Dare to Care

construct, create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

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

08/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
3 Comments

NaNoWriMo YWP – Classroom Kit & More

Classroom Kit

Get your Classroom Kit ordered now. It is available free-of-charge from NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program. It comes with a poster and stickers so students can keep track of their progress. And noveling buttons for all.

If you are reading this later, don’t think that ordering into November is too late, either. Picture this: Your students progressing on their novels like keyboarding little hellions. They don’t know yet or care about progress-tracking posters. You order your kit late. When it arrives, you hang the poster and start passing out stickers for each accomplished 10% toward their goal. Now they care about progress-tracking posters. Laughter, smiles and fist bumps all around. And you see that it wasn’t too late, after all!

More Resources

Participant Badges
Participant badges are available for your students to add to their blogs or to your class blog or web page. In December, there will be a WINNER badge available as well. Woohoo!

Flyers
The flyers are good to hang up around the school because, for our school, when it was new people had lots of questions. High school students in my building would check out the URL, or previous students would be reminded that we were starting soon. I am always tickled when at least one older student writes again in November.

Pep Talks
You adult authors will write a series of pep talks throughout the month. Students who sign up using their own emails will get great talks from authors, like last year’s from John Green and D.J. Hale. In previous years, pep talkers have included Jerry Spinelli, Margaret Peterson Haddix and Avi. Find archives of all of the pep talks here. Students who have registered with their own email address will get the latest pep talk sent to them, which I find they read more than when I send them a link. NaNoWriMo will send no junk email!

Young Writer Workbooks
One of my favorite resources has been the Young Writer Workbook. It is creative, fun, young, and the kids do not feel like they are doing workbook pages. They are working toward an authentic goal, and the workbook is used solely for realizing that goal. Last year I had copies printed from our area education agency. They each cost $2.30, which was a great price, but we didn’t take advantage of most of the pages. This year I decided to try making mini-workbooks. The planning pages are awesome for use at this time of the year. Later when we go into editing mode, I’ll make a mini-workbook with those pages.

Virtual Classroom
Another favorite aspect of NaNoWriMo is the just-new-last-year Virtual Classroom. This is a great cat-herding place for you and your wild young novelists. Not only that, it is a place you all can connect with other novelist classrooms around the world. Either way is fine–you run your virtual classroom alone, but if you wish, you can also find connect with one or more other classrooms. My next blog post will be about the Virtual Classroom.

Hope you are thinking of joining us on our wild noveling adventure! If so, start here to sign up teachers and students.

08/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
6 Comments

NaNoWriMo YWP – How Do Students Make Their Goals?

A friend who has joined the Young Writer’s Program of NaNoWriMo asked me a good question: How do students make their goals for writing a novel in November?

I have some history here that will help. The first year I wrote novels with my students. I asked for volunteers. Eleven out of 18 students chose to write novels. I ran two different programs in English class. The other seven wrote an autobiography and a fiction story. For the non-novelers, I used the same writer’s workshop style I usually do.

The novelists, on the other hand, had much more freedom. For the month of November, their primary objective was to draft their first novel. It worked well, and each 8th grade novelist succeeded in writing a 10,000 word or more novel. 100% success rate. The students who wanted to could edit and ready their novels for publication on their own, and I helped six students get them done and ordered.

The second year I added novel-writing to my curriculum. Again, the objective was to write the first draft, reaching their word count goal. Each student wrote a novel, and on some level everyone enjoyed it and remained engaged in their stories for the whole month.

Due to the success my students had the first year, I kept the 10,000 word goal as a minimum. That was a mistake. I had a few kids who just could not do it. Of my 21 students, five did not reach their goal. Thus, they did not “win.” It was sad because it was not for lack of effort. After November starts, it is too late to change the goals that have been set. However, 3 of the 5 who didn’t reach their goal still completed their editing work and received their printed book. Create Space (a subsidiary of Amazon) has been printing a free proof copy for each person who wins NaNoWriMo. (For those who didn’t “win”, we just paid the $8 or so.) To the individuals, I also tried to make it clear that they were winners, and I had made a mistake when I insisted that the whole class should have the same goal.

I am taking the advice of the YWP this year when they suggest to the students: “Remember to set your own challenging, yet reachable, word-count goal!” I am still challenging most of my students for 10,000+ words, but they can make their goal anywhere between 3,000-10,000+. I have one student who made hers 20,000. You will know who you can push over 10,000 and who needs to be 3,000 to 5,000. I chose these numbers based on the word count recommendations from NaNoWriMo. (I’m not sure when I discovered this document–but, unfortunately, I didn’t pay attention to it until this year!)

I found it was possible for many kids to have a 500-word day, and if they write every day in November during class, that will translate to around 10,000 words. Many students will write at home too. I even had one who liked to write in pencil on legal pads. She wrote furiously at home each night and then typed it up during our class period. Students find their own way and enjoy the independence. It is a writing experience most of them have never had.

This will be my third time participating in NaNoWriMo. According to Chris Baty, founder of NaNoWriMo, it is “a high-velocity approach to noveling” and “a seat-of-your-pants literacy adventure.” All participants at times have to write random craziness. The goal of 50,000 for adult writers is hard to do for busy teachers. I have a feeling that, for students, 10,000 words feels to them like 50,000 does to me. They experienced the same joyful rewards that I did when we reached our goals. Chris also suggests that it is “monkey barrels of fun” or it should be.

Someone came into class yesterday when we were working on getting ready for NaNo and said, “I was talking to some freshmen, and they said they just wrote random stuff to reach their goal.”

Yes, I told her, sometimes I did, as well. I went on to explain what that meant. That it really is true that the act of fluent writing is our major goal. In Chris Baty’s book, No Plot? No Problem, he suggests we must write quantity over quality for this month and worry about the editing later. Most all WriMos are guilty of shameless word padding at one time or another. On rare occasions during November, I would write a passage so poignant that I wept over it, but most of the time I was as dry as burnt toast, putting myself to sleep and risking dropping my laptop off my lap. I told the student she will learn about writing and about herself by going through the process. Yes, I explained, I will not be able to read all of your novel carefully, so you could get away with a lot of shenanigans. If that is your goal–to get away with cheating on your word count–you can certainly do that. To be sure, some students are rightly more proud of their novels than others.

Each WriMo lives his or her own experience, and as teacher you have to allow them the agency to find their way in the noveling world. That’s why this year, by allowing a variety of goals, I am convinced it will make students more committed to the process of reaching their goal. And, as a result, I believe a greater number will be pleased with the end products of their labor.


Link to the same video above: Nano Published Novels 2010-11

More NaNoWriMo blog posts here and here and here and here.

07/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
5 Comments

Ah, Friday…Looking Forward to NaNoWriMo

I am so excited this time of year. It is just about time for NaNoWriMo!

I have written two nano novels. Mediocre at best. At worst, they are boring, redundant, childish, and so much more. Fifty-thousand words each, lacking in rich description, minus realistic dialogue, missing winsome characters, and so much less.

However, I know that I write better today than I did two years ago, before I wrote my first novel. That much is true. I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I would have been a good technical writer–not a novelist.

Now I teach English and literature to junior highers, which is daunting and humbling. My 8th grade students write novels too. This week they have begun to create their accounts, think up ideas, and plan their noveling strategies.

On November 1, a blank yet hopeful Google Doc greets us. By the 30th we experience the sweet thrill of victory when we “win” NaNoWriMo.

My students keep me going so I too can experience victory. They believe in themselves, each other and me. Because of them, I believe in myself, too.

I can hardly wait!

Here is a video of last year’s group…

17/May/2011
by Denise Krebs
0 comments

8th Graders Publish Novels



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...My 8th graders published novels!

Last November, 21 students wrote first drafts of novels. Starting in January, they spent hours and hours editing and readying them for publication, and now 18 of them reaped the benefits of their labor, following through to see their novels published. Here’s a video of their work.

Doesn’t that look fun? It’s not too early for you to think of signing up for next year’s NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program for November 2011. This will be the third year 8th graders and I have written novels in November.

Eighth graders (and some high schoolers at my school who choose to do it again) make a goal–usually around 10,000 words. It’s a challenging objective, but most of them make it to that lofty number. I write a 50,000 word novel and connect with other writers on the main NaNoWriMo site.

nano_ywp_10_winner_300x300

I encourage my educator friends to join in the fun with your students of all ages. NaNoWriMo does things excellently, and it is geared for all students K-12. (The younger the student, the smaller the word-count goal, of course.) NaNo provides an incredible interactive virtual classroom where you can connect with other novel-writing students around the world. Oh, and did I tell you the program is free?

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer,” said E.B. White about Charlotte. Those of us who have joined in at NaNoWriMo would concur with White about the staff members at NaNo. Not only are they true friends and good writers, but each one has an incredible sense of humor, impeccable taste in stickers and posters, and the ability to help you when you have a need. The workbooks make the planning fun and meaningful (and tied into standards). In the past CreateSpace.com has provided free proof copies of their novels for all participants who reach their goal.

Check out the program links, and leave any questions in the comments section. I’ll be happy to try to answer them from my limited perspective. And, as I said at the beginning, it is not too early to think about it. November comes fast once school starts!

New this summer…you can also write a novel any time during the year and get support from the great people at The Office of Letters and Light through Camp NaNoWriMo.

For more information:
NaNoWriMo YWP Fact Sheet

National Writing Project NaNoWriMo Article
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