Dare to Care

construct, create, communicate, collaborate, and think critically

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.Β  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.Β  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. πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚

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 πŸ™‚ 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

11/Oct/2011
by Denise Krebs
1 Comment

NaNoWriMo YWP – Students Reminisce

I am writing a series of blog posts about NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program, but it made sense to start with more opinions than just mine.Β  So here, without commentary, are reflections and advice from students who wrote their first novel in November, 2010.


I think that writing a novel was great because it taught me that I can be a writer if I want to be a writer. The most rewarding part was when I was finished and had a published book! I think that the hardest part was probably getting the story going, but once I did, I easily wrote 1,000 words a day! If I had time, I would love to write another novel, but I wouldn’t know what to write about this time. If I had to tell a younger student advice on this it would be to just type. It may not make sense, but that is what the editing process is for at the end. Set your goals high every day, and over-achieve the total word goal you have!! All in all, just have fun, and enjoy the time while you have it! πŸ™‚

Melissa
Author of Midnight Sky

The best part of writing a novel was to know I wrote a book and have it so I show people what I accomplished. The hardest part was getting all my words and having it make sense. I liked working every day in English class. It helped me get all my words. The Dare Machine really helped too. From this experience, I learned that words add up and you really need to stay on task to finish it. I liked writing my novel because it took up a lot of class and I got to spend every day on the computer, but sometimes it got old writing because I was sick of my story. It was really hard at first but you can always switch your story a little bit so it’s a lot easier to keep going.

Leah
Author of Country Strong

My experiences with NaNoWriMo were good and bad, but thinking back I really enjoyed it. I liked having the choice to write about whatever I wanted, and having total freedom with it. It was great! It was tricky sometimes, like when I couldn’t think of what to say. Then I just wrote something totally random. If I could do it again, I probably would because I know what I did wrong and could fix those things and make a great novel! If I would give any suggestions to the student who is going to be writing a novel, I would say to be very creative, and it’s okay if you want to add some crazy stuff in it. It makes the novel creative and fun! πŸ™‚

Allison
Author of Betrayed

I thought that it was pretty fun and you got to chose what the story was about.

Lucas
Author of The Revenge to the Death


Writing our novels was a good experience because we got to learn how to think of our own stories and to come up with our own ideas. The hardest part was probably having to come up with an idea to start your story. Once you got your idea, all you had to do was write. There was no right or wrong, you just had to do what you thought sounded good. Getting my book published was worth it. Even though it took awhile to edit and come up with a title and a cover. Now I can say I’ve written a book and gotten it published. Some suggestions I have are make sure you have a good topic and you can write a good, long story about it. If you don’t have a good topic, then you’ll be stuck on what to write the whole time.

Abby
Author of Sophie Ann and Maria


Getting to write about whatever I wanted was the most rewarding part. It didn’t matter what I wrote about; it was my idea and I’m really happy how it turned out. Writer’s block was the hardest part. When I couldn’t think of anything to write, it was hard. Then, after a long period of not knowing what to write about, I got tons of ideas. If I had the class time, I would not mind writing my own series. I seriously would not mind at all. I learned that if you want to write a story, it takes a long time of thought and preparation. Advice I would give other students is β€œDon’t hold back. Just go at this book with determination and ideas and you will have a good outcome.”

It was worthwhile doing all the revising and editing because if I hadn’t there would be tons of mistakes (spelling, spacing, punctuation). It was hard to revise but it was worth it because now I have a ‘real’ book that I wrote. I would have liked it if my teacher could have let us take our time and think about what we’re writing, not just write it down really fast just to make the deadline. Make sure that you use every day of November even if the first day is on a weekend.

Carter
Author of The Attack of Saffrondo II

NaNoWiMo was a lot of fun. At first, it was difficult to figure out how everything was going to fit together, but after you started typing it kept getting easier and easier. Filling out the packet [Young Writers Workbooks] really helped come up with ideas to include in your story.

Matt
Author of The Long Road Back

All images are from subscription iClipart.

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.

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