Dare to Care

construct, create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

15/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
7 Comments

NaNoWriMo YWP Blog Series Index

I have been a crazy blogging maniac the last week. A friend made a suggestion, and I took it seriously. In fact, I wrote 8 posts about NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program, sometimes known as the YWP. I guess I am getting warmed up for NaNoWriMo because I have written exactly 5,168 words since October 7. That is the equivalent of 3.1 days of writing on my novel starting in November, but–oops!–it’s been 9 days since I started.

That’s OK! I can ramp it up. I know I can do this!

Anyway, now this series is over. (Unless, of course, someone mentions another potential topic…)

No…no…I must tell myself.  It is now time to try to find a plot, meet my characters, and freeze some casseroles.

Here is an index of the NaNoWriMo blog posts I made, which I hope will be of some help to teachers who are new to National Novel Writing Month with their students. You still have plenty of time to learn about it, sign up, and get started! (I know, because my first year, students actually started noveling on November 1 before many of them had had a chance to sign up.)

Later Posts

Blurring the Lines Between Author and Audience

Noveling, the Common Core and More

Magical Moments in Teaching

Congratulations, Winner

We Wrote Novels

Off on Another Year of NaNoWriMo

Best of luck and happy noveling to all the Young Writers and their teachers!

15/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
1 Comment

NaNoWriMo YWP – Student Accountability and Benchmarks

Being a winner is better than any grade!

I hate grading! I wish that I could just learn in partnership with my students. I wish that we could connect and contribute in the global world of authentic learning, and that I would never again have to put a grade in the grade book. That’s my hope for an ideal world, and maybe a transformed educational system.

However, today, I still need to record grades. On some level, I must “grade” students’ participation in the Young Writer’s Program of National Novel Writing Month. Here is what I do for grading.

First of all, if I have a student who is having a hard time getting started or becoming engaged, I have numerous individual conferences with him. Once he gets going, then we are both happy.

Next, I have benchmarks that students meet. Each of these are graded, about one a week.

  1. Their profile on the Virtual Classroom is graded for completeness and engagement. They should have an avatar and answer the questions. What I mean by engagement: Are they making their profile interesting to those who have to read it? Do they go in and revise it after the first day?
  2. An interesting novel excerpt is proofread and posted on their profile novel information. This may be the best-written passage of their novel and is usually 300 words or less.
  3. By about the second or third week, I expect a good, proofread synopsis of their novel. Even if they don’t know the ending, they can still write a good book talk about it, something they might use to add to the back cover someday.

Finally, this year, because each student made a goal that I approved, I will also record a small grade based on whether they reach their goal. Remember, this has to be done lightly and not a major grade because really, you aren’t going to be able to know right away if they copied and re-pasted a couple thousand words into the center at the last minute. I would much rather they have an authentic noveling experience than just fake it to get a grade on an inflated assignment.

That’s about it. I record only four grades in the grade book for the month of November, and almost everyone gets a good grade.

Revising and editing is another topic, which proves a little harder. But that’s not for November.

Image by Sean and Lauren, shared with a CC By 2.0 Attribution License.

15/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
3 Comments

NaNoWriMo YWP – Keeping Motivated

As NaNoWriMo founder and author Chris Baty says,

“We can all do amazing, impossible things when

given a deadline,

a supportive community,

and unlimited access to chocolate and caffeine.”

Here are a few ways students and I keep motivated during November to do the amazing, impossible task of writing a novel.

Deadline.

So many deadlines in my world are flexible depending on the situation. NaNoWriMo is not one of them. We must log in to NaNoWriMo and upload into the handy-dandy word counter our completed novels by midnight of November 30. That is a constant prickle on my calendar.  We have to stay on target. For a 10,000 word goal, that means 300 words a day, every single day. Or about 500 a day on school days.

For the teacher, it’s 1,667 words a day, every single day. We do not stop writing just because we have parent-teacher conferences, weekend plans, illness, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. We remember our hard and fast deadline is November 30.

However, we don’t wait until November 30. We log in to NaNoWriMo every single day and update our word count. (Google Docs or any other writing program you will use counts the words for you.) That is motivational, for sure! You can watch your progress chart climbing the mountain of noveling ecstasy!

Community.

Really, my greatest motivation comes from my students. They are fully engaged. November is all of our favorite month in English class. I love that they talk about conflict and resolution, describing with detail (because it can add a hundred words to your word count), and realistic dialogue. These are topics that, all of a sudden, are motivating and imperative. I’ve never taught a lesson on any of those topics that gets a similar response.

Our Virtual Classroom is another way we build community with others outside of our school community. Forums, directory map, and other available community-building devices are great global connectors. In addition, my class follows @NaNoWriMoYWP on Twitter.

As an adult, though, I am involved not only in the YWP NaNoWriMo, but in the NaNoWriMo program too. Motivation galore inhabits that world! On Twitter I also follow @NaNoWriMo, @NaNoWordSprints, and then the hashtag on Twitter: #nanowrimo.  A new blog I follow this year is WriMos FTW!. In these places, you will find unlimited motivation to reach your adult goal of 50,000 words.

Caffeine and Chocolate.

Now, I’m not in the habit of giving my students caffeine, for they are pretty much revved up on a regular basis. I do, however, give them candy. My class meets from 1:10-1:50. Prime time for the yawns in my experience. I also avoid chocolate, as it goes down too fast and gums up the keyboard.

Most often, I randomly pass out candy to everyone, but sometimes they earn it. When they have a day where they write at least 5%, they get to join the 5% Club for that day. Then the next day when they come to class, they get to choose from my candy jar. Usually they will find suckers and hard candy that their mouths can whittle away at while they type ferociously. That’s really all the extrinsic rewards I give.

Other motivators.

Students are allowed to bring headphones or mp3 players to listen to music while we write. I wouldn’t have thought of that because I’m not much of a music listener. NaNoWriMo did, though. One of the questions on each person’s profile is, “What is your favorite music to novel by?” That is a huge motivator. They know when they come to English class in November they can listen to their own music. Some take advantage of it and others don’t. It makes for an extremely peaceful noveling classroom environment. Magical!

Do you have any other ways you keep motivation high during November?

Sucker photo by Vic at vvvracer

14/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
3 Comments

An Interview With Anna

I asked sophomore Anna to respond to some questions about her 8th grade experience with NaNoWriMo. Here are her responses:

What was the most rewarding part of writing a novel?

Well, I know the most rewarding part was seeing the actual book in my hands. A book that looked like a book from a library, except I wrote it. 🙂

What was the hardest part about writing your book?

The hardest part was finding the perfect ending and where to stop. You don’t want the book to drag on, but you just have so many ideas. Sometimes the ideas don’t work together so that’s also challenging. The ending is usually my favorite part of the book because that’s when you find out how the story all fits together.

If you had time, would you do NaNoWriMo again? Do you think NaNoWriMo was a valuable use of our English class?

I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I would TOTALLY rather write another book than read A.R!!!!! Usually if I have free time, I have to read, but I’d rather write a book than read a book. That’s boring! haha

So, I guess that answers if it’s valuable English time because I think absolutely! It helps your English a lot. You’re writing a book, so you don’t want any grammar mistakes or bad vocabulary.

What suggestions would you give a young writer getting ready to write his/her first novel?

Always write about something you’d like to read or something that interests you and write something that you would think is the perfect book. It’s way easier than it sounds. Writing about something you love is easy.

Was it worth all the work you put in to revise and edit your book for publishing?

It was 100% worth revising my novel. I love showing it off! I don’t technically want people reading it, but it’s crazy to have a book say my name on the bottom. Out of all the things to do in my life, who would have thought having a printed copy of a book I wrote would be one of them? Not many people can say they have a copy of a book they wrote 🙂

What could your teacher have done to make it a better experience when you wrote your novel?

I think you were the perfect teacher for it, Mrs. Krebs 🙂 You let people choose if they wanted to do it (I don’t see why they wouldn’t). I loved the sticker chart you had to show us how far we were and see how far others are. I liked how you did it in Google Docs, so we could share our stories with friends and see if they have any corrections or ideas. Anyway, I know that’s a lot but I hope it helps a little!

Yes, Anna, it did! Thank you so much for, yet again, sharing your genius with the world! More of Anna’s genius can be found here and here.

P.S. I no longer let students decide if they will participate in NaNoWriMo. It’s required. What do you think about that? Should they have a choice like they did during Anna’s year?

14/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
3 Comments

NaNoWriMo YWP – Virtual Classroom Scavenger Hunt

The Virtual Classroom is loads of fun. It was new last year, and I learned how to use it with the help of good tutorials and plenty of NaNoMailing with the always helpful staff of the YWP. The how-to instructions for using the virtual classroom can be found here on the YWP NaNoWriMo site. The step-by-step explanations with screenshots are better than any I would give, so go with those. Questions? Ask me or Chris Angotti and staff.

Anyway, once I successfully set up my virtual classroom, I like to start out with a scavenger hunt late in October to get the students figuring out what’s available in our virtual classroom.

I send them to explore, where I have hidden a few items (in plain sight) using features I want them to practice.

In the Forum:

  1. Begin your first thread something like this…”Welcome to the Forum. We can have discussions here and reply to each other. Reply to this thread and tell something you are good at. Then see Mrs. Krebs for________.” (A sticker, extra credit on an assignment, a free-time pass, a sucker, or whatever suits your fancy.)
  2. Make a two-part post: Ask students to respond to a thread (favorite sport or favorite food or anything), and then, Part 2, reply to a reply of a friend. The goal for this is just to get them experimenting with the features of the Virtual Classroom.
  3. Ask students to upload an avatar to their author info for another prize or points good for something. Or add novel info or set their goal or whatever else in their profile you want them to complete.

In NaNoMail:

  1. Send a NaNoMail with something like this: “Send Mrs. Krebs a NaNoMail telling about one character who might be in your novel. When she reads it she’ll put a coupon for _______ in your mailbox.”
  2. Here’s another one: “When you read this NaNoMail, tell Mrs. Krebs your favorite color and she’ll give you a piece of gum.”

My goal in using this scavenger hunt is to get students familiar with the virtual classroom, to add their author and novel information and practice with NaNoMail and the Forums. When a student comes up and receives a stick of gum from me, others inevitably say, “Hey, how come s/he gets gum?” Then they quickly begin to dig a little deeper.

Links

The virtual classroom also has a section where you can add links for students to help them with their novel. Good ones I put in this section:

Name Generator
Who is Yanko Nedelcho Borisov? A potential character in my novel thanks to the “Behind the Name” Random Name Generator. What a thesaurus does for adjectives, the Random Name Generator does for characters. I told the name generator that I wanted a Bulgarian man’s name–first, middle and last. They gave me Yanko Nedelcho Borisov. His wife is Zaharina, and his two children are Gardza and Marta. If I decide I don’t want Bulgarian characters, I can generate Frisian or French, Japanese or Jewish, Roman or rapper, hillbilly or hippy, and so many more! Great fun, especially when I need a lot of characters and get tired of using all the names of my friends and acquaintances.

Music
I do not like to listen to music while I work or write. That may be a generational preference or that I just don’t regularly listen to music anytime. However, I appreciate that NaNoWriMo encourages us to consider what novel writing music we listen to, so I actually tried it a few times. Depending on what scene I wanted to write, I listened to some triumphant classical pieces or some sad and mellow ballads. I think it added a few hundred to my word count (especially during Beethoven’s 5th) and perhaps some inspiration, as well. I have links for AOL Radio and Pandora in my Virtual Classroom, so students can easily access music (even though Pandora is blocked at our school). They are allowed to bring headphones and mp3 players in November.

So, that’s about all I’ve done to get ready to use my virtual classroom in November. How about you?

Can you share additional items for a virtual classroom scavenger hunt?

Do you have any helpful links for student novelers to share?

Photo credits: What’s in a Name? by Kathy Ponce & Headphones by Dylan Cantwell

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