Now is the time!
In fact, I may have waited a little too long to post this. If you get thinking about it this week and weekend, then you could start prepping your students next week. As long as you don’t wait until November 1 to start, you’ll be doing okay.
But first . . .
Before I go any further, I encourage you to run over to https://store.nanowrimo.org/merchandise/nanowrimo-ywp-classroom-kit and order the classroom kit, if you’re going to do NaNoWriMo this November. It is a fun motivation tool that you can recreate on your own, if you like, but the kids love those little pins. If you decide not to use it, go ahead and make a similar chart. You will be making their progress public, which can also be a great way to motivate.
Bring it up
In October, I start bringing up the subject in the classroom. Since it’s an optional activity in my school, I just start talking it up. I ask those who did it before what was the most fun last year. They loved when we did recess challenges and got prizes. (I would suggest not making it mandatory, although I could see making that work, too.)
Prizes are Fun
I also start looking around for prize material. I order things with my points through Scholastic Reading Clubs. I hunt through my drawers for anything that they might like, post-it notes, new pencils, cute erasers, posters, etc. This year, I am thinking of asking parents to look for similar things as well, since I’m pretty low on prizes and may have a bumper crop of writers. If you don’t want to use prizes, that’s fine, too. You could also print certificates for different accomplishments throughout the challenge.
It’s a Marathon
I am honest with the students. I have done NaNoWriMo a few times as an adult, where the goal is 50,000 words (no, the students do not have that goal!) and have “failed” every time. Every time!! And yet, I love the challenge. I love the camaraderie with fellow NaNo writers online. It’s just fun! Last year, I used NaNoWriMo to explore a different type of writing. It didn’t work. I had students who passed me by on my word count. Ouch for me. But, they LOVED it! Passing the teacher in NaNoWriMo is like running past your track coach in a marathon. It brings a certain level of satisfaction.
After the talking, I get students to sign up. I just keep a list of who is participating. No need to log it online. The initial sign ups will change, as students sign up, cross out their names, and sign up again. I tell them they don’t have to be completely committed until October 31. Then, they are all in or all out.
Three Ring Binders
In my school, students need to provide their own three ring binders. That’s it. The school prints off the workbooks on this site: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/workbooks I’m glad our printer does the hole punching, too, because they are thick! Each student gets his own workbook. A week or two before NaNoWriMo, we start working through parts of that book. It’s a strong enough workbook, you could use it for your class’s writing program that whole month, but it feels like fun when it’s NaNoWriMo and the kids chose to do it.
Meet and Prepare
I meet with the kids during study halls, lunches, recesses, etc. I usually make them come to one meeting, to get set up and tell them what to expect. Then, the other ones are for prepping. Using the workbooks, we lock up our internal editors for the month, make character sketches, talk about plot, and the big one: we set our word count goals. The workbook helps you do that. It’s still a bit of a guessing game, but if you break down the goals into what that will mean for each day, or each week, the students get a more realistic idea of what they think they can do.
I’ll talk more about how to prepare the students in my next NaNoWriMo blog post.
What questions do you have at this point?