For some teachers, Halloween means candy, costumes, and the countdown to Thanksgiving break. For others, it means it’s almost time to start 30 days of furious writing as part of National Novel Writing Month.
Now in its 16th year, National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, challenges participants to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. With active forums, prep resources, and sponsored prizes for winners, NaNoWriMo aims to entice writers of all ages.
Students can and do participate in NaNoWriMo on their own—the forum dedicated to teens is one of the busiest on the main site—but the organization also runs the Young Writers Program specifically for would-be novelists under 18.
YWP was founded at the request of teachers who wanted to get their students in on the action. The youth site allows writers to set their own word count goals, a boon to those who find 50,000 words to be a little intimidating. The site also provides moderated forums for kids and teens to talk to each other about plot points, character development, and more. In 2013, YWP boasted almost 90,000 participants, the majority them in one of 2,000 classrooms that took part.
To help with what can seem like a herculean task, YWP offers a wide selection of educator resources. Teachers can order a free classroom kit with buttons, stickers, and progress charts; set up virtual classrooms where they can monitor and communicate with their students; and even access detailed, common core-aligned lesson plans to use throughout November. Teachers can also connect with other participating classrooms across the globe.
Students and teachers also have access to free workbooks and regular “pep talks” from famous authors. This year’s pep talk lineup includes Veronica Roth, author of the popular Divergent series, and fantasy writer Tamora Pierce. Past years have included talks by John Green, Kate DiCamillo, James Patterson, and more than 50 others.
A novel in a month may sound a little insane, but the main goal of NaNoWriMo is actually for writers to start a project, even if they don’t necessarily finish it. For teachers trying to work more creative writing into their students’ routines, it’s one tool that might come in handy.
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.