For writing instructors across the country, the start of November signals the launch of National Novel Writing Month—30 days for writers of all ages to write their heart out.
National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is now in its 18th year of challenging participants to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. It’s a hefty undertaking, but the annual competition has become popular, partly due to NaNoWriMo’s active forums that offer support and commiseration, and its resources for preparation.
While teenagers often participate on their own accord, some teachers have brought NaNoWriMo into the classroom to get students writing and thinking creatively. Educators say that students enjoy the challenge and the ability to take complete ownership of their novel—from the genre to the storylines to its eventual publication through NaNoWriMo.
To that end, NaNoWriMo has run a Young Writers Program specifically for educators and students under 18 for the past decade. The program, now in its 11th year, allows young writers to set their own word-count goals, in case 50,000 words seems out of reach. There are moderated forums for students (13 or older) to talk with peers across the country about their works in progress.
This year, a new beta website of the Young Writers Program offers teachers and students additional tools. Students will be able to draft their novels and track their progress directly on the site. And “virtual classroom spaces” will allow teachers to hold class discussions and monitor their students’ novel progress. Teachers can set writing challenges, or focus the day’s writing around a lesson learned in class, like using sensory details. Students can also share lessons learned or challenges faced while writing with their classmates.
There are also forums for teachers to connect with fellow educators across the country as the month progresses. The beta website also includes free common core-aligned curricula, student workbooks, and other resources for aspiring writers, like pep talks by well-known authors. The 2016 pep-talk lineup includes Carolivia Herron, a writer of children’s and adult literature, including “Nappy Hair,” and Jenny Han, the author of the popular young adult books “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” and “P.S. I Still Love You.”
NaNoWriMo also sends out 2,500 free classroom kits each year, with progress charts and motivational stickers. (The 2016 kits are, unfortunately, already out of stock.)
“We’re so proud to continue to tell students, through our new site and all of our materials, that their stories matter,” said Chris Angotti, the chief operating officer, in a statement.
In a 2007 Education Week Teacher article, educators shared how they used NaNoWriMo to foster a love of creative writing among their students. One 5th grade teacher put it this way: “It’s a great process—falling in love with writing, finding that you can do more than you thought you could do, finding a fluency in writing without making yourself write ‘well.’ [Students] want to know: ‘How do you write dialogue?’ ‘How do you spell this?’ When I do grammar lessons, they have something to immediately apply it to. They want their stories to be good!”
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.