Dare to Care

create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

24/Mar/2012
by Denise Krebs
10 Comments

Noveling, the Common Core, and More


NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program is a growing part of my eighth grade curriculum. We wrote rough drafts in November.  In February, we started on what I thought would be a one-month journey of revision and editing, but it is turning into more like two months. That’s three months in all, and the jury is still out on whether this has been a good use of our time, so I needed to do a little reflection.

Previously with Novel-Writing 8th Graders

Three years ago, NaNoWriMo was a voluntary assignment, with about 2/3 of the class participating. The rest of the class did other writing assignments. A bit more than half of the novelers chose to continue with the work of editing, most of it on their own. Proof copies were ordered in the summer.

Two years ago, 100% wrote first drafts in November (it became an assignment for everyone that year), and 85% edited (much in a short exploratory course and then some on their own). We ordered proof copies by the skin of our teeth, and celebrated our accomplishment the last week of school.

Now, this year, with three months on the line, is the experience worthwhile enough to take English time to get the process done for everyone?

Noveling and the Common Core

I compared the noveling, revising and editing curriculum to the Common Core standards in Language and Writing,  and the students have really grown in the standards I looked at. The following five images are the complete standards for eighth grade in Language and Writing. I made notes in red regarding student work on this project:

Language Common Core


Writing Common Core



More than the Common Core

Clearly, with this project they are doing the work of writing and developing written language skills. In addition to these important skills in the Common Core, the 8th graders are also learning to…

  • follow their dreams
  • believe in themselves
  • recognize their creativity
  • know they are a genius, and the world expects their contribution*
  • make decisions about what to do in school
  • develop passion for their own assignments, not mine (On an aside, one of my greatest sadnesses as a teacher is when a student says, “Is this what you want?” I can honestly say, in three years, no one has ever asked me that question regarding their novel. It is strangely theirs from start to finish, even though I have many benchmarks, requirements, and, come editing time, I comment all over their Google Doc like an overachieving street tagger! I am constantly having conferences and mini-lessons with individuals. [Note to self: Next year bring in backups–parents and retired teachers who can help.] BUT, they do the work and want to. They know they are getting a proof copy and want it to be good. No student has ever said, “That’s OK, I’ll just keep this plotless wonder with all its mistakes.” I back off when I realize I’m asking too much. When one has 339 errors of the same kind, it can be a bit daunting, so I help as much as possible and we’re becoming pros at using the find and replace feature.)
  • and so much more

Maybe the jury is closer to a decision than I thought! I’ll let you know after we get all the books ordered!

Additional Resources

For more on my experience with NaNoWriMo, here is an index to additional blog posts about it.
Download Common Core Standards.
* Angela Maiers

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?

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