/rewrite process was to outline my story. I wrote the first draft last summer and I've found that writing out the beats in a story helps me because then I can write through all the beats and end up with a draft. 

Well, as I did some research on revision, I discovered a different way to outline after watching a video from Katytastic on how to outline each of the three acts of a story. I've never ever thought of myself as a plotter but the more I write, the more helpful I find it is to have a plan. Just like I did well during this challenge because I had topic ideas for my posts and an overall theme of spoken word poetry, as I was working through my rewrite, I just told myself to write each of these plot points and I slowly checked off each item on my outline.

So far, a writing life for me is a lot about trying new things and keeping on keeping on. That's what I know to be true. I've found things along the way that I really like and that work for me but just because something worked well before, it doesn't mean I'm tied to it the next time around. There are so many writers out there and so many people sharing their experiences and expertise that there are so many ideas to scoop up and try. 

And this, this is what writing is all about and what writing instruction should be. I read this wonderful article about writing instruction this weekend: Six Roadblocks to Writing Instruction—and How to Find Alternative Routes. Writing Workshop with a classful of kids is a challenge but looking at what writers do and discussing that with students, giving them time to write and explore a variety of topics meeting with them to talk over their writing and where they're going next, getting at this metacognition about writing, it's important! And it's what we know is best when it comes to writing instruction. 

So here's my biggest takeaway from this month of participating in the Slice of Life Challenge (it's really a reminder): Teachers who write make better writing teachers. We know this, right?! This is what Teachers Write is all about. When we write, we better understand what it means to be a writer. When teachers are writers too, we better understand what our students are going through. We can empathize and make connections and suggestions because we're in it with them. Over at Story Exploratory, I blogged about embracing the suck and how Brené Brown talks about only taking advice from people who are in the arena with you. THIS is why being a teacher who writes is imperative. 

Whether you've done the March Slice of Challenge this year or before or never, I definitely recommend it! You can wait until next year to join in or start your own 30 day challenge or join in on the weekly Slice of Life challenge (people blog and link up on Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers). Or maybe you want to write a little more regularly or join Teachers Write this summer. I know 100% in my heart and in my brain (there's research!) that students need teacher of writing who write so I hope you think about writing more yourself in some way or another!

And if you need some help or a nudge or a cheerleader, I'm here for you! Just let me know!

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