21 Mar Slice of Life: Can It Be Fun and Rigorous?
Do you think it counts?
What do you mean?
If they write a letter to someone for Valentines Day, is that opinion writing?
What are your goals for the unit? What are you hoping to teach them about this genre of writing in kindergarten?
Well, they are supposed to learn that writers have big ideas or strong feelings and use writing to convince others to agree with them.
So you are going to have 5 year olds choose a person they have a strong feeling or big idea about and write this person a letter to tell them their thoughts and feelings. What about that wouldn’t count?
It just seems too fun to count.
The standards clearly tell us what we need to teach our students, but they do not teach us how we must go about bringing this learning to life.
“The CCSS made an explicit premise that implementation decisions be left in the hands of teachers or school leaders. The standards define what all students should know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach.” -CCSS, 2010
If a kindergarten student can think of an important person in his life and write a letter telling that person how he feels and why he feels that way it seems to completely fulfill the standards. Creating a Valentine for someone has purpose, meaning and an authentic audience. Just because it is also fun should not deem it unworthy!
Curriculum needs to be engaging. Our students need to understand why they are learning the standards and how these will help them as readers, writers and humans. Writing a Valentine is fun. Is it wrong to send a message that learning is fun? If something ties in nicely with our world does that make it less rigorous?
I agree that we cannot base all of our teaching on holidays and that we need to have a purpose for the lessons we are teaching. On the other hand, we need to look for ways to connect the standards to our students developmentally and to the world around them. Valentines Day is fun. The ability to choose a person and write a letter expressing how you feel about them or your big idea about them is both fun and rigorous.
Writing a letter helps our young students construct a deep understanding of audience. When you have a specific person in mind, your writing becomes more specific. It is easier to teach crafts like word choice, mini-stories and talking to your audience. Letters allow you to picture the exact person you are writing to so your voice is clear and convincing. Anna Gratz Cockerille has been using the format of letters for Slice of Life this month. Every day I am amazed at how effective this structure is for her writing. She is able to impact an entire audience of readers through a letter written to a specific person or group. The specificity of the audience brings her writing to life and allows a broader audience to still connect to her big idea.
I responded to Anna and shared how powerful I think this structure has been for her writing. I reflected that I have tried to use it, but right now some of my topics feel too raw for the structure. I realize as I try to write my posts as a letter the feelings become too intense. Writing with the exact audience in mind truly pushes you to think about and feel your big idea or strong feeling. The impact on both the writer and the reader is connected. Identifying the audience through a letter makes one’s words come to life in a special way. The writer can see, hear and feel the impact of her opinion with the audience. This to me seems perfect for young writers who are trying to construct an understanding of abstract concepts like audience and purpose.
Through writing letters these writers learned that the purpose of writing is to get your ideas and feelings out into the world. They learned that writing is to be shared with an audience. They learned that opinion writing is used to impact others with your ideas and feelings. What better way to do this than by telling someone in your life what he or she means to you or how he or she has impacted you?
I think it meets and exceeds the standards – of both writing and life. What do you think?
Thank you to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, Beth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for us to share our stories each day in March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts and consider joining this community.